Stanley Cup Finals: Top Storylines For Panthers vs. Knights

Photo Credit: Steve Marcus/AP Photo

With a win from the Golden Knights on Monday night, the 2023 Stanley Cup Finals are officially set. Las Vegas, who made their first appearance in their inaugural season, find themselves back and hope to win their first Stanley Cup.

Coming out of the East, the Florida Panthers look to continue their insane run and win their first ever Stanley Cup as well. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest storylines heading into this matchup.

Can Florida Continue Their Recent Playoff Success?

Before this playoff run, the Panthers have had virtually no playoff success. The team has never won the Stanley Cup before, and this year’s Eastern Conference championship is just the second in their franchise’s history. They won the President’s Cup in the 2021-22 season, yet were swept by Tampa Bay in the second round, scoring just three goals in four games.

This time around, things seemed to be looking just as bleak. The Cats barely scratched their way into the playoffs and faced a 3-1 series deficit against the Bruins, who came into the playoffs with the most successful regular season record in league history.

That didn’t matter to Florida, though. In thrilling fashion, they pulled off what could very well be the most shocking upset in NHL history, knocking off Boston. The Panthers rolled over Toronto and Carolina in the next two rounds to make it here. Will their success continue, or will their old playoff woes haunt them once more?

Will Vegas Finally Get Their Ring?

In 2017, the Knights leaped onto the NHL scene in their first year, making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. They weren’t able to pull it all the way off though, losing to the Capitals in five games.

Aside from last year, they’ve been a mainstay in the playoffs ever since. Still, there hasn’t been much success. They blew a 3-1 series lead, and a 3-0 game lead in game seven to the Sharks in the first round in 2019. Vegas lost in the Western Conference finals in the 2019-20 season, and then lost to the Canadiens in the altered 2021 playoffs.

The Knights didn’t make the playoffs at all in the 2021-22 season. They roared back into contention this year, though, and find themselves in their second Stanley Cup Finals. Will they be able to break the norm this year?

Which Former-Backup Goaltender Will Come Out on Top?

This Stanley Cup Finals will feature two goaltenders who are on an absolute tear at the moment. Adin Hill entered the season as the fourth goalie on the Knights depth chart, and is subsequently the fourth one used this postseason, as well. He took over in the second round against Edmonton, and has already surpassed expectations, helping lead Las Vegas into the final.

On the other side of the ice, we’ve witnessed one of the greatest postseason performances in recent memory from Sergei Bobrovsky. Like Hill, Bobrovsky entered the playoffs as a backup, but Sergei took over in the first round. The Russian keeper is 11-2 with a 2.21 goals against average throughout these playoffs, and has a .935 save percentage throughout this run. He’s been vital for Florida’s success, and has single-handedly kept them afloat throughout this miraculous run.

Stanley Cup X-Factors

One thing this Stanley Cup Finals is loaded with is talent. Aside from the aforementioned goaltenders, each team has several players who could be the difference between lifting the Stanley Cup and going home disappointed.

Starting in Vegas, it would be impossible to talk about this series without mentioning Jack Eichel. The former second-overall pick has quickly made himself at home in the desert, with 18 points throughout the team’s 17 playoff games. Las Vegas has spread the wealth around with virtually the entire roster contributing throughout these playoffs, and Eichel finds himself in the middle of it.

On the other bench, Matthew Tkachuk has continued his remarkable regular-season success. Tkachuk finished the season with a career-high 109 points, and now has 21 in 16 games, with several game winners in overtime throughout this run. It’s safe to say that without Tkachuk, the Panthers probably don’t find themselves in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Around the Block Network is a proud supporter of our LGBTQIA+ contributors, friends, family, and fans. This pride month, we would like to encourage you to make a donation to organizations helping fight for equality across the country, including the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign, and the Trevor Project.

NHL Relocation: Rating Potential Cities

Photo Credit: Norm Hall/Getty Images

As the NHL continues to try to find new markets, the new focus seems to be the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes have struggled to keep a home in Arizona, and are currently playing at Mullet Arena, at Arizona State University. Their proposal for a new arena in Tempe was not supported by voters. This leaves them without a home in Arizona for the foreseeable future. With relocation seeming like a likely option, let’s take a look at the cities who have the best chance to land their own NHL franchise.

Top Cities for NHL Relocation

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City starts off our NHL relocation story. This might be the quickest available option. Salt Lake City currently has the Utah Jazz as well as an MLS franchise, with solid fanbases for each team. They’re the top option on this list, mainly because of this tweet:

Ryan Smith is the owner of the Utah Jazz, so him saying a plan for hockey in Salt Lake City exists is relatively important. However, there could be some issues. For example, the city is not a sizeable market. If SLC was to get a team, they’d be the third-smallest TV market in the league.

Still, a move here makes a lot of sense. They have a capable arena and an owner who is far from a stranger to the NHL. The city would welcome a new team. The Salt Lake City Coyotes would make a lot of sense.


Sacramento is an interesting city on this list. The city has been mostly irrelevant in the sports landscape in recent memory. Currently, the city has the Sacramento Kings as their only major sports team, although they have a minor league soccer and baseball team, as well.

During the Kings’ recent playoff run, Sacramento did gain some recognition with electric atmospheres night in and night out, especially in the playoffs. The city has a rabid fanbase. They don’t have a hockey-ready arena at the moment, but the city was able to build a brand new basketball arena recently. There’s hope that something could be reached there.

Due to the lack of an arena, Sacramento likely won’t be the first option. Still, they might be a dark horse candidate if the first options don’t work out.


Given the sheer size of the market here, Houston has to be factored in. Hockey in Texas seems awkward, at first. However, the Dallas Stars are an example of a good hockey culture that could be carved out in a region that doesn’t exactly seem like a hockey town.

H-town currently has the Texans, Astros, and Rockets. Each of those three teams has sizeable fanbases, and the town is one of the five largest metro areas in the nation. It’s somewhat surprising there’s no NHL team here already. Houston might just be the best option on this list.


Portland is another city that makes sense. The city currently only has the Trail Blazers and the Timbers in the NBA and MLS, respectively. The city also currently has a huge fan base for both teams, so it should be expected that their NHL franchise would have the same luck.

One big factor here would be the NHL’s willingness to add a third team to the Pacific Northwest. The Canucks and the Kraken both have established fanbases in the region. The NHL might be worried there isn’t enough room for the third team. However, it’s possible, and maybe even likely, that a franchise in Portland would create an instant rival with those two teams, as well.

Kansas City

The main reason Kansas City is on this list is because of the intense fan support for the Chiefs and Royals. Both teams have had their ups and downs in recent memory. Still, through the highs and lows, the atmosphere in each stadium has been incredible.

While many don’t realize it because the city doesn’t have an NHL or NBA team, they do have a hockey-ready arena. The T-Mobile Center is a beautiful event center, and it has housed a hockey team before. A relocation here would have instant fan-support, and could also create a rivalry with the St. Louis Blues. This should be one of the first cities considered for NHL relocation.

NHL Lottery Mock Draft 1.0

Photo Credit: Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

Last Monday evening, during action between the Oilers and Golden Knights, the NHL’s draft lottery quietly took place. This draft has one clear-cut #1 prospect in Connor Bedard, who leads the rest of the pack here by a bit. With the order now officially set, it’s time for the first NHL mock draft of the season.

#1 Chicago Blackhawks: Connor Bedard, C, Regina

We kick off our NHL mock draft with an easy one. This is the easiest pick in maybe the last five years. Bedard is one of the most exciting prospects in recent memory, and any other selection here should be considered a mistake.

#2 Anaheim Ducks: Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan

Next up in our NHL mock draft is a pick our founder and CEO, Ronnie Harter, is sure to love. In any other season, Adam Fantilli has a pretty solid shot at going first overall in any draft without Bedard. Fantilli won the Hobey Baker Award last year, and has the potential to be a franchise player. Even though Anaheim missed out on the first pick, they can land a great prospect in Fantilli.

#3 Columbus Blue Jackets: Will Smith, C, USNTDP

Continuing the theme of centers going in the top part of this NHL mock draft, next is Will Smith going to Columbus. Smith had 51 goals and 127 points during his time at the development program, and should be an instant difference-maker at the next level.

#4: San Jose Sharks: Leo Carlsson, C, Orebo

Leo Carlsson has a knack for making highlight-reel plays, and should have no problem doing that at the next level. He’s big and physical in front of the net, yet his speed makes him a threat in transition.

#5: Montreal Canadiens: Ryan Leonard, LW, USNTDP

Finally, we’ve got someone who isn’t a center. Ryan Leonard is another developmental program player in the top five here, and is one of the most well-rounded players in the entire class. Leonard does everything well, and will bring a ton of versatility to Montréal if they select him.

#6: Arizona Coyotes: Zach Benson, C, Winnepeg

If the Coyotes landed Zach Benson, they’d be getting their potential franchise player. Benson was one of the better players in the entire WHL last year. Even though he stands just under six feet tall, Benson’s speed and skill makes him an instant scoring threat at the next level.

#7: Philadelphia Flyers: David Reinbacher, D, Kloten

At number seven, we have the first defenseman coming off the board in our NHL mock draft — to one of the teams that needs defense the most. Before last season, David Reinbacher wasn’t considered to go in the top half of the first round. Some scouts didn’t value him as a first round talent at all. He had an excellent year in Switzerland, and now figures to be the first defensemen off the board.

#8: Washington Capitals: Matvei Mitchkov, C, Sochi

Matvei Mitchkov is one of the most interesting, yet volatile, players in this draft. He’s one of the most talented players, maybe even the second behind Bedard. However, he is on a deal in Russia until 2026. Will a GM be brave enough to select him this year and wait out the rest of his deal?

#9: Detroit Red Wings: Oliver Moore, C, USNTDP

With the third development program player going in the top 10, here we have Oliver Moore, yet another center. Moore had to compete for the spotlight with a vast majority of elite players at the program. However, he has to potential to come out of this draft as one of the best in his class with his elite skating ability.

#10: St. Louis Blues: Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK

Dalibor Dvorsky is a high-value and high-potential pick for the Blues here with the 10th pick. He’s coming off a sensation U-18 World Championship performance, where he almost knocked off Canada as a member of the Slovakian team. Dvorsky is still 17, so it would take a while for him to develop. Still, his potential cannot be measured, and he should only progress at the NHL level.

#11: Vancouver Canucks: Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Skelleftea

Nearing the middle half of the first round, the talent pool begins to get a lot more diverse in terms of positions. Especially at defensemen, where the Canucks are badly lacking a high-potential player. Axel Pellikka fills that need at the 11th pick.

#12: Arizona Coyotes: Eduard Sale, RW, BRNE

The Coyotes will be receiving this pick from Ottawa, and will be making their second pick in the top 12. Here, they select one of the best U-18 players in the world, Eduard Sale. Sale was a standout on the Czech team, especially in the medal round. He responded well to being benched, and played electric afterward, which is a very good sign to see from such a young player.

#13: Buffalo Sabres: Gabe Perreault, RW, USNTDP

Here, yet another player from the United States Developmental Program comes off the board. Gabe Perreault had some doubters coming into last season, but quickly shut them up after breaking the team’s single-season points record, with an incredible 118. His biggest thing to work on will be skating, but his floor figures to still be a top-six forward.

#14: Pittsburgh Penguins: Colby Barlow, LW, Owen Sound

For the first time in what feels like forever, the Penguins find themselves back in the lottery. Barlow is one of the best shooters in the entire draft, and had 46 goals last year in the OHL, with 76 in the past two years combined. He shouldn’t have too much of an issue continuing that track record in the NHL.

#15: Nashville Predators: Andrew Cristall, LW, Kewlona

Continuing the string of wingers going off the board here, we have Andrew Cristall heading to Nashville. His skating needs some work, but when it comes to skill, there might not be a more skillful player in the entire draft. If he can master his skating, he’ll be a force in the NHL.

#16: Calgary Flames: Riley Hiedt, C, Prince George

Riley Hiedt is the final lottery pick in this NHL mock draft. He had a rather slow U-18 tournament, but he’s still very young with potential that is through the roof. He needs to get better off the puck, but his skill with it can’t be minimized, and should translate well to the NHL.

Biggest NBA and NHL Playoffs Storylines

Photo Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The first round of the playoffs in both the NBA and NHL are over, and boy were they special. Each league’s first round is now over, and at the time of this writing, the semi finals have just gotten underway.. Let’s take a look at some of the storylines for the first round of the NBA and NHL playoffs.


There were some huge upsets from each league, with multiple top seeds losing to teams who barely managed to sneak into the playoffs at all.

The biggest upset of the first round was easily the Panthers knocking off Boston. The Bruins rolled into the NHL playoffs having won the most games and points of any team in the history of the league. Boston even held a demanding 3-1 lead. That didn’t matter to Florida, though.

After somehow pulling out a win in game five, Florida won at home in game six. They played a very sound game in game seven, and scored in overtime to stun the Boston crowd. With Boston’s historic season and commanding hold on the series, this is easily the biggest upset of the first round, and likely will be for years to come.

Another shocking loss came with the Heat knocking off the Bucks in the NBA playoffs. Milwaukee rolled into the playoffs after dominating the Eastern Conference for most of the season. Miami had to grind out a win against Chicago to make it in as the eighth seed.

As seemed to be the mantra with all South-Florida teams this postseason, the Heat didn’t care about the odds, either. Miami steamrolled the Bucks and shockingly beat them in five games. Giannis missed some time with an injury, but even with him on the court, the Bucks didn’t win a game.

No Parade in Memphis

Moving on to the Western Conference, the second-seeded Grizzlies caught the upset bug as well, losing to the Lakers in six games. Memphis has found themselves in the news for non-basketball reasons far too often this season. Perhaps that was the root of their downfall.

Dillon Brooks asked for Lebron to give him 40, and the Grizzlies lost by that exact amount. It’s poetic justice at its finest, and the Grizzlies will have some questions to ask themselves this offseason.

Release the Kraken! (into the second round)

Finally, shifting back to hockey, we saw the defending champs bow out in the first round. Colorado hasn’t looked as dominant as usual this season, but they were still able to lock down the Central division, setting up a matchup against the Seattle Kraken, who made the NHL playoffs for the first time in their two-year history.

This series was back and forth, and actually turned out to be very evenly-matched. Colorado winning games two and three was the only time a team in this series won two games in a row, and almost every game was a dogfight. The Kraken managed to sneak out of game seven with a win, and have won their first playoff series in franchise history.

The End(s) of Dynasties

It’s hard to determine exactly what a dynasty is. It’s even harder to understand when they end. In the case of the Golden State Warriors, we still don’t know.

Golden State won three championships in four years, before facing off with Toronto in the 2019 NBA Finals. The Warriors lost that series in six games, with Klay Thompson tearing his ACL in that game-six loss. With his injury, and a shocking defeat in the Finals, many thought their dynasty was over. In the next couple of years, the Warriors would struggle at times, but are currently the reigning, defending champions after defeating the Celtics in 2022.

This year, Golden State went down 2-0 to the Kings in the first round, and once again people assumed it was their downfall. Once again, they were wrong. Golden State came back to win in seven games, and will try and beat the Lakers in the second round. Whether they do or not remains to be seen. In the same vein, as these playoffs unfold, we wait to see when the true end to this dynasty will be.

Then, in the hockey world, we may have actually witnessed a dynasty fall. The Lightning won two championships in a row in 2020 and 2021, and nearly won their third straight before losing to the Colorado Avalanche in 2022.

This year, they faced the same Toronto Maple Leafs team they defeated last year. In a bit of an ironic twist, this time around, the Leafs broke their own first round curse, while ending Tampa Bay’s dynasty. At least for now.

Iconic Second-Round Matchups

Across the board, in both leagues, we have some very exciting second round matchups. Let’s start with the NBA playoffs.

There is no more iconic matchup on this list than Lebron James and Stephen Curry. These two are easily both top-10 players of all time, and have faced each other in the Finals four times. With Steph at the age of 35, and Lebron 38, this second-round matchup might be the last time we see these two play.

Apart from that duel, we still have some interesting series across the NBA playoffs landscape. The Suns and Nuggets are currently in a rematch from their 2021 second round series, with the Nuggets on pace to get their revenge. The Heat and Knicks, two teams that came out with upset victories in the first round, are deadlocked 1-1 at the time of this writing. Finally, the Sixers-Celtics keep their rivalry alive with their playoff series, also knotted at one win apiece at the time of writing.

In the NHL playoffs, the second-round matchups focus more on the new kids on the block. The Kraken are fresh off their upset win, and survived a four-goal effort from Joe Pavelski in game one. The Devils knocked the Rangers out in the first round, and now face the gauntlet that is the Carolina Hurricanes. Then, in a matchup between two teams that haven’t made it out of the first round in a long time, the Panthers and Leafs play for a spot in the conference finals.

Finally, in the West, we have the Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights. These teams match up pretty evenly. What’s most compelling, though, is the fact that we’ll be seeing the #1 and #2 draft picks from the 2015 NHL draft. Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel have both had great careers with very different trajectories up until this point. It will be very interesting to see who comes out on top in their first playoff matchup.

What Can Allen Robinson Bring to the Steelers?

Photo Credit: Phillip G Pavely/USA Today Sports

Early on Tuesday, April 18th, amid the noise as we inch closer to NFL draft day, the first notable trade in a while came through. The Rams will be trading wide receiver Allen Robinson, along with a seventh-round pick to the Steelers for a seventh-rounder in return.

This is an interesting trade, but it’s not all that surprising. Los Angeles is in the midst of a clear rebuild, and are jettisoning any player with an ounce of value left. Robinson falls in that category. Interestingly, the Rams will still be taking on $10.25 million of Robinson’s $15 million salary. Essentially, the Steelers got Robinson for nothing.

So, how is Robinson going to fit in Pittsburgh?

How Has Allen Robinson Looked Recently?

One of the reasons the Steelers were able to essentially steal Allen Robinson is because his value is so low. It’s a bit surprising the Rams were even able to find a taker for Robinson, even though they had to pay a large portion of his salary anyway.

In his first year in Inglewood, Robinson played in just 10 games, and finished with only 33 catches. Robinson had 339 yards, three touchdowns, and about 10.3 yards per attempt.

Robinson’s season wasn’t necessarily bad, but it was not on par with expectations. Robinson signed a three-year, $46 million deal last offseason, and his availability, as well as production, did not match that price tag. With that in mind, it makes sense the Rams will be carrying a portion of his contract next year.

What Can Allen Robinson Bring to the Steelers?

Robinson has been a great receiver for a large portion of his career. However, due to some injuries in recent years, he’s lost a step. With this in mind, he’s been forced to adjust his game.

As receivers get older and their bodies wear down, we often see a shift in their game. They rely less on speed and strength, but more on route-running and other, more technical skills. One position with a huge emphasis on route running is at slot receiver, which would be an excellent role for Robinson.

Robinson’s route running is terrific, as you’ll see below;

Robinson has seen less and less work in the slot in recent years, but he still managed to play there on 34% of his snaps in 2022. Throughout his entire career, he played in the slot for a whopping 71% of his snaps. Robinson hasn’t played in the slot much recently, as the Rams used him almost exclusively on the outside last year. Still, he’s got more than enough experience to produce in that role again.

Just How Much of an Upgrade is he?

This seems like a low-risk, high-reward pickup for the Steelers. They don’t need Robinson to be the star-caliber player he used to be. After all, Pittsburgh already has Diontae Johnson and George Pickens. Pat Freiermuth is a solid target at tight end, as well. So, coming into the season, Robinson should only be the third or fourth option for Kenny Pickett.

Pittsburgh is also only paying about $5 million of Robinson’s contract, with Los Angeles paying the rest. Considering his low price tag, the lowered expectations at this point in his career, his veteran leadership, and his skill set that is still more than capable, it’s hard to dislike this trade from Pittsburgh’s standpoint.