Stanley Cup Final: What Florida-Vegas regular season games might say about the final

The Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers met twice in the regular season, and those matchups could provide insight on the series to come.

The Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights can hardly be considered rivals as they prepare to battle in the Stanley Cup Final, but that doesn't mean they haven't locked horns before.

During the regular season, the teams met twice, with each earning a victory. That's a small sample, but it's possible that those contests could provide some insight into what we're about to see.

They certainly foreshadowed the amazing goaltending each team would have in the playoffs, as Adin Hill produced a .959 save percentage while Sergei Bobrovsky was rock-solid at .927.

Although it's hard to be confident in two games being representative of what's to come, it's worth taking a look at them to see what clues they could hold.

Here are a few things this year's Panthers-Golden Knights games might tell us.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers met twice in the regular season, and those matchups could provide insight on the Stanley Cup Final to come. (Getty Images)
The Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers met twice in the regular season, and those matchups could provide insight on the Stanley Cup Final to come. (Getty Images)

The Panthers have a chance to carry the play

For most of the playoffs, the book on the Panthers has been that they tend to allow more shots than they take, but stellar goaltending and timely finishing has bailed them out.

The Panthers have conceded more shots than any team in the playoffs (37.3/game) while taking just 31.7 per night.

That shot share is unimpressive, and it's not like they're making up for the deficit by getting far better chances as their xGF% in all situations (45.77%) matches their shots for percentage (45.92%).

This is a series where Florida might flip the script. Not only did they have better possession numbers than Vegas during the regular season, in their two games with the Golden Knights, they won the shots battle 73-56. Their xGF advantage was less significant (6.72-6.04), but they still had the edge.

Florida wants Jack Eichel to see plenty of Aleksander Barkov

When the Panthers had the last-change advantage in the team's March 7 matchup, they glued Barkov to Vegas' top centre.

Eichel played 13:19 of even-strength time in that game and 9:43 came with Barkov on the ice. The Panthers two-way centre won the battle. When both were on the ice, the Golden Knights got just two scoring chances while conceding eight — and Barkov scored the winning goal.

This will be a fascinating matchup to watch, particularly when the Panthers are at home and have the ability to seek it out. Barkov has had an up-and-down playoffs offensively, but he's produced five points in his last four games, including this beautiful goal.

Vegas' plans for Matthew Tkachuk are unclear

When the Golden Knights hosted Tkachuk, he played just 12:24 of 5-on-5 ice time. Alex Pietrangelo skated 8:40 of that with then-partner Nicolas Hague logging 8:11. That duo is no longer together, and there's no individual forward who played a massive share of the minutes against Tkachuk.

Although Mark Stone is often called on to match up with the opposition's top players, he played just 1:24 against Tkachuk. That's because he left the game early with an injury and it turned out to be his last before undergoing back surgery that cost him the rest of his regular season.

For what it's worth, the Panthers out-attempted the Golden Knights 26-8 in Tkachuk's 5-on-5 minutes, so it's safe to say Vegas didn't have an answer for him on that night without Stone. In the team's other game against Tkachuk, his Corsi at 5-on-5 was 62.16%.

The Golden Knights will have more than two games to experiment with counters for Florida's most dynamic forward, but they failed to find one without their captain.

Expect Florida to get more hits off

While the Panthers didn't produce massive hitting numbers during the regular season, they've gotten more physical in the playoffs, and their hits/60 (32.09) are slightly higher than Vegas' (31.49).

In their games against the Golden Knights, they were clearly the more bruising side, delivering 62 hits to Vegas' 44. Sometimes a discrepancy like that is just the result of losing the possession battle.

Putting up a big hit total is often the result of having the puck less, but as established above the Panthers were the better possession team in these games, and they knocked the Golden Knights around anyway.

Vegas has handled itself well when teams get rough with them, but the Panthers will present a new challenge with their toughness.