My 2021 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions
Christmas, your Birthday, and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 3 best times of the year. One of them is just around the corner, and it’s time to embarrass myself with some predictions. I’m going to try my best to break down all 8 series, and predict it to the best of my ability. There’s a chance that I’m right, there’s a chance that I’m wrong. These are just going to be my takes, and I’m going to try my best to explain why, so let’s get straight into it.
This is going to be a closer matchup than you may think. The Carolina Hurricanes won the Discover Central Division with a 36–12–8 record. For this incredible effort, the Hurricanes get to play one of the hottest teams in the NHL. How nice. The Nashville Predators 31–23–2 record isn’t the most threatening, but that doesn’t tell the whole story for this team. The Predators have had an 18–6–1 record in their past 25 games. The Hurricanes have a record of 15–5–5 in their last 25 games. So, how do these teams match up?
This is Aho’s 2nd season at a PPG pace, and I would say that this is probably his best season yet. Leading a team to 1st in the division with the reigning Stanley Cup Champions isn’t an easy task. Dougie Hamilton has been about as good as ever, and he’ll certainly have a word to say to Roman Josi, the reigning Norris Trophy winner. Petr Mrazek is still a question mark to me. I’m not sure what to think about him. I thought that he was a serviceable starter heading into this season, but he faced injury issues throughout the year. While he was out, Nedeljkovic played absolutely fantastic. You have to ask the question on if it’s because of the system or not, but Mrazek has a chance to prove himself as a true #1 Goalie these playoffs. The player I’d look out for that may be underrated on the Hurricanes side of things is Brett Pesce. Pesce is a very good top 4 defenceman who will need to be at the top of his game to match up against Nashville's defenceman.
Filip Forsberg is once again showing why he isn’t talked about enough. He’s a great top-line winger in this league, and I can’t believe that Nashville was thinking about trading him earlier this season. he’s the real deal, and despite him being injured at points this season he will be fully healthy for the playoffs. Roman Josi is still Roman Josi. He has played just as well as he did last season, and expect a big showing from him against Carolina. Juuse Saros is an interesting one. He played all of the Predators play in games last season but he didn’t look fantastic against Arizona. However, this season he has had a fantastic year and I expect him to start getting a lot more recognition soon. Maybe that starts with a playoff run? We’ll see. Calle Jarnkrok was the 3rd highest scorer on this team this year, and I don’t think many people have seen that coming. He looks good, and his presence in the middle 6 may be a lot for Carolina in a best of 7 series.
Enough of the individual players, how do their team play stack up to each other?
Yeah, this doesn’t help the Predators case at all. They’re below Carolina in all of these stats, and it’s not close. But, once again they’re very hot right now. They have a lot of work ahead of them if they want a chance against the Hurricanes. If Nashville wants a chance, Juuse Saros will have to play as he has recently, and maybe even better. The season series was 6–2 in favour of the Hurricanes, but the Predators looked like the much better team in the most recent 2 game mini-series.
If you were to look up and down each team's roster, it doesn’t tell much of a different story. The Hurricanes have a much better forward group, and their top 4 defenceman is probably better than the Predators, although it is close. I’d personally take Juuse Saros over Petr Mrazek, but it isn’t by much. Overall, I have the Hurricanes in 5 games, but don’t be surprised if it goes longer than that. This will be a fun one to watch.
Incredibly, the Battle of Florida has never happened in the playoffs. Since 1993–1994, when the Panthers franchise played its first NHL season, we have never seen these two in the playoffs. This is the year, and after the 8 games we saw them play in the regular season it looks like it’s going to look like a long-time rivalry. Home Ice Advantage is a huge deal for Florida, and they got that by having a fantastic 37–14–5 record. Tampas 36–17–3 record is solid, but the big thing about them is that they are set to have Kucherov and Stamkos healthy for the playoffs. Kucherov hasn’t played all season, and Stamkos has only played 38 games. Speaking of the individual players…
Aleksander Barkov's emergence as a possible Hart Trophy candidate over the next 5 or so seasons has hopefully finally pushed him past the most underrated player in the NHL conversation. Barkov is a fantastic player on both sides of the ice, and I can’t wait to see what he does in the playoffs. Florida having the best Centre on the ice is something that is going to be huge in this series. Aaron Ekblad going down with a season-ending injury certainly hurts the Panther's chances in this series, but MacKenzie Weegar has stepped up in a huge way. He has always been an analytical darling, but now that he has gotten increased ice time he is proving himself to be a very good NHL defenceman. Chris Driedger is hopefully the goalie between the pipes for Florida, and I honestly trust him to perform in this series. If the play Bobrovsky instead I’d be a bit more concerned, however. Carter Verhaeghe is coming off of a career season, and now he gets to play his former team in the 1st round. They helped get him a Stanley Cup Ring, and now he’s going to try even harder to knock them out the season after. Watch out for him.
Brayden Point has been just as good as last season. His point totals may be down, but he has still been fantastic. People need to realize that he is the real deal, and he and Stamkos as the top 2 Centres for this team aren’t rivalled by many. Victor Hedman has been injured this season. There’s no other way to put it. We’ve heard rumblings throughout the season, but you can just watch him play and see that he is having the worst season he has had in a while. That may be a huge factor in this series. If Florida understands that and uses that to their advantage, Tampa could be in trouble. Andrei Vasilevskiy is having an amazing season. He deserves to be in Hart Trophy nominee conversations because of how much he has carried this team. I’m not at all worried about him in this series, I think he'll play just as well. Yanni Gourde played fantastic during last season's playoffs, and his 36 points in 56 games have gone fairly under the radar. Watch out for another elite playoffs from him.
You can see my issue with Florida here. The Panthers may be very good offensively, but their play in their own end isn’t up to par. The Lightning has done a fairly good job of limiting shots from their opponents, and that will be a problem for Florida. Especially with the fact that they have to get past Vasilevskiy as well. I think the Lightning are going to demolish Florida when it comes to special teams. Florida’s PK isn’t very good, and when you put that up against Tampas explosive PP things don’t look pretty. The Lightning’s offensive stats haven’t been where you probably want them to be, but adding Kucherov will help so much if he’s good to go. The season series was 5–3 in Florida's favour, and they looked dominant in the last 2 games of the season against Tampa. I see Tampa Bay going out there hunting for the back-to-back, and I don’t think much can stop them.
These teams are still extremely close when you look at the rosters. Florida’s forward depth is very solid, but I would probably still take Tampa in that regard. I mean you have Huberdeau, Barkov, Duclair, Hornqvist, Verhaeghe and Sam Bennett up against Kucherov, Stamkos, Point, Palat, Cirelli and Goude. This is going to be an exciting series. I’ll take Tampa’s defence and goaltending over Floridas 10 times out of 10. Vasilevskiy is in another league compared to Driedger, and if they start Bobrovsky it won’t even be close. With Ekblad in it would be a closer decision between the defensive cores, but I take Hedman, McDonaugh, Cernak, and Sergachev over Weegar, Yandle, Montour and Forsling. It isn’t close. That’s why I’m taking Tampa Bay in 6 games, but this is a series where I can see Florida getting in the Lightning's heads and stealing the series. We’ll have to see.
This is going to be an amazing series. Possibly the best of the first round. The red hot, but depth lacking Bruins against the beat-up Capitals who have had internal issues. The Capitals record of 36–15–5 is solid and a lot better than I thought it would be. The Bruins aren’t very far behind with a 33–16–7 record. The Capitals have the history on their side, as they have beaten the Bruins in 2 of their 3 playoff series matchups. the Bruins have looked very good since adding Taylor Hall at the trade deadline, and the Capitals have looked worse since they acquired Mantha from Detroit. I think them having home-ice advantage in this series is a bigger deal than many may think.
Ovi isn’t the same Ovi anymore. I don’t think he’s coming into the playoffs fully healthy, and I’m not sure if he’ll be able to compete with the top line of the Bruins. This team isn’t as quick as it used to be, and that goes for Ovi as well, that matters a lot against a hungry Bruins team. John Carlson has been exactly like he was last season. A great offensive defenceman who is far below average defensively and who makes a lot of decisions that make you question if he has even played hockey before. Vanecek is a humongous question mark for me here. I like Samsonov a lot more, but him being in COVID protocol twice and his inconsistencies throughout the year, I think they give Vanacek the start. Lars Eller has always looked really good to me. His compete level is unreal, and he brings so much more to the Capital's 3rd line when healthy.
Marchand had such a good year and I haven’t heard a word about it. That perfection line wouldn’t be the same without him, and his presence is felt everywhere. On the PP, 5-on-5, or even shorthanded, he can score. Charlie McAvoy should be in the Norris conversation. It may not show up on the scoresheet, but McAvoy adds so much on both sides of the ice. He may not be great on the PP, but his 5-on-5 play is just on another level. Whenever you watch him play you can tell that he can be such a difference-maker on the ice. Craig Smith has been a fantastic addition to this team. I always liked him in Nashville, and now that he is in Boston he is starting to prove himself even more. He brings so much to this team's 2nd line, and I expect a great playoffs from him.
Boston looks pretty good eh? I don’t think that special teams will be a huge factor when it comes to this series. Washington has the best PP, and Boston has the best PK. The Bruins PP and Capitals PK aren’t far off either. They’re both very good there, so I think it will cancel out. The shots are the biggest factor here. The Bruins have the advantage by a solid margin in both shot categories, and I think if they throw 33 shots Vanaceks way every night the Capitals don’t have a chance. They allow the least amount of shots in the division, and with Tuukka Rask in net, the Capitals have to be the more dominant team in the shots category here. The season series is split 4–4, but the Bruins did ice an AHL lineup in their last game of the season against the Caps. This will be close
Looking up and down the roster, I think the Capital's overall depth up front is very good, but I’d take the Bruin's top 6 over Washington's right now. I don’t think either team has the edge there. Defensively it’s much of the same story. They each have their top dogs in Carlson and McAvoy, but the rest of the top 4’s are fairly underwhelming. Grzelcyk, Carlo, and Reilly up against Orlov, Schultz and Dillon. I’d take Boston, but it’s fairly close. Between the pipes is the big deal here. Rask up against Vanacek isn’t close. It just isn’t. Even if Samsonov comes back, I think Boston has the massive edge. because of that as well as the Capitals not being a great defensive team, I think Boston takes this in 6 games. This is going to be an intense series, and I can’t wait to watch it.
Please just don’t be like 2019. There’s no Jack Johnson involved, so I think we’re good. Even though this is a 1-vs-4 matchup, this is going to be a very close series. The explosive offensive play by the Penguins up against the very tactical and slow defensive of the Islanders. The Penguins 37–16–3 East Division winning record is impressive since most hockey “experts” didn’t have them in the playoffs whatsoever. The Islanders have slumped as of later, but their 32–17–7 record is still very good. Jeff Carter has been a fantastic addition to the Penguins, and adding more centre depth can’t be understated. Palmieri has not looked good at all in an Islanders uniform, and it’s going to hurt them a lot if he doesn’t perform in the playoffs.
Sidney Crosby is Sidney Crosby. The 2nd best player in the game right now (I’m not taking any questions about that) who once again led a Penguins team to the playoffs after having their normal 6 defencemen hurt and Malkin injured for almost half of the season. His 2-way game is still the best in the league, and he is a fantastic leader. An angry Sidney Crosby is a scary player, and I don’t think he’ll be very happy from this team's last playoff meeting with the Isles. Kris Letang has had a fantastic season. His offensive numbers have been fantastic, and besides a few huge defensive mistakes, he has been better in his own end than the past few seasons. He’s going to have to play as well as he has this season against the Islanders or the Penguins will be in trouble. Tristan Jarry has been solid this season. I’m confident in him being a #1 goaltender, but a few terrible performances earlier in the season mixed with some off games throughout the year leads to speculation. I think he’ll be fine in the playoffs, but he’s only played 1 postseason game in the past. Jared McCann is the real deal. He’s playing on the Penguins’ 3rd line, and I expect big things from him against an Islanders team that’s slower and doesn’t have the most defensive depth in the world.
This doesn’t exactly help the Islanders case at a glance, but when you look more into it it looks fairly even. Matt Barzal is the shining star upfront with this team. With Anders Lee being injured, he has a lot more weight on his shoulders to be able to help this team score against the Penguins. Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech deserve a lot of praise for what they’ve been able to do this season. Ryan Pulock is a fantastic shutdown guy who is hard on the puck and won’t let you get anywhere near his goalie if he has anything to say about it. He has picked up his offensive game this season as well, which may cause a lot of issues for the Penguins. Pelech has quickly become one of the best defensive defencemen in the league. Although his offensive game is nearly invisible, he does everything that Pulock does fantastic even better somehow. Those two are monsters to get past, and watch how quickly Trotz sends them out against the Crosby line in this series, they may be able to nearly shut them down fully. Semyon Varlamov has been excellent this season. The numbers speak for themselves. However, every time he has played the Penguins this season he hasn’t looked great. Whether that’s because Pittsburgh figured him out or they were off days, I think they might have Varlamov's number.
The unstoppable force versus the immovable object. The Penguins are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the offensive categories while the Islanders are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the Defensive categories. The thing is, the Penguins defence has probably been better than the Islanders offence this season. Pittsburgh will need to do anything but go into the 3rd period while losing, because this may be the toughest team in the NHL to come back against. I have a feeling that special is going to be what kills the Islanders. The Penguins PP is going into the playoffs red hot, while the Islanders PP has been abysmal and their PK hasn’t been great either. The Penguins won the season series pretty convincingly with a 6–2 record.
Looking at the rosters, my mind doesn’t change very much. With Anders Lee injured I don’t think a single person could argue the Islanders forward core is better than the Penguins, and I still don’t think that it would be close if Lee was in. The 3.45 vs 2.71 GFPG says it all. I would say individually the Penguins have the better defensive core as well. However, Barry Trotz’s system is extremely hard to beat, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that Pulock and Pelech pairing held the Penguins' top line to a lot less scoring than you would expect. I give the Islanders the defensive edge, which I also think cant be argued. Goaltending is always a toss-up for the most part, but with the Trotz system in place, the Islanders netminders will always look better than most other teams in the NHL. I trust Jarry, but who knows how he will perform in the playoffs. He looked solid in that 1 game against the Habs, but that’s not enough for me to extremely confident in him. I still have the Penguins taking this series in 6, but I think it will be a close 6 games.
The Presidents Trophy winners and Stanley Cup Favourites against a team that probably would’ve missed the playoffs in 2 of the 4 divisions. Seems fair to me. The 39–13–4 Avalanche up against the 27–20–9 Blues. This is these teams' 2nd playoff match up against one another, and Colorado took the 1st one in 2001. I’m happy to see these teams match up against one another, but I don’t think it’ll be as fun as it would have been in prior seasons.
You can see how this series may be a little lop-sided. Nathan MacKinnon is once again proving that he is the 2nd best player offensive player in the game. He’s the motor that makes the Avalanches top line run, and having Rantanen at his best puts this team at their best. Fantastic season from the robbed 2020 Hart Trophy Winner MacKinnon once again. Cale Makar has just grabbed the heads of Quinn Hughes fans and smashed them into the ice. He only got a $5,000 fine for it so I’m sure he thought it was worth it. Makar certainly has proven himself as a much better defenceman than Quinn Hughes everywhere on the ice. He is one of the best defencemen in the NHL, and he only just finished his 2nd regular season. Philipp Grubauer should be a Vezina nominee this season. What he has been able to do in Colorado is just on another level. I thought he might have come back worse after a long stint on COVID protocol, but he has been as good as he was before. As long as he stays healthy, St. Louis isn’t winning this series. Joonas Donskoi has been very good this season. I have been very impressed with his play, and I think he is going to be able to expose the lack of depth that the Blues have.
Ryan O’Reilly does give this team some hope, however. He is a monstrous two-way forward, and if he can keep up a near-point per game pace and shut down MacKinnon as much as possible, St. Louis may have a chance. That’s a big if. With Pietrangelo not on the team anymore, Torey Krug is going to have to pick things up in his own end. Krug is a solid offensive defenceman, everybody knows that. But you know that St. Louis is going to need every bone in his body to be at their best for him to even think about shutting down the Avs offence. Jordan Binnington has a lot of work ahead of him. I’m still not confident in his play, and after the meltdown he had against Vancouver last season I don’t trust him at all. Especially against Colorado. He is going to have to revert to 2019 Binnington for this one. Jaden Schwartz has been my favourite Blue for a while, and I think he had a down season this year. He has always been solid in the playoffs, so watch out for him to possibly explode against Colorado.
If showing you these teams' individual talents wasn’t enough, this kind of puts the nail in the coffin. I have a feeling that the Avs powerplay is going to absolutely kill the Blues. Colorado has been very good at shooting the puck a ton, as well as not letting their goalie face too many shots. When they keep most of those shots to the perimeter, it’s very difficult to get past it. I have a feeling like Grubauer is going to have a 0.950% Save% or something absurd like that. The season series went 5–3 in Colorado's favour, but I have a feeling that this series isn’t going to be as close.
The Avalanche has more depth and star power upfront. Their top six of MacKinnon, Rantanen, Landeskog, Burakovsky, Kadri, and Saad is unbelievable. The Blues are going into this playoffs fairly beat up, and I think Colorado is going to not hold anything back. A top 4 of Makar, Toews, Girard, and Graves is really good and I don’t think Krug, Parayko, Dunn and Faulk are that far off. I do think Colorado has the advantage there, however. I’ve already talked about how good I think Grubauer is going to do and how I don’t trust Binnington whatsoever. I think the Avs take this in 5. I think this series has the highest sweep potential in the 1st round, sorry Blues fans.
I’m scared for Vegas here. They’re my current Cup Favourites, but man have they had their troubles against the Wild this season. Vegas’ 40–14–2 record is more impressive when you think about how many times they’ve ran less than 18 skaters for cap reasons. 9 of 56 games they have played with less than 18 skaters. They only lost 16 games. That is so impressive I can’t even put it into words. The Wild came into this season as a team that was expected to miss the playoffs, but they had a strong season with a 35–16–5 record. Kaprizov is already an Elite player, and if he can hit another level in the playoffs Vegas may be in more trouble than a lot of people think.
If Mark Stone played centre he would be Patrice Bergeron 2.0. His play in his own end is very, very good. Stone is the best defensive winger in the league and his 61 points in 55 games are impressive on their own. He has been this good since his time in Ottawa, and he still doesn’t get treated like a top winger in the NHL. He deserves it, and he’ll be a pain in the Wilds’ backside for this entire series. Shea Theodore is someone still the best defenceman on the Golden Knights after they signed Alex Pietrangelo. I do think he has progressively gotten worse in his own end since his 18–19 campaign, but his offensive ability is still as elite as ever. Pietrangelo has had a down season in Vegas, so hopefully for them, the veteran can pick it up for the playoffs. Fleury has just gotten younger since he went to Vegas. I thought that last season was the start of his inevitable decline, but he has been just as good as he ever has this season. The tandem of him and Lehner is still the best in the NHL, so if Fleury starts to slack in the playoffs I don’t think they’ll be in very much trouble. Tuch is such an X-Factor for vegas. He is so fast, and his hands aren’t far behind. He brings much-needed depth scoring to this roster, and I think he’ll fare well against this slower Wild Team.
Kaprizov has done exactly what I, as well as many others who heard of him from how he played in the NHL expected. He brings an explosiveness to this team that they haven’t had since the Marion Gaborik years. I don’t think that Kaprizov’s production is going to drop off going into the playoffs, and if Vegas can’t contain him they may struggle more than you would think. Jared Spurgeon has had an off-year based on his standards, but he has still been an elite defenceman. He’s one of those defencemen that you would think is more of a defensive guy given his point totals, but how he works the o-zone is something that not many defensemen can do as well as him. Obviously, his defensive game is still very good, but he has a lot of work on his hands when it comes to Vegas. Talbot proved this season that he is still a good goalie that can start for a playoff team. He played well in the postseason for Calgary last season, but will he be able to backstop this team past the Golden Knights? I’m not sure. Foligno has been one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL for a few years now, and this season he decided to score at a 55 point pace this season. If he can play that well in the playoffs, he may be able to shut down Vegas’ offensive firepower.
Yeah, Minnesota doesn’t look good here. Neither of these teams are good on the PP, but Vegas’ unbelievably good PK makes me think they’ll be the better of the two teams when it comes to special teams. The Golden Knights are going to have more shots than the Wild in this series, and in a Fleury vs Talbot matchup, I don’t know if Minnesota will be able to stop the dam from breaking for very long. The Golden Knights don’t allow many goals, and the Wild aren’t very good in that regard. The season series went 5–3 in the Wilds favour, and the Golden Knights only had 1 regulation win. At least the Wild have that going for them.
I like both of these teams offensive talent, but when you look at Vegas’ offensive depth I’m not sure Minnesota can compete. Especially when it comes to their star power, these teams aren’t in the same conversation. Defensively it’s a bit closer. It’s hard to beat Theodore and Pietrangelo, but Spurgeon, Brodin, Dumba, and Suter is nothing to scoff at. Martinez is also having a good season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Minnesota’s defenceman have a better series overall. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Fleury is in another league compared to Talbot. Unless he manages to bring out a Vezina calibre performance, Fleury will eat him alive. I have Vegas in 6, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Minnesota still has their number and manages to pull this one off.
I remember the first hockey game I watched. It was Jonas Gustavsson lead Leafs team up against the Canadiens. The teams didn’t seem to like each other at all, and I thought that it would be a fun playoff series. Little did I know both teams sucked, and they hadn’t matched up since 1979. Well, about 10 years later we got the matchup. Hopefully, this series lives up to the hype. A record of 35–14–7 gave the Leafs 1st in the North Division, by a pretty convincing margin. The Canadiens underwhelming record of 24–21–11 squeaked them into the playoffs, and they got the pleasure of matching up against the Maple Leafs.
Auston Matthews has planted himself as the best goal scorer in the NHL, and his Rocket Richard winning season was historic. People are already saying that he’s already one of the best Leafs in their history, and he’s hoping to lead to some playoff success. Morgan Rielly has been good this season, but I’m still skeptical when it comes to his defensive ability. He has looked good with Brodie next to him, but if Brodie goes down I think the Leafs are in big trouble defensively. Jack Campbell has been great, but how he plays in the playoffs will still be a mystery. Campbell can be very good if he stays healthy, but if not the Leafs will have to rely on a clearly rusty Freddy Andersen. Zach Hyman is exactly what the Leafs need in a supporting player. He fits well with both Matthews and Tavares, he kills penalty, and he isn’t scared to get into the tough areas to score. he is coming off of an injury, however, so he may not be as good for this series as he has shown he can be. If he’s at his peak, Montreal can’t underrate on a line with Matthews and Marner.
Tyler Toffoli is a player. A player who the Canucks didn’t even offer a contract to come back last offseason. A player with 28 goals and will extremely important to Montreals success. His production slowed as the season went on, but he still had a fantastic season for the Canadiens. The Leafs are going to have to be able to shut his line down if they want success in this series. Jeff Petry has had an explosive offensive season, but he looked about as good as I expected him to be after his playoff performance last year. Carey Price is Carey Price. He always plays better in the playoffs, but he has had issues with concussions this season. Who knows how he’ll play against Toronto, he could either steal the series or be a liability for the Canadiens. Who knows. Phillip Danault had a tough season, but he is still one of the best 2-way centres in the game. If he can find his offensive game again, he could be a game-changer in this series.
You can tell that these teams have had the majority of their success 5-on-5. I actually take the Habs when it comes to special teams, however. The Leafs powerplay has been unbelievably bad over the past couple of months. Neither team is very good on the penalty kill, and I think that benefits Montreal more than Toronto. However, if Toronto turns their powerplay around I’d take them by a mile. Both of these teams like to shoot and aren’t bad at taking away the opposing team's shots. Expect both of these teams to average around 30 shots a game. If Carey Price is on, that benefits Montreal, if not Toronto will take that any day of the week. Here’s where the problem lies for Montreal. They can’t score without Brendan Gallagher. He is a key part of this team, and he needs to come back healthy for them to have a chance. If they can’t figure out Campbell quickly, they’re in trouble.
Looking at the rosters, things don’t go in the Canadiens’ favour. The Leafs have a much better offence. Whether that’s with their star power, top 6, or depth, they’re just better. Defensively it’s much of the same. The Leafs have a really good top 4 now with the addition of Brodie. The Canadiens don’t have a bad defensive core whatsoever, but Toronto is a step above them. I’m giving Montreal the goaltending edge going in, but I’m not sure how that’s going to go. It’s all down to how healthy Carey Price is coming in. If he plays as he did against Pittsburgh and Philly last year, Toronto could have a really tough time dealing with him. Despite all of this I’m taking the Leafs in 5. I think they’re going to overpower the Canadiens early. If Montreal takes Game 1, the Leafs can’t let up, they have to keep pushing.
It looked like this series was going to happen very early in the season, but I don’t think many people expected game 1 to be in Edmonton. The Oilers have exploded recently, mainly because Connor McDavid realized that he wanted to hit 100 points. The Jets have fallen off of a cliff as of late, but it looks like they may get Ehlers back for game 1. The Oilers have only played 55 games so far, so their stats are going to be exact. Edmonton's current record of 35–18–2 is much better than I, and many others thought that it would be. The Jets, who are 3–9–0 in their 12, are coming into this series with a 30–23–3 record. They looked very good early in the season, but as soon as Ehlers went down they just looked lost.
I don’t even need to say anything about McDavid. You know how dominant he is, and you know he can carry the entire city of Edmonton on his back in this series. Darnell Nurse had a great start to his season. He didn’t finish it off strong. Nurse has a case of the “I have McDavid on my team”. Individually I don’t think he’s very impressive, but he benefits more for McDavid than anyone not named Tyson Barrie. I don’t trust him in his own end, but offensively he is very good. If Winnipeg attacks his side of the ice instead of Bears. If he’s on the ice with Barrie, Winnipeg might have a field day. Mike Smith has had a big bounceback season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a great playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised if he falls apart either. Puljujarvi came back to the Oilers this season are a stint in the Liiga, and I liked how he played. He’s a fantastic play driver who is the perfect complimentary piece on McDavid's wing. Don’t be surprised if he has a great playoffs.
Mark Scheifele has been very good this season. He can’t defend to save his life, so if Paul Maurice ices his line against McDavid’s I think he will have a terrible time. If he can play his game without worrying about McDavid on the ice, the Jets will be in an okay situation. Neal Pionk is a very good defenceman. He’s very underrated, but he could be a big problem for the Jets. He solid on both sides of the ice, and he’s going to be the key to defend the behemoth know as McJesus. If you asked me to put money on who I think is the best goalie in the NHL, it’d be Hellebuyck. He didn’t have a good season when it comes to his Save%, but the amount of high danger chances that the Jets allow on him is unreal. He needs to play as he did last season for the Jets in this series, or else they’re really going to struggle. Andrew Copp isn’t just here because he had a fantastic offensive season. I have a feeling Maurice is going to ice his line against McDavid’s, and he’s going to have to shut him down as much as possible. I don’t care if he doesn’t get a point all series long, if he can hold McDavids production to a minimum, the Jets are in a very good spot.
You can see why this is close now, right? The only stat that there isn’t a 1 place gap is the penalty kill. The Jets are going to want to limit the shots that the Oilers get, but I don’t think that’s their biggest concern. The Oilers powerplay is the best in the NHL, and the Jets penalty kill isn’t very impressive. If they can suppress the Oilers special teams as much as possible, they’re at a good point. Whether that’s by staying out of the box or figuring out the Oilers PP.
It’s hard to look at these rosters and come up with a big gap. Despite the Oilers having Connor McDavid, I’d probably say that it’s pretty even when it comes to the forwards. The Jets have more depth, and that may hurt the Oilers. Defensively the Jets get the advantage from me. I don’t trust 4 of the 6 Oilers defensemen in their own end, and I can’t say the same about the Jets. Josh Morrissey had a really rough year, and he’s going to have to pick up his game for the playoffs. I give the Jets the advantage when it comes to their goaltending as well. Hellebuyck is just too good. I’m taking the Jets in 6, but this is the prediction I feel like could bite me the most after round 1.