The Stanley Cup Playoffs are finally here! After over 1,000 games played, 16 teams will do battle for the right to hoist Lord Stanley and reign supreme as NHL champions.
There are plenty of story lines heading into the playoffs this postseason, and matchups galore that’ll dictate how games unfold in the next few months.
Can the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-peat? Will the Las Vegas Golden Knights continue to shock the world? Is this the year the Washington Capitals finally put it altogether?
There are so many stories to tell! So I thought it’d be fun to give my prediction for each series, and predict who will win it all!
Do I need a flame shield? Should I upgrade my flame shield? Anyway…
Without further adieu, let’s jump in!
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
The most obvious story point from this series will be focused on the Penguins, and if they can make it back to the Stanley Cup Final to defend their title. The Penguins boast a star-studded lineup led by Captain Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.
It’s a dangerous lineup as any, and with a steller Matt Murray in net, the Penguins are tough exit for anyone in a seven-game series.
Though the Flyers enter as the No. 3 seed, and will look to upset the Pens in the opening round Led by their Captain Claude Giroux, who is having quite the MVP season of his own with 34 goals and 102 points.
If they can shut down the exploding offense, and stay off the man-advantage, then perhaps this Flyers team can contend with champs.
Prediction: Penguins in five.
Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
The first-round has been kind to Capitals in recent memory, however, it’s the second round that has not. The Capitals in the Alexander Ovechkin era, have never made it past the second round. Given all the talent the Capitals seem to produce year in and year out, it’s quite shocking.
But they shouldn’t look past their opponent, either.
The Blue Jackets are a young and exciting team that contend with the best of them on the ice. After acquiring “The Breadman” Artemi Panarin, who led the Jackets with 27 goals and 55 assists, the Jackets hope to get him going against Washington early.
This is a series that should go the distance with plenty of light-lamp opportunities for both teams, which will come down to whose goaltender will be the better brick wall. Sergei Bobrovsk or Braden Holtby, both Vezina Trophy candidates as well.
Prediction: Washington in seven.
Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
An original-six matchup that went the distance in 2013 when they met in the first round. Obviously different teams since then, but a series that’s sure to be highly entertaining.
The Bruins look to get back to the Stanley Cup Final after narrowly missing the Eastern Conference title to the Tampa Bay Lightning for home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
Nevertheless, Boston looks to show the NHL that they are no fluke and have the roster to win it all this year.
Led by their own three-headed monster in David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, all clipping the 30+ goal mark. Throw in a battle-tested goalie in Tuuka Rask, and the Bruins are tough to beat.
Toronto is no slouch themselves, though. Even without a designated captain, the Leafs have gotten key contributuions from James van Riemsdyk, Austin Matthews and Nazem Kadri.
A rivalry renewed on the ice, and you better believe it’s going to be physical.
Prediction: Toronto in seven.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New Jersey Devils
The Lightning enter the playoffs as the overall No. 1 team who will host the Devils in the opening round. The Lightning have put the NHL on notice since the opening puck drop way back in October. They had to fend off Boston for the top team in the east, but they believe they are best team to win it all this season.
Steven Stamkos may have had an off-year with just 27 goals, but he still one of the most lethal players with the puck. Linemate Nikita Kucherov led the Lightning with 39 goals, while Brayden Point added 32 goals of his own. Goaltender Anrei Vasilevskiy had a stellar season posting 44 wins with a 2.62 GAA and a .920 SV%.
The Devils surprised many as the new kids on the rise this season, and qualifying for the playoffs with 44 wins while out-dueling the Florida Panthers for the final Wild Card spot.
Taylor Hall had an incredible season leading the team with 39 goals, and 54 points. But there has been some drop off from his teammates, and the Devils are going to need contributions from everyone if they’re going to extend this series.
Prediction: Lighting in four.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Boston Bruins
What a doozy of a matchup, as the top-two teams in the East meet in the second-round. It’s a series that would be best served with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line, but that’s the current playoff system for you.
Still, this series would feature goal scores, goalies standing on their head and big time hits.
A series that’s sure to push the limits of both teams, but one team stands in the end.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Lighting in seven.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
Another series that shouldn’t be played until the ECF, but one that’s familiar to both sides. It’s captain versus captain. Crosby vs. Ovechkin. Again. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: is this the year for the Capitals?
If so, then they’ll end Pittsburgh’s quest for a three-peat, and finally make it to the ECF.
Prediction: Pittsburgh in six.
Eastern Conference Finals
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Remember when the Lightning had a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final back in 2016, and blew it? Different outcome this year as the Lightning hang on to beat the Penguins in an epic seven-game series, in triple OT, because why not?
Prediction: Tampa Bay in seven.
How do you think the Eastern Conference will play out? Tweet at us, and tell us!
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