Game 4 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Final happens tonight between the Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights. The Florida Panthers were able to rebound and get back into the series thanks to a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 3. Sergei Bobrovsky stood on his head to allow his team to get the Comeback Victory.
We all thought Game 3 was pivotal. But Game 4 could be even more pivotal. Either the Golden Knights are going back to Vegas within one victory of the Stanley Cup or the series will be tied at 2-2. With Game 3 being the best game of the series, you expect the level to go up even more in Game 4.
As stated in Game 3, Florida kept things simpler and found a way to win a game when they only registered four shots in the third period and one in overtime. That is what happens when your best player is your goaltender. With the way Vegas was playing that mini two-day break hurt their momentum and allowed Florida to regroup and get back to their game.
The question is can Florida play another low-scoring game or will Vegas come out with a motive to end the game early? If it is the latter, the Panthers hope Bobrovsky has another performance like he did or else this game could be over quickly.
Let’s find out here as we take a look at three keys to Game 4 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Final between Vegas and Florida.
2023 Stanley Cup Final: Keys To Game 4
1. Discipline and Special Teams
Plain and simple the Florida Panthers have to be more disciplined. The Panthers were able to get away with being undisciplined because of Sergei Bobrovsky. But the Vegas Golden Knights power play was 2-for-5 in Game 3. For the third straight game, Jonathan Marchessault recorded a goal on the power play. As a matter of fact, Marchessault had two power-play points.
While Florida kept the after-the-whistle stuff to a minimum. Those misconduct penalties were taken out of the game. They let little things go after the whistle. Florida did not engage in a lot of the physical play that got them in trouble in Games 1 and 2. However, the Panthers still took bad penalties that resulted in goals. Both of these changed the game in favour of the Golden Knights.
On the other side of the ledger, the Panthers power play is 0-for-12 in the series. Give credit to the Golden Knights penalty kill for keeping them to the perimeter, but still, they need a power-play goal sometime in this series. Hard to win a series without a power play. We know the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup without scoring a power play goal in the final, but it is rare.
Again whether you agree or disagree with the penalties, the Vegas Golden Knights are not falling into that trap. Also, kill off the penalties and not complain.
Something to keep an eye on as Game 4 starts. Because the first 10 minutes will be telling.
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2. Depth Scoring
We said in Game 3 and we will say in Game 4, depth scoring matters. Vegas is still getting the better of the depth scoring. However, the guys that needed to step up in Game 3, Carter Verhaeghe, Brandon Montour, Aleksander Barkov, Sam Reinhart, and Anthony Duclair did. That trend needs to continue if the Panthers want this series heading back to South Florida. Still need to see more from Barkov. He had a good game three let’s see if he can have another big game for the Panthers because it can’t just be the Bobrovsky and Matthew Tkachuk show.
The Golden Knights have 10 different goal scorers in the series. Marchessault leads the way with three goals in the series. He has 13 goals in 13 goals including 11 in his 10. But Mark Stone has chipped in along with Brett Howden, Alec Martinez, Zach Whitecloud, Nic Roy, Michael Amadio, Shea Theodore, and Reilly Smith. Just wait until Jack Eichel hits the scoresheet again in the goal column or Ivan Barbashev. Again any line can score.
3. Middle of the Ice
It was very hard to find the middle of the ice against the Golden Knights in Game 3 for the Panthers. Eventually, they were able to score two goals to win the game. But Vegas does not give up the middle of the ice. Entering the series, that neutral zone trap was something Vegas was known for. Again they limited Florida to just four shots in the third period of Game 3. But as we have seen there are lapses in the Golden Knights game.
Though Vegas did not play a bad game, they did not have their legs for the first part of the game and the Panthers were able to get to the middle of the ice. That is how Montour opened the scoring. But from then on it was a lot of perimeter shots. Except for the final two minutes of the game and overtime. The slight lapse in judgment allowed the Panthers to take advantage and win the middle-of-the-ice battles. Florida got bodies in front of Adin Hill as Tkachuk out-positioned the Vegas defenceman to tie the game.
Even on the winner, the speed of Florida, especially Tkachuk driving the net, backed up the defence of Vegas allowing Verhaeghe to score the winner. That is how Dallas took two games from the Golden Knights and had a lead with five minutes left in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final before losing.
The middle of the ice is key. Whoever owns it, wins the game.
Again Bobrovsky appears to be back in the zone for the Panthers. And one of the Achilles heels of Vegas in recent playoffs has been a hot goalie. Does that trend continue into Game 4? Find out tonight.
It will be interesting how these keys play out in Game 4 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Final.