Sergei Bobrovsky is four wins from completing one of the greatest playoff runs by a goaltender. But to do so, he’ll have to outduel his counterpart: Vegas’ Adin Hill. The NHL lines favor Hill and his Golden Knights to win the cup. On paper, Bobrovsky is the better goaltender. But Hill is no slouch. This Stanley Cup Final, which goalie can outdo the other?
Bobrovosky’ Experience and Grit
NHL fans have short memories. A few months ago, Bobrovsky was terrible and his contract ($10 million a season) was seen as the worst among his position. Now, Bobrovsky is playing his best hockey just when he was counted out.
Bobrovsky embodies the Panthers’ underdog spirit as the undrafted goalie went on to win two Vezina Trophies while also leading his old team, the Blue Jackets, to a monumental upset in 2019 when they swept the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Lightning in the first round.
The 34-year-old is the favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, the playoff MVP, at +210 on the sportsbook. It will be hard to bet online against him as he has not allowed more than two goals in a game since the Bruins series. On top of that, he is undefeated on the road (7-0) and has a 93.4 save percentage (SV%) against three of the top four Stanley Cup favorites from the East.
One can only wonder how much longer Bobrovsky can keep this up. Prior to this postseason, Bobrovsky’s playoff SV% was at 90.1%. He was notorious as a hot-and-cold goaltender capable of stonewalling an elite team then giving up four or five goals the next game.
But with 65 playoff games under his belt, Bobrovsky may have finally evolved into becoming a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender. Of course, he also has the likes of Matthew Tkachuk and Carter Verhaeghe to thank for their clutch goal-scoring.
Bobrovsky’s strong play has inspired the team and in the same way, its late-game heroics continues to rejuvenate his abilities. He is this close to cementing his legacy as an all-time great goaltender. But first, he will have to beat Vegas.
Adin Hill earned his second shutout of the 2023 #StanleyCup Playoffs, tied with New Jersey’s Akira Schmid for the most among all goaltenders this postseason.#NHLStats: https://t.co/1BOy9gcFK0 pic.twitter.com/qayvGJGCJS
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 30, 2023
Hill’s Youth and Determination
Like Bobrovsky, Hill knows a thing or two about feeling like an underdog. Drafted in the third round in 2015, Hill is on his third NHL team after both Arizona and San Jose traded him. With Vegas, Hill was not supposed to be here. A series of injuries to Vegas’ goaltending corps got Hill in this position just like how a certain all-time great quarterback in the NFL got his start.
With Vegas’ main goaltenders on the sidelines, Hill still sat behind Laurent Brossoit, a career backup. But when Brossoit was hurt in Game 2 against Edmonton, Hill stepped up and never looked back. He stopped all but nine of the 136 shots he faced against the NHL’s most explosive offense.
While Bobrovsky and the Panthers stole all the NHL news on the other side, Hill quietly led Vegas over Edmonton and Dallas. Other than a pair of games, Hill dominated in the playoffs and recorded two shutouts in Dallas.
And unlike Bobrovsky, this is Hill’s first postseason. When Bobrovsky made his playoff debut in 2011, he allowed 10 goals in six appearances and had a SV% of 87.1%.
Conventional wisdom dictates that experience can be an invaluable edge, especially in the postseason. But that’s not always the case with goaltenders. Cam Ward and Matt Murray both won Stanley Cups in their first trip to the playoffs.
Both played on teams with plenty of playoff veterans. In Murray’s case, the Penguins’ core group had several Cup-winning star players. Hill has something similar with Vegas.
This Knights team is composed of players that have been this far, including a few from the original Vegas team that made the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals. This combination of players has made the Knights a solid NHL pick thus far. Hill can stay steady in net knowing he’s got the best team in front of him.