Larry Martino

Larry Martino

Larry Martino

The Vegas Golden Knights have one more hill to climb to claim the Stanley Cup, professional hockey’s most coveted prize. But first, they must battle a team that has been playing hard-nosed, in-your-face, hard-hitting hockey, to get to the championship series. I’m talking about Florida’s “nasty” Panthers.

In their trek to the Stanley Cup Finals, the “nasty” Panthers have knocked out the experts’ top choice to become this season’s champions, the Boston Bruins. The Bruins set records for the most wins (65) and most points (135) in the regular season, and yet, Florida was able to knock them off in dramatic fashion in their seven-game series.

Next up, the second-place team behind the Bruins in the Atlantic Division, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Once again, the eighth-seeded Panthers found a way to beat a team loaded with superstar players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and Ryan O’Reilly. And they did it in just five games.

The Carolina Hurricanes had a terrific season, winning the Metro Division with 113 points, the second-best record behind only Boston. All of the games were very close, but the Panthers won four consecutive games by one goal to sweep the series. Are the Florida Panthers a team of destiny?

Well, the Vegas Golden Knights will have something to say about that. They have silenced their critics all season long, first by clinching the Pacific Division regular season title. Then, they won the Western Conference regular season championship with 111 points, third best record in the league. And, then they won the Western Conference playoffs with a convincing 6-0 win against the Dallas Stars on Monday night.

To claim Lord Stanley’s Cup, they must face-off against a team that loves to get nasty and intimidate the opposition. The “nasty” Panthers do it with huge body-checks, a relentless forecheck, and lots of chirping (talking smack) between the whistles.

Scroll down to see videos of some of the nastiest players on the Eastern Conference champion Florida Panthers.

  • #7 - Defenseman Radko Gudas

    An absolutely vicious hit, right after the whistle blew to stop play. Gudas was not even assessed a penalty on this play, even though when the whistle blew he didn’t even attempt to stop. I understand his momentum would have carried him into the Toronto player anyway, but he was intent on making the hit. He had the second-most hits in the  NHL this past season. The Golden Knights will have to be aware of him when he’s on the ice.

  • Another Example of Radko Gudas With a Huge Hit


    The hip check is a lost art form in the NHL. Back in the 80s and 90s, defensemen like Rob Blake of the Los Angeles Kings and Ray Borque of the Boston Bruins were experts at this tactic. Flipping a guy head over heels while he is skating at full speed is certainly a spectacular hit. It also stops the offensive player from attempting any shots or passes. Once again, Gudas will be trying to intimidate the offensive stars of the Vegas Golden Knights in the upcoming Stanley Cup Finals.

  • #9 - Forward Sam Bennett

    I actually believe that this was a clean hit by Sam Bennett. The Carolina defenseman, Jaccob Slavin, was certainly not expecting to be hit, and he had his head down. Bennett had picked up steam while entering the offensive zone, but all he was doing was gliding into Slavin when the hit occurred. Bennett plays a very rugged game, and he is a talented offensive player too. He opens up the ice for his Matt Tkachuk, who pretty much runs Florida’s offense, as you will see below.

  • #19 - Forward Matthew Tkachuk

    Matthew Tkachuk has proven to be one of the best clutch scorers, and one of the best playmakers, during this year’s playoffs. He was traded to Florida from the Calgary Flames during the off-season. He has really helped Florida become a very dangerous offensive team. He may not be the fastest skater or have the hardest shot, but he is one of the smartest players in the league. When the “nasty” Panthers win, it is usually because Tkachuk has had a good game. He also loves to get under the skin of the opposing players by chirping throughout the game. He’s a handful, and the most dangerous player on the Eastern Conference championship team.

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