NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round Previews and Predictions
The 2022-23 NHL Regular-Season has come to an end and the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins tonight.
It’s been a high-scoring year across the NHL led by Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid running away with the Art Ross Trophy (153 points). This season, eleven players cracked the century mark with two others finishing at 99 points. For some context, in 2019-20 only one player hit 100 points (Leon Draisaitl, 110).
Will the offensive explosion carry over into the usually hard-hitting defensive style of play in the postseason? We’re going to find out.
Here’s a quick preview with predictions for each first round series.
NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Rd1
Bruins (A1: 65-12-5, 135 pts) vs Panthers (WC2: 42-32-8, 92 pts)
The Bruins had a historic season and that shouldn’t change in the playoffs as they’re the clear favorite to win it all. Word heading into Game 1 is that Bruins’ captain Patrice Bergeron may miss the opener. It’s an opportunity for the Panthers to get off on the right foot and make this a series.
Prediction: Bruins beat Panthers in 5
Hurricanes (M1: 52-21-9, 113 pts) vs Islanders (WC1: 42-31-9, 93 pts)
Fans looking to watch a high-scoring series better pick another. Entering the playoffs the Hurricanes 266 goals for on the season ranks 13th out of the 16 teams in the dance. Meanwhile, the Islanders 243 goals for is the worst among all playoff teams. Look for defenseman Brent Burns to be a difference maker for the Canes.
Prediction: Hurricanes beat Islanders in 6
Devils (M2: 52-22-8, 112 points) vs Rangers (M3: 47-22-13, 107 points)
If you are looking for an offensive series to watch, this could be the one in the East. Plus you get the added benefit of a local rivalry with both squads within a short drive of each other. The Devils are young, fast, and talented with many players getting their first taste of playoff action. Meanwhile, the Rangers went to the ECF last season and bolstered their already impressive lineup with veterans like Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko. In the end, Igor Shesterkin is why the Rangers advance.
Prediction: Rangers beat Devils in 6
Maple Leafs (A2: 50-21-11, 111 points) vs Lightning (A3: 46-30-6, 98 points)
We have a rematch from last year’s first round with the hungry Leafs taking on the battle-tested Lightning. Toronto has so much offensive talent that only a great goalie can counter. Enter one of the most clutch playoff goalies in history, Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. This is going to be another great matchup but the outcome will likely be the same with Tampa on top.
Prediction: Lightning beat Leafs in 7
NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Western Conference Rd1
Avalanche (C1: 51-24-7, 109 pts) vs Kraken (WC1: 46-28-8, 100 points)
It’s been a magical season for the second-year expansion franchise. However, the Kraken will now take on the defending Stanley Cup champions in their first-ever playoff appearance. The Avs started the season slow but have come on strong in the second half. Captain Gabriel Landeskog will miss the playoffs but Colorado will be too much for Seattle to handle.
Prediction: Avalanche beat Kraken in 5
Golden Knights (P1: 51-22-9, 111 points) vs Jets (WC2: 46-33-3, 95 points)
Jack Eichel has finally made it to the playoffs and is going to be eager to show what he can do on the grandest stage. Vegas will have a tough time with the Jets and goalie Connor Hellebuyck but will still prevail.
Prediction: Golden Knights beat Jets in 6
Stars(C2: 47-21-14, 108 points) vs Wild (C3: 46-25-11, 103 points)
This has all the making of being one of the nastiest series in the postseason. Minnesota likes to play a hard, heavy, physical game with lots of contact. Dallas will have to find a way to match that in a seven-game series. It’s going to be a grind and will come down to star performances. In the end, I can see Kirill Kaprizov and Marc-Andre Fleury getting the better of Jason Robertson and Jake Oettinger.
Prediction: Wild beat Stars in 7
Edmonton Oilers (P2) vs Los Angeles Kings (P3)
It’s the Wayne Gretzky Series sequel as these teams met last season in the first round with the Oilers coming out on top in 7 games. While the Kings will be tough, Connor McDavid has reached a new level and L.A. won’t be able to handle it.
Prediction: Oilers beat Kings in 6