NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs preview and predictions for first round

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The 2021-22 NHL Regular Season has come to an end, although the Winnipeg Jets and Seattle Kraken have a makeup game set for Sunday at 2 PM ET.

We now know all the first round matchups with four series beginning on Monday, May 2 and the other four set for Tuesday, May 3. Here’s a quick preview with predictions for each Round One series.

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Schedule

In the wee hours of the morning, the NHL released its full schedule for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

(A1) Panthers vs (WC2) Capitals GM1: 5/3(C1) Avalanche vs (WC2) Predators GM1: 5/3
(A2) Maple Leafs vs (A3) Lightning GM1: 5/2(C2) Wild vs (C3) Blues GM1: 5/2
(M1) Hurricanes vs (WC1) Bruins GM1: 5/2(P1) Flames vs (WC1) Stars GM1: 5/3
(M2) Rangers vs (M3) Penguins GM1: 5/3(P2) Oilers vs (P3) Kings GM1: 5/2

Eastern Conference Playoffs Previews and Predictions

Panthers (58-18-6) vs Capitals (44-26-12)

This should be a good series if Alexander Ovechkin is healthy. He missed the last three games of the season with an upper-body injury but it’s believed he will be ready for the start. However, the Panthers won the Presidents Trophy and are a heavy favorite to win this one– it won’t be a cakewalk.

Prediction: Panthers beat Capitals in 6

Maple Leafs (54-21-7) vs Lightning (51-23-8)

nhl Stanley cup playoffs
Apr 21, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91), left wing Michael Bunting (58), Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Brandon Hagel (38) and teammates fight during the second period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Maple Leafs have been unable to make noise the playoffs for a long time. They are loaded up front and decent in their own zone. Jack Campbell will need to be at his best in order to beat the defending champs. Meanwhile, the Lightning will be coming in hot and healthy. Steven Stamkos has 10 goals and 16 assists in his last 9 games. Wow!

Prediction: Lightning beat Maple Leafs in 7

Hurricanes (54-20-8) vs Bruins (51-26-5)

The Hurricanes had a great season but an injury to starting goaltender Frederik Anderson looms large. If he is unable to go in this series, the Boston Bruins have enough up front and on the back line to get this done.

Prediction: Bruins beat Hurricanes in 6

New York Rangers (52-24-6) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (46-25-11)

New York dominated the regular season series against Pittsburgh (3-1) and there’s no reason to think it won’t carry over into the playoffs. The injury to Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry is going to play a big factor in the outcome. If Igor Shesterkin continues his Vezina worthy play this one could be over quick.

Prediction: Rangers beat Penguins in 5

Western Conference Playoffs Previews and Predictions

Colorado Avalanche (56-19-7) vs Nashville Predators (45-30-7)

This should be a no contest sweep by the Avs. It there was ever a lopsided matchup in the playoffs this is the one. Plus on the injury front, Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog is getting ready to return from surgery. Meanwhile, Preds goalie Juuse Saros sat out for the last two games of the season with a lower-body injury. If Saros is playing hurt, this is over before it begins.

Prediction: Avalanche beat Predators in 4

Minnesota Wild (53-22-7) vs St. Louis Blues (49-22-11)

nhl playoffs predictions
Jan 1, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild goalie Cam Talbot (33) makes a save against St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly (90) in the first period of the 2022 Winter Classic ice hockey game between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

A divisional battle of two evenly matched teams that is the closest to a tossup I see in the first round. This is going to be a nasty series with the greatest potential for fights. In the end, I believe it will come down to which team can score the most dirty goals. That would be the Blues.

Prediction: Blues beat the Wild in 7

Calgary Flames (50-21-11) vs Dallas Stars (46-30-6)

The Stars have been playing playoff style games for months fighting to get in. That will probably help them win one in this series. Otherwise the Flames are just too darn good in all the major areas of the game. Calgary’s special teams are excellent and they’re physical, so it’s hard to envision any scenario where the Stars can defeat the Flames.

Prediction: Flames beat Stars in 5

Edmonton Oilers (49-27-6) vs Los Angeles Kings (44-27-11)

This matchup is being dubbed the Wayne Gretzky Series since the Great One was a star for both franchises. The Kings have the edge in goaltending but it won’t be enough to stop the Oilers high-powered offense led by Connor McDavid.

Prediction: Oilers beat Kings in 6