Here we are... down to our last four teams in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. For those of you who's teams made it, congrats, you should probably keep an eye on your blood pressure.
Unfortunately, we missed out on our second round predictions due to schedule conflicts, so please excuse us.
(AP Photo/David Becker)
Carolina Hurricanes (M1) vs. Florida Panthers (WC2)
Wow, what a ride it's been for the Florida Panthers. After overcoming a 3-1 deficit and knocking out the best regular season team in NHL history in the first round, Matthew Tkachuk and the Panthers decided that they weren't stopping there. They went on to upset the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round, and took Game 1 from the Carolina Hurricanes in a 4OT game on Thursday night.
While I'm rooting for the Panthers, and I simply know it deep down in my gut to not bet against them again, I think I'm going to, because I'm stubborn. Carolina getting Teuvo Teravainen back in time to start the series is a huge boost for the Canes, and while they dropped Game 1 to an extremely good looking Panthers team, I think they bounce back. This will be one hell of a series.
Prediction: Carolina in 7
Vegas Golden Knights (P1) vs. Dallas Stars (C2)
Much like the Eastern Conference Final, Game 1 of the Western Conference final was also an OT thriller that ended in a 4-3 Vegas win. As much as I love this star studded (no pun intended) Dallas roster, I think I'm going to keep this one short and sweet and go with Vegas.
They have simply looked dominant all postseason long, and I think that will continue well into the Stanley Cup Final, when they're representing the West.
Prediction: Vegas in 6
Jake Zimmer's Predictions
FLA-CAR: Florida Panthers in 7
It's no question that the Florida Panthers are playing with house money right now. They earned a hard-nosed, old-time-hockey-style, Game 7 win in Boston on April 30th, sending the best regular season team in NHL history to the golf course. "That's nice, but it stops here," said many NHL know-it-all's, doubling down on Toronto's appetite for playoff resurgence. But Paul Maurice and the Florida Panthers don't care what pundits have to say; they're here to win the Cup. The Eastern Conference Semis yielded another fantastic win for Florida, knocking off the Leafs in a swift 4-1 manner. Yes, two games were decided in OT, and all but one were one-goal games, but they count the same in the scorebook. The Panthers' defenders stepped up yet again, not only scoring goals but making big plays & ramping up their aggression on the forecheck. It was enough to beat Boston, and it was enough to beat Toronto: but will it be enough to beat the Carolina Hurricanes? Many are giving Carolina a pass for their first two opponents, the Islanders and the Devils. But make no mistake, this is a solid Carolina team for yet another year. They're deep, they have options to score from all over the ice, and they may get Teuvo Teravainen back for the series. I will not be burned by Florida once more; I believe the Panthers can speed up the game as they did with Boston & Toronto, which means things get hairy for the Canes.
VGK-DAL: Dallas Stars in 7
Ah, yes, just another average year in the Western Conference. The reigning champion Colorado Avalanche, the big bad Edmonton Oilers, and America's new sweetheart Seattle Kraken are all eliminated. Now, all attention turns to the Western Conference's best regular season team, the Vegas Golden Knights. In what many perceived as an odd move, the Golden Knights canned Pete DeBoer in the offseason and replaced him with Boston Bruins exile Bruce Cassidy, and the move has paid dividends for all involved. In the last round, Vegas found a way to derail Edmonton, getting excellent production from two backup goalkeepers in Laurent Brossoit and Adin Hill. They had excellent production from Jonathan Marchessault in the six-game series, racking up 8 points - 3 of which were goals, the difference in a 5-2 clincher on Sunday. Ironically enough, Vegas sees Pete DeBoer again in 2023: this time on the sideline of the Dallas Stars. Jake Oettinger has had another great season in goal, but he has not been fantastic in the playoffs. Roope Hintz has racked up 19 points in the playoffs so far, with Joe Pavelski contributing 8 goals. Ultimately, two things stick out for me in this series: special teams, and goaltending. Vegas has a considerably worse power play this postseason than Dallas (17.5% VGK to DAL's 30%), so you'd have to think that's an area they clean up against the Stars. But you can say the same for Otter: and I'd rather have him on my side than two backups, no matter how well they're playing.
What a storyline; either the Vegas Golden Knights finally get over the hump, or Pete DeBoer does the same for another team. I'll take the vindication for DeBoer.
Will Tondo's Predictions
Carolina Hurricanes vs.Florida Panthers
It's not the Bruins/Rangers matchup everyone hoped for, but it's still a matchup that's going to provide some great hockey. We have one of the best defensive teams in the Hurricanes going up against one of the best offensive teams in the Panthers. Get your popcorn ready, because it's about to go down. Carolina is 5-1 at home this postseason, while the Panthers took three on the road in both series leading up to this matchup. Which side gives in? Carolina is the better team, but it's time to support the Cinderella team. They took down the Bruins and Leafs, why not the Hurricanes too?
Pick: Panthers in 7
Las Vegas Golden Knights vs. Dallas Stars
We got a rematch of the 2020 Western Conference Finals, and these two teams have been rolling in hopes to make it to the 2023 Stanley Cup. You can say both teams are star studded and filled with depth on both sides of the puck, but it's going to come down to who wants it more. The difference maker is kind of a chalk pick, but it's starting center, Jack Eichel. Vegas is finally reaping the benefits of the former Sabres star. He leads the team this playoffs with six goals, eight assists, and fourteen points. Now, I think the Stars have the better defense, anchored by Jake Oettinger, but you have to tip the cap to Vegas, who did the unthinkable and slowed down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. This is going to be a must-watched series, and it's going to go down to the wire.
Pick: Knights in 7