NHL Playoff Predictions
The NHL Playoffs have finally arrived and everyone has a particular team they would ride or die with. Here are our expert’s predictions for this year's Stanley Cup Final.
Josh Bartosik: Minnesota Wild defeat the Carolina Hurricanes in 6 games
Look, you could make an argument for virtually any team in these playoffs this year, but these are two of the hottest teams in the league right now. The Wild only lost four games in the month of April (12-2-2), in large part due to Kevin Fiala’s 23 points in that span.
They also have a healthy mix of young stars like Kirill Kaprizov and Matt Boldy and veteran leadership in the form of Jared Spurgeon and trade deadline acquisition Marc-André Fleury.
As for Carolina, they too are coming in hot, riding a six-game winning streak and winning eight of their last 10. The Hurricanes are looking to ride momentum off of 22-year old Pyotr Kochetkov, who stormed onto the scene and won all three games he played after star goaltender Frederik Andersen went down with injury.
Kochetkov has been getting comparisons to Cam Ward, the rookie goaltender who led the Hurricanes to their first and only Cup win in 2006, after his hot start.
The big similarity between these two teams is in their first round matchup. The Minnesota Wild are facing another incredibly talented team in the St. Louis Blues in a series that will most likely go to seven games. Meanwhile the Carolina Hurricanes are facing a familiar foe in the Boston Bruins, a team that has knocked them out of the playoffs twice in the last three seasons.
I have a gut feeling that the winner of those two first round matchups, regardless of who, have the best chance at representing their conference in the Stanley Cup Final.
Nolan Wick: Tampa Bay Lightning defeat the Minnesota Wild in five games
As Josh noted, these are two of the hottest teams in hockey right now. It is hard to bet against the Lightning, as the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions are as battle-tested as anyone. The roster features the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and one of the best goalies in Andrei Vasilevskiy — basically the same group that won Tampa’s two recent championships.
Despite a first round matchup with Toronto that could go the distance, I expect the Lightning to prevail and make another Stanley Cup Final.
Meanwhile, Minnesota has a tough first round matchup against the St. Louis Blues that I predict the Wild to win in six games. This is a fast and dangerous team with young talent such as Kirill Kaprizov but also veteran talent such as Marc-André Fleury in net, and I believe the presence of a veteran goaltender can be massive.
Tampa’s experience, depth, and skill is why the Lighting will make it a three-peat this spring. Minnesota is a great team that should make it to the Finals, but it will not be able to put up as much of a fight against the Lightning.
Evan Smith: Florida Panthers beat Colorado Avalanche in 7 games.
Yes, this is the obvious No. 1 vs No. 1 matchup, but these two teams are simply the most complete teams in the NHL this year. Every time I thought of another matchup, I immediately noticed a major flaw that would knock other teams out of contention.
The Panthers are stacked in every facet of the sport. Their offense scored a first-line made up of entirely point-per-game scorers and a following offense deep in skills. On defense, they have a young core of players who can both score and defend at a high level. They also are projected to get Aaron Ekblad back on the ice if they advance past round one. Their biggest advantage, though, is their goaltending tandem.
Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight both carry goals-against averages of under 2.80, a save percentage over .900, while losing less than 10 regulation games. They are two of the best goalies in the league and having the ability to cycle will play a major role for Florida.
As for Colorado, their depth on each side of the ice may be the only team that can match, or surpass Florida. They should be heading into the playoffs healthy and if Nazem Kadri can avoid suspension during the playoffs, they will have a scrappy, high-scoring team that can work their way through the west.
Their two goaltenders hold the same prestige as Florida’s. Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz each hold goal-against averages under 2.60 with save percentages over .915. Their stats are even better, guided by Colorado’s outstanding defense.
Either way, I feel Florida has the better built squad to defeat the consistent powerhouse Avalanche.
James Morrison: Calgary Flames beat the New York Rangers in 6 games.
A Canadian team last won the Stanley Cup back in 1993 and that streak will be broken this year by Calgary.
The Flames come into the playoffs with a top line that includes the likes of star players Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm who will get past the Stars in the first round and take that momentum and keep it going through a cup win.
The additions of Tyler Toffoli, Blake Coleman and Calle Järnkrok should not be overlooked as they will all play a key role in the team’s success.
On defense they have Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson and Chris Tanev which is not the most skillful but can get the job done.
In net, Jacob Markstrom will be the best goaltender in the playoffs which means as long as the Flames score twice a game they should be alright.
On the New York side of things, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin will carry the team in terms of scoring and it will be enough to get them to the Cup finals.
They will be able to advance this far because of the defense which will be lights out and is led by Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba.
In net, Igor Shesterkin has been one of the best goaltenders all year and he will likely continue that trend in the playoffs.
Joshua Bartosik is a first year student majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nolan Wick is a first-year majoring in journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Evan Smith is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
James Morrison is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Second-year / Broadcast Journalism
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Josh Bartosik is a First Year student from Raleigh, North Carolina majoring in broadcast journalism. He is in his first year at CommRadio. Josh has been featured on several Around the Big Ten Hockey and NHL podcasts and is a host for the live CommRadio show The Sin Bin. Josh’s dream career is to be a play by play broadcaster or journalist for the NHL, NFL, or College Football.
First-Year / Broadcast Journalism