One day, the world will be able to bounce back and get on their feet again after a difficult period. With most of the NHL regular season having been played, I felt it was time to look ahead to how the playoffs might look like, should the season continue. If the regular season ended, here would be the matchups. In the Western Conference, the second wild card team, the Nashville Predators, would play the Saint Louis Blues, the leaders of the Central Division. That means the second and third-place teams in the division will tango. Colorado would have had the home-ice advantage against Dallas.
On the other side of the conference, the first wild card team, the Winnipeg Jets get a chance to avenge their 2018 West Final series defeat. The Pacific Division winners, the Vegas Golden Knights, took the conference in their first year. The ice hockey world will be treated to find out who gets bragging rights in the Canadian province of Alberta as Calgary and Edmonton compete. The Oilers would finish as the two seed in the Pacific and the Flames as the three.
The Blues have depth and it will help them in their first-round series. The Predators have scrapped their way into a playoff spot, but they came up just short in six games. The Stars need some comeback victories against the Avalanche, and they open up some eyes by beating them in five. The Jets have proven to be a difficult out the last few years, taking the Blues to six last season, and surprising Nashville in the second round the year prior. I see them taking out the Knights in six. The Oilers and Flames are fierce rivals, so the total should be a very high number in terms of penalty minutes. The prolific point-scorers of Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid will prove to be too much for Calgary to handle. Edmonton advances in five.
The second round gives hockey fans another helping of Blues-Stars, which required a back and forth, the edge of your seat, seven-game series going the way of Saint Louis en route to a championship. Dallas has had a season to think about it, and will prove to be difficult, but I think the outcome ends up the same. The Blues win in seven. Winnipeg and Edmonton feels like it will be a short series. The Jets’ experience gets them back to the NHL’s last four.
The conference final will be comprised of two familiar division foes. Winnipeg has some excellent forwards, while Saint Louis is a big and physical team. Because of the numerous encounters, it is hard to envision it being too easy for one side. In the end, the Blues return to the Cup Final with a Game Six overtime road win. They will get a shot to repeat as champions.
The Eastern Conference has two first-round matchups which are re-matches from the last playoff term. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins went six games in round two as the latter went on to claim the Prince of Wales trophy. The Washington Capitals get another shot against the Carolina Hurricanes, the team that eliminated them in game seven on the road to take down the 2018 Stanley Cup winners. Boston of the Atlantic Division and Washington of the Metropolitan section would serve as the top seeds within the conference. The two-three matchups feature the Maple Leafs and Lightning in the Atlantic, and the two Keystone State members involving the Penguins and Flyers.
In the first round, the Bruins will make quick work of the Blue Jackets. It feels like there will be a lot of scoring involving Leafs and Lightning, but in the postseason, goaltending is very important. Toronto cannot keep going to the well and outscore every time they set a blade on the ice. I think Tampa Bay advances in five. The Capitals drop the first two games against the Hurricanes, but come back to win in seven games. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia also go the distance, but I think the Pens win a road Game Seven.
The second round will be very fascinating. The latest installation of Washington and Pittsburgh means Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby yet again. I like the Capitals in six with outstanding net-minding by both sides. The Bruins pick apart Tampa Bay in five. David Pastrnak will lead the way for a big series.
In the conference final, I think the third and fourth lines will help pull the weight in determining this series. Washington will be slightly user the radar. Boston is the have favorite. Both have looked dominant for long stretches in this campaign. Something tells me that even though the Bruins have looked like number one in the league, the Capitals will spring the upset. I will say Washington sets the tone in Game One and holds serve in D.C.
The last two winners take aim at potentially being the next great dynasty in the National Hockey League. Under the 2-2-1-1 format, both sides get a road win. The goaltending is world-class in Game Five, necessitating triple-overtime. The Blues win 1-0 thanks to Jaden Schwartz. The Blues failed to close at home last year. This time, they get a shutout 3-0 to avoid going back to the Capital City, claiming back-to-back Stanley Cups after not having one in the first half-century.
Obviously, if the NHL season is still on, the players that have gotten the proper amount of rest and fitness will have the edge should hockey decide to hold this tournament in the summer months. There are intangibles that factor into who will win the NHL Stanley Cup. Hardly anyone would have envisioned Columbus beating Tampa Bay. They swept the President’s Trophy winners in the 2019 playoffs. Not many would have thought Washington and Pittsburgh would both miss out on the second round. Much like baseball, hope springs eternal, and hope still remains for many teams trying to carve out their own history.
How do you feel about these NHL Playoff predictions? Is there any that you would change? Leave a comment below.
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Works cited: NHL app, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018–19_NHL_season (to check the playoff format, assuming it is unchanged for 2019-20)