The Conference Finals are here, and the hockey should be fierce. These NHL Playoffs have been full of surprises which have made our predictions look foolish, but we can’t say the chaos hasn’t been fun to watch. The Carolina Hurricanes will face off against the Florida Panthers, while the Dallas Stars take on the Las Vegas Golden Knights, which are some nice fresh Conference Final matchups for our viewing pleasure.
So which one of these teams will stamp their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals? We’ll try and make some predictions again, but we should maybe just stick to golf with how things are going.
NHL Conference Finals Predictions
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Florida Panthers
Trevor: This is a tough series to predict. The Panthers are enjoying what many call a “Cinderella run,” while the Canes are once again looking to knock the reputation of a team that can’t get it done when it matters. Florida has been getting some Conn Smythe-like goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky, who looks like the Vezina trophy winner from his Columbus days. He’s got a 2.82 GAA and .918 SV% at 7-2 in 10 games this postseason and is the number 1 reason the Panthers are here. He’s the X-factor if Florida wants to advance.
Carolina did a great job of shutting down New Jersey’s big guns; can they do the same to Florida? The Hurricanes’ offense started to click in round 2, and if they continue to pour on the pressure with their relentless forecheck, they could do some damage and might be too much for Florida’s defense to handle. It’s hard to bet against the momentum that Florida is riding high on, but something has to give here, right? This will be a barn burner of a series, but Carolina can not only score, but they can play fantastic team defense to limit the Panther’s chances. The last goal wins, and so I gotta run with the Canes.
Trevor’s Pick: Carolina in 6
Jack: After taking down the Islanders in the first round, Carolina rolled by the young and talented New Jersey Devils in just five games. Through two series, the team has proven that they can win games in any fashion, despite not having three of their best forwards in the lineup. The scoring was a bit of an issue against Sorokin and the Islanders, but Carolina picked the Devils apart, scoring 24 goals in five games. In this series, they’ll have to hope that the offence can stay hot against a Florida Panthers team coming in with all the momentum and nothing to lose. Fortunately, they will be getting Tuevo Teravainen back from injury, which could provide a huge boost offensively.
For the Panthers, the focus should be on continuing to do what got them here. Their forward group is the biggest and most physical that Carolina has gone up against, and pushing Carolina’s veteran defensemen will be of utmost importance. The team has thrived on turnovers, but they may be harder to come by against such a sound Hurricanes team. In net, Sergei Bobrovsky will need to continue to shine. Carolina came at the Devils in waves and scored a ton of goals, and if they continue that kind of scoring in this series, Florida won’t stand much of a chance. Thankfully, Bob is in fine form and didn’t allow the Maple Leafs more than two goals once in the second round.
I expect a very close series between these two teams. The Panthers will look to keep rolling, but Carolina is a very tough team to beat right now. I think the Canes will lean on their playoff experience, team defence and home dominance to win this one in seven games.
Jack’s Pick: Carolina in 7
Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights
Trevor: Not that the NHL regular season should matter at this point in the playoffs, but it’s worth noting that the Dallas Stars were a perfect 3-0 against Vegas this year. But ultimately, that won’t matter, as these playoffs have been unpredictable. That said, both teams deserve to be in the West Finals, and ultimately, this series is going to be about goaltending. Dallas’s Jake Oettinger is capable of stealing games, but his playoff performance so far has been erratic at times. Meanwhile, the Knights are using their third and fourth-string goalies Adin Hill and Laurent Brossoit, and both have been excellent.
Dallas’ has flexed their offensive depth, with three good scoring lines and a hard-nosed checking trio. They also have the Conn Smythe favourite in Roope Hintz, who has been playing out of his mind. Vegas hasn’t been too shabby either, with their core players actually showing up these playoffs, Jack Eichel (nine points), Jonathan Marchessault (eight) and Mark Stone (four) combined for 21 points. But I’m going to lean on Dallas’s scoring depth, goaltending, and overall pedigree to get the job done. They were a Stanley Cup contender coming into these playoffs, and although this series will probably go all seven games, I gotta take the Stars.
Trevor’s Pick: Dallas in 7
Jack: Vegas has played just eleven games in the playoffs and hasn’t been down in a series since Game 1 against Winnipeg. Like every team left, they’re big, deep and defensively responsible. After Game 2 against the Oilers, they shut Leon Draisaitl down to just one assist for the remainder of the series. The team can handle top offensive threats, and they’ve got more than a few guys that can put the puck in the net themselves. Although they have scored a lot so far in the postseason, the defensive ability of Dallas mixed with Jake Oettinger in the net will definitely be the toughest counter to their attack that they’ve seen so far.
As for the Stars, they come into this series after just surviving the Seattle Kraken. It hasn’t been as smooth a ride for Dallas, but the team is here, nonetheless. Despite a few dominant games, Oettinger hasn’t been fantastic over a full series yet, but if he can turn the switch on for multiple games here, the Stars may be nearly impossible to stop. The team will also look to get Jason Robertson to play like his dominant self again. The young forward has chipped in with assists but has only scored two goals in twelve games.
I expect another great series in the West, and with two teams this close, the series may come down to goaltending. If Dallas moves on, I think it will be either Jake Oettinger shutting the door and stealing at least one game or Adin Hill and/or Laurent Brossoit not looking up to par in such a big moment. I’ve got faith in Vegas and the home-ice advantage, though, and I’ll take them in seven.
Jack’s Pick: Vegas in 7
Hockey fans in Canada might check out now that Edmonton and Toronto are gone, but some excellent hockey is on the horizon, so pay attention and play in OfficePools Bets FREE NHL Playoff Challenge. It’s your chance to win daily prizes.