The Vegas Golden Knights are two wins away from their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. The Florida Panthers are four wins away.
In order for the Panthers to make this a series again, they must win Game 3 at FLA Live Arena on Thursday night. Vegas has done a good job in shutting down the Panthers offense, but can Florida find some holes in the Vegas system to take advantage of?
The Florida Panthers are looking to rebound in Game 3.
Barkov needs to step up
Florida forward Aleksander Barkov is one of the best two-way players in the NHL. His defense has been solid in the playoffs, but now the Panthers need his offense more than ever. Barkov does have 14 points in the playoffs on four goals and 10 assists, yet he has no points in the SCF.
If Florida is going to turn this series around, they need Barkov to contribute at both ends of the ice. He is a big part of the team’s success thus far and needs to perform to his best ability while he still can.
Every line has been dangerous for the Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights have one of the more solid rosters in the NHL. The Panthers are finding this out in this series. There is nothing about the Golden Knights game that needs to change yet.
Offensively, they have come at the Panthers in waves, creating scoring chances every time down the ice. Vegas has had a number of scoring chances and has attacked the Florida net at every given opportunity.
Defensively, they have given the Panthers no space to operate. When the Panthers have the puck, there is a Vegas defender within ten feet of the puck. The Panthers need to find a way to counter Vegas and possibly beat them at their own game.
Panthers must stay out of the box
Florida could eliminate one problem that could change the series outcome: stop taking needless penalties. Florida is the most penalized team left in the playoffs, while the Golden Knights are the least penalized. If the Panthers can eliminate so many pointless trips to the penalty box, they may give themselves more of an opportunity to score more goals.
By putting themselves in a bad situation, they are losing the series by taking unnecessary penalties. The Panthers are a physical team that relies on that style of play.
However, the penalties are not from physical play. They are from things after the whistle, the extracurricular activities during gameplay, and they need to draw penalties from Vegas not give the Golden Knights free opportunities. If they play how they did in the first three rounds, this series may be a different story.
Who starts for the Florida Panthers in net?
Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was the hottest goaltender in the playoffs this season. He was at the top of many Conn Smythe lists. He is still performing well, but this series is not going his way. He has shown he is human but still keeping the Panthers within a fighting chance at a win.
Bobrovsky is now 15-11, with a GAA of 2.50 and a save percentage of .925. Still very good numbers, but they have ballooned a bit since the last round. Backup Alex Lyon has proven he can play in these playoffs, serving as an above-average backup who can take the net on any night.
Lyon is 1-2 with a GAA of 1.83 and a save percentage of .943 in four games. With Bobrovsky struggling a bit, who takes the net for Game 3? The answer seems to be Bobrovsky, but do not be surprised if we see Lyon between the pipes again.
Can Vegas withstand the emotion of FLA Live Arena?
With Games 3 and 4 being in FLA Live Arena, the Panthers will have their sixth man for the first time in this series. This may be the edge that Florida needs to get back into this series. The crowd will be loud, and the building will be full of Florida fans ready to cheer on the Panthers.
This edge may be enough to get them back into the series and tie this series up after Game 4 in Florida. The crowd can certainly uplift the team in more ways than one. The question is, can Florida take advantage of this advantage?
Projected lineups for the Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers
Carter Verhaeghe- Aleksander Barkov- Anthony Duclair
Nick Cousins- Sam Bennett- Matthew Tkachuk
Ryan Lomberg- Anton Lundell- Sam Reinhart
Zac Dalpe- Eric Staal- Colin White
Gustav Forsling- Aaron Ekblad
Marc Staal- Brandon Montour
Josh Mahura- Radko Gudas
Sergei Bobrovsky-Alex Lyon
Injuries: Eetu Luostarinen (undisclosed), Patric Hornqvist (concussion)
Scratched: Givani Smith, Mike Benning, Casey Fitzgerald, Evan Fitzpatrick, Lucas Carlsson, Mack Guzda, Matt Kierstad, Grigori Denisenko, Aleksi Heponiemi, Mackie Samoskevich, Connor Bunnaman, Patrick Giles, John Ludvig, Santtu KInnunen, Calle Sjalin
Vegas Golden Knights
Ivan Barbashev- Jack Eichel- Jonathan Marchessault
Reilly Smith- William Karlsson- Michael Amadio
Brett Howden- Chandler Stephenson- Mark Stone
William Carrier- Nicolas Roy- Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez- Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb- Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague- Zach Whitecloud
Adin Hill-Jonathan Quick
Injured: Laurent Brossoit (lower body), Logan Thompson (undisclosed)
Scratched: Teddy Blueger, Paul Cotter, Ben Hutton, Phil Kessel, Kaeden Korczak, Brayden Pachal, Jiri Patera
Where to watch
TNT, TBS, truTV, CBC, SN, TVAS