Well, the Cup is in the building. The Vegas Golden Knights have played beautifully over the first four games of the Stanley Cup Finals, and now they have an opportunity to wrap things up. The Florida Panthers have been courageous and combative throughout the playoffs, and they still have some confidence that they can extend this series one more game.
These are the Stanley Cup betting odds that have been posted on Game 5 at BetOnline:
Vegas Golden Knights -167
Florida Panthers +151
Over 5.5 Goals -121
Under 5.5 Goals +110
Golden Knights -1.5 Goals +161
Panthers +1.5 Goals -181
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There is some good news coming into this game for the Panthers, as they have gotten something better out of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky over the last couple of games. Also, you've got to acknowledge the improvement in effort on the part of Brandon Montour, who was one of the league's most effective offensive backliners, with 16 goals and 73 points. It was for this reason that Florida fans were disappointed that he had gone through a ten-game stretch in which he had no points at all. But he's broken out of those doldrums, it would appear, with two goals and an assist over the last two games.
But there's a big question mark hovering over the Panthers' hopes. Matthew Tkachuk's status is uncertain heading into Game 5. He is the leading scorer for Florida, who had 40 goals and 109 points during the regular season, with three game-winners in the series against Carolina and two goals in this finals series. To offer some perspective, Tkachuk's point total is 31 points higher than the next guy on the Florida list (Aleksander Barkov). He also leads the team in penalty minutes. And that problem has cropped up in this series, as Tkachuk has four misconducts.
Sometimes when things get physical it creates problems. Tkachuk has been getting hit hard, and one of those incidents was an open-ice check from Keegan Kolesar, who leveled him in Game 3.
There was a spillover into Game 4, and the speculation is that Tkachuk may have played that last game while injured. He showed that he was hurting; in fact, he spent a ten-minute stretch in the third period sitting on the bench. After he got back in, he tried to make things happen. At the end, he was looking for a final opportunity to score the tying goal when the buzzer went off. And of course, there was that melee, where Tkachuk got into it with Vegas' Alex Pietrangelo.
In the parlance of the NHL, he is suffering from a lower body injury, and we imagine this will be a "game-time decision" on the part of coach Paul Maurice.
Whether it's Tkachuk or someone else, the Panthers have to get busy with the man advantage. In this series, Vegas has outscored them 6-0 in power play goals.
Conditions don't quite seem right for Florida, even though they are dead even with the Knights in shots on goal (120). This could be one of those situations where we feel relatively comfortable laying a goal and a half and grab a decent price (+161).
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