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Tkachuk? Eichel? Stanley Cup Finals Usually Decided By Big Stars

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Jack Eichel (Associated Press photo)
Jack Eichel

Last season, Matthew Tkachuk toiled for the Calgary Flames. Two seasons ago, No. 2 overall pick Jack Eichel skated for the Buffalo Sabres.

Tkachuk’s Florida Panthers and Eichel’s Vegas Golden Knights will square off tonight in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Las Vegas. If form holds true, expect something special from these talented players.

Big events often are decided by big names. It’s just funny that way. The bigger the stage, the better the performance from those certain players. Just to get to the finals, the star players probably led the way.

Restricted free agent Tkachuk, coming off a career-high 104 points, was traded in July to Florida for forward Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt and a lottery-protected first-round pick in 2025. Tkachuk signed an eight-year contract.

The Flames did not make the playoffs this season.

Buffalo traded Eichel in November 2021 to Vegas for Peyton Krebs, Alex Tuch, a future first-round draft pick and a future second-rounder. Vegas will also get a future third-rounder.

The Sabres did not make the playoffs last season or this season.

Tkachuk has responded to South Florida life. He scored 40 goals and 69 assists and is plus-29 this season. In the Eastern Conference finals against Carolina, Tkachuk scored three game-winning goals in four games —two in overtime, the other with less than five seconds to play. In Game 1, he scored in the fourth overtime.

 

He has established himself as a favorite for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs — along with Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

Eichel has 41 goals and 50 assists in 101 games for Vegas.  He has six goals in his first taste of the playoffs.

Conn Smythe Trophy Winners

Check out the list of Conn Smythe winners since 2000. No checking-line guys here …

2022: Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche

2021: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

2020: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning

2019: Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues

2018: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

2017: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

2016: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

2015: Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

2014: Justin Williams, Los Angeles Kings

2013: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

2012: Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

2011: Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

2010: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

2009: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

2008: Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings

2007: Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim Ducks

2006: Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes

2004: Brad Richards, Tampa Bay Lightning

2003: Jean-Sebastien Guguere, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim

2002: Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings

2001: Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche

2000: Scott Stevens, New Jersey Devils

Only J.S. Giguere in 2003 was on the losing team.

We think Florida will prevail in six games in the series. Florida has been the underdog in its first three series and is the underdog against Vegas. We expect a crackling good series. Both teams are playing well. Both teams are rested.

Both franchises enjoyed early success since their inception. Vegas made the finals in its first year of existence in 2017-18, losing in five games to the Capitals.

The Panthers made the finals in 1996, their third year. They beat the Flyers along the way, 4-2 in conference semifinals. They were swept by the Avalanche in the finals.

Two of the last three Cups have been won a Florida team. The Panthers can make it three of four.

Game 1

Who: Florida Panthers at Vegas Golden Knights

What: Stanley Cup Final

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas

TV: TNT

How Florida got here: Defeated Boston in 5; defeated Toronto in 5; Carolina in 4.

How Vegas got here: Defeated Winnipeg in 5; defeated Edmonton in 6; defeated Dallas in 6

Next game: Monday, Florida at Vegas, 8 p.m., TNT

Petes Lose In Memorial Cup

The Peterborough Petes, with two Flyers prospects, lost in the Memorial Cup semifinals to the Seattle Thunderbirds, 4-1.

J.P. Avon and Brian Zanetti were held off the scoreboard. Seattle will play the Quebec Remparts in Sunday’s championship game.

Flyers, In Case You Missed It:

Should Flyers try for a risky pick in the draft?

Ex-Flyer Nick Cousins can win a Cup with Panthers.

Untouchables on Flyers? Don’t think so.

Around The National Hockey Network:

Vegas Hockey Now: When the Golden Knights realized they could win the Stanley Cup.

Florida Hockey Now: Mystery of Panthers’ postgame chewing of a T-bone — not a dog bone — is solved. Plus, TNT is ready to broadcast the finals.

Montreal Hockey Now: Why the Canadiens signed gritty forward Michael Pezzetta.

Detroit Hockey Now: Bruins facing reality they can’t afford former Red Wing Tyler Bertuzzi.

Pittsburgh Hockey Now: Penguins coach Mike Sullivan knows his team needs speed.

Boston Hockey Now: Will Patrice Bergeron retire after 19 seasons with the Bruins?

Calgary Hockey Now: General manager Craig Conroy says Flames will have a captain after two seasons without one.

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