2023 NHL Playoffs – Conference Finals Preview

2023 NHL Conference Finals

By Andrew Phillip Chernoff CanucksBanter

May 17, 2023

* The new-look Conference Finals open Thursday and are set to feature a mix of notable players either returning to the round before the Stanley Cup Final or reaching the final-four series for the first time in their NHL career.

* The 2023 Conference Finals will mark the second time in Stanley Cup Playoffs history that the round before the Final features multiple head coaches facing a franchise with whom they previously held the same role.

* The 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs Interactive Information Guide has been updated through the Second Round.

* Dallas now sits four wins away from the franchise’s sixth berth in the Stanley Cup Final, following 2020200019991991 and 1981. The Stars/North Stars can become just the fourth non-Original Six franchise with six or more Stanley Cup Final appearances – they would join the Flyers (8x; last: 2010), Oilers (7x; last: 2006) and Penguins (6x; last: 2017).

* The Stars became the fourth franchise Peter DeBoer has led to a Conference Finals/Semifinals appearance (also VGK, SJS & NJD), a feat accomplished by only one other head coach in NHL history – Scotty Bowman (5; STL, MTL, BUF, PIT & DET). Additionally, DeBoer is the only head coach in NHL history to lead a franchise to a Conference Finals/Semifinals appearance in his first season as head coach on four separate occasions.

* The Stars will face the Golden Knights in the 2023 Western Conference Final, marking the second all-time meeting between the two clubs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The previous matchup came in the 2020 Conference Finals, a series Dallas won in five games, which saw the first instance in the NHL’s modern era (since 1943-44) of a Conference Finals or Semifinals series opening with each team earning a shutout within the first two contests. Click here for more notes on their matchup.

* The Golden Knights became the third franchise in NHL history to advance to the round before the Stanley Cup Final at least four times within their first six seasons, following the Rangers and Blues who also did so four times.

* Vegas has won nine playoff series since its inaugural season in 2017-18, the second most by one franchise within its first six campaigns, behind Edmonton (12) and just ahead of the NY Rangers (8) and St. Louis (7). The Golden Knights rank second to only the Lightning (13) for series wins since entering the League. 

* Bruce Cassidy can become the fourth head coach over the past 20 years to lead a team to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season as head coach after the club failed to qualify for the postseason in the preceding campaign. The others: Craig Berube (2019 w/ STL), Peter DeBoer (2016 w/ SJS & 2012 w/ NJD) and Mike Babcock (2003 w/ ANA).

* The Panthers advanced to the Conference Finals for the second time in franchise history and first since a trip in their third NHL season, 27 years ago. 
* The Panthers became the third Wild Card team to advance to the Conference Finals since the Wild Card format was introduced in 2013-14, following the 2017 Predators and 2019 Hurricanes. Nashville is the only Wild Card club to reach the Stanley Cup Final. 
* Florida became the fifth team since the modern era (since 1943-44) to win more than one series after entering as the lowest-ranked team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Panthers joined the 2021 Canadiens (won three rounds, lost in SCF), 2017 Predators (won three rounds, lost in SCF), 2010 Canadiens (won two rounds, lost in CF) and 1989 Blackhawks (won two rounds; lost in CF). 
* Florida became the 11th team in NHL history to face three of the League’s top four teams in one playoff year (BOS: No. 1; TOR: No. 4; and either CAR or NJD: No. 2 and No. 3, respectively). No team has ever faced each of the top four clubs from the regular-season standings. Florida is in familiar territory in this regard as their run in 1996 saw them eliminate the top two teams in the Eastern Conference and face three of the League’s top four club’s overall: Philadelphia (No. 3; CSF), Pittsburgh (No. 4; CF) and Colorado (No. 2; SCF). 

* Carolina and Florida are set for their first-ever postseason matchup, marking the fourth time that two teams in the Sunbelt have met in the Round before the Final (also LAK-PHX in 2012, ANA-NSH in 2017 & DAL-VGK in 2020).

Eric and Marc Staal (FLA) could face brother Jordan Staal (CAR) in the 2023 Eastern Conference Final. It has been more than 30 years since a trio of brothers competed (for either team) in the same playoff series. Overall, there have been six playoff series to date in NHL history in which three or more siblings have all dressed on competing teams (detailed below). 

* The Hurricanes advanced to the Conference Finals for the fifth time in franchise history and second time in the past five years. Rod Brind’Amour has been a part of the team for all five trips either, as a head coach (2019 & 2023) or a player (2002, 2006 & 2009). 
* The Hurricanes will play in the Conference Finals/Semifinals for the fifth time since relocating to Carolina in 1997-98, tied with the Ducks, Sharks, Avalanche, Stars, Red Wings and Blackhawks for the third most in that span behind the Lightning (8) and Penguins (6). 
* The Hurricanes earned their 17th all-time series win (of any length); their 16 since the franchise relocated to Carolina 25 years ago rank 10th among all teams. The Stars are the only club remaining in the postseason with more over that span (19). Carolina’s seven series wins (of any length) since 2019 are tied with Colorado for the second most in that span behind Tampa Bay (11).

Source: NHL Public Relations, media.nhl.com, NHL Morning Skate – Stanley Cup Playoffs Edition

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