The 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs start Saturday with the Boston Bruins facing off against the Washing Capitals in DC. Other series will then start on the following few days. With that said, however, the NHL regular season isn’t slated to finish until May 19th due to the Vancouver Canucks significant time off.
Nevertheless, due to the division realignments, we have some intriguing matchups that we really haven’t seen before or in a very long time (outside of the East division). We have the battle of Florida, as well as a major Canadian battle between Toronto and Montreal.
Below are my 2021 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions:
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders
This was one of the harder series to predict because the Isles can be a complete wagon or a complete flop. Like they did toward the end of the season last year, their play has dropped off drastically. They’ve lost seven of their last ten which includes two to the Sabres. Meanwhile, the Penguins have won eight of their last ten which led to them clinching the East division. Everything is going to depend on if the Islanders can get back to form and how well they play their system. It wasn’t long ago that the Islanders swept the Penguins in round one in 2019. I hope the Islanders don’t make me look really bad with this pick but I am going NYI in seven. (Penguins have season series)
Pick: NYI 4-3
Washington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins
Another tight eastern series with both teams playing well of recent. Taylor Hall has been excellent since coming over to the Bruins while Mantha has done well for the Caps too. It’s going to be big physical series and it will be interesting to see Big Z back in Boston for playoff hockey; but on the other side. The Bruins could make some noise, but I think Washington is poised for a nice run with how deep they are and how meager the Bruin blueline has been. But injuries seem to be a big concern for Washington going into playoffs. That could end up determining a whole lot. I like Washington in seven.
Pick: WSH 4-3
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens
For the first time since 1979 we will see these two foes faceoff. I don’t think this series will be close unless Montreal finds their early season form, which is unlikely. Carey Price has been disappointing and the Canadiens keep proving they are inconsistent and unable to cough up a big win when needed. There aren’t any teams in the North that can stop the high-flying offense of the Leafs. Between Auston Matthews’ career goal scoring campaign and Mitch Marner’s ferocious point scoring pace, that duo alone will be difficult to stop. Than you consider Nylander, Tavares, Foligno etc. and that depth should get them to the semifinals pretty handily. Toronto in four.
Pick: TOR 4-0
Edmonton Oilers vs. Winnipeg Jets
Winnipeg has played some of their worst hockey recently, while Connor McDavid has over 30 points in his last 10 games. Between McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Jets won’t be able to contain the two and because of that the Oilers will take over the series. The Jets have the center depth and goaltending to pull off the upset, but with the leaky defense and poor form of recent, it’s hard to envision them stopping McDavid and Draisaitl from taking over the series. Oilers in 5.
Pick: EDM 4-1
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Nashville Predators
The Predators have been playing pretty well recently as has their number one guy in Juuse Saros. Not to mention the fact that they are expected to host over 12,000 fans for playoffs. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that Carolina is going to dominate this series. The balanced attack and deep D-core are going to be too much for Nashville and possibly others to handle. They are also a very good coached and disciplined team. I think Saros is able to steal the Preds a game or so, thus, Carolina in five.
Pick: CAR 4-1
THIS ONE'S FOR NORTH CAROLINA! pic.twitter.com/NLRamtcCli
— y – Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) May 8, 2021
Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
This was the hardest series for me to predict. For a while I’ve had Tampa coming out on top but Florida will have home ice and have been playing great. I think coach Q is one of if not the best coach of all-time. Furthermore, Florida has the season series 5-3 and Tampa has major health concerns. Although Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos are coming back, we don’t really know how well they’ll play right from the get-go. Kucherov has been out all year and Stamkos can never seem to stay healthy. Even worse, Hedman now looks like he’s picked up an injury which will require surgery in the offseason. I don’t know how serious it is, but it’s still something you don’t want to hear if your a Bolts fan. But when you have Vasilevskiy, you can be in any series. Could hurt me later, but I’m going Florida in seven.
Pick: FLA 4-3
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Minnesota Wild
I don’t think many people realize how close the Wild are to the second seed. The Wild have played the Knights hard this year resulting in the Wild taking the series series with a 5-1-2 record. Only one regulation loss against the cup favored Knights is impressive. If I were a Knights fan I would have much rather preferred the Blues as their record is much much stronger against the team out of St. Louis.
However, Vegas is healthy and has the best goaltending tandem in the playoffs as well as one of the best two-way players in Mark Stone. Furthermore, many players like Max Pacioretty and Shea Theodore are having career years and the Knights also brought in championship pedigree and leadership in Pietrangelo. They are a heavy cup favorite and won’t get bounced in the first round.
Pick: VGK 4-2
🐼🌸 Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury have won the William M. Jennings Trophy for the lowest combined goals-against average in the NHL!!!! 🌸🐼 #VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/I1KG7RMCps
— x-Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) May 13, 2021
Colorado Avalanche vs. St. Louis Blues
The Blues have put up a decent fight against the Avalanche this year with a 3-5 record on the season. The Blues will try to physically wear down the Avs in order to gain some sort of advantage and slow them down. Jordan Binnington will need to be lights out as the Pietrangelo-less blueline is not as strong as it once was. At the end of the day, the Avalanche are too deep, too skilled, and too fast to stop in this case. The Avs are much healthier than they were at some points this year and have skill on all four lines and the blueline. They’ll take this series in five.
Pick: COL 4-1
New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals
I think the Bruins are going to be the Caps toughest matchup through the first two rounds whether it’s the Islanders or Penguins in the second. Of course, the Islanders could be super difficult and frustrating to play against but the Caps should be able to over power them. Again, it’s going to depend on health and goaltending for the Caps and if they don’t have one of both of them they could fall short. Still like the Caps going through in six.
Pick: WSH 4-2
vibe check pic.twitter.com/zSE9VUK2CN
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) May 14, 2021
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Edmonton Oilers
Probably a fairly easy choice here given how Toronto has dominated the division. While there will be no slowing McDavid and Draisaitl down, we’ve seen in the past that those two alone don’t cut it for the Oilers in the playoffs. The Leafs are deeper and bring more to the table leadership wise as well. The ease of schedule should really help Toronto this year. Leafs in six.
Pick: TOR 4-2
Florida Panthers vs Carolina Hurricanes
This is going to be another close series. I am a bit conflicted again. I really like the Panthers and some of the high-end talent they have on their squad but Carolina has been too good this year, especially against the Panthers. Both teams matchup well against each other but Carolina’s defense and scoring depth will be too much. It is a shame for Florida that Aaron Ekblad won’t be playing. It should be a close series although it might go six but I am going to give the Panthers some credit and take the Canes in seven.
Pick: CAR 4-3
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Colorado Avalanche
This should no doubt be the highlight of the second round, and quite frankly it’s unfortunate these teams have to meet this early. This should be an absolute war and I think whichever team comes out of this series will make it to the cup. I’ve been riding Vegas as my cup favorite since the pre-season so I can’t change up now. This is definitely going seven, but I think Vegas has the veteran leadership, depth, chip on their shoulder and goaltending advantage to squeak by in this one. Golden Knights in seven.
Pick: VGK 4-3
This is where things get a bit more interesting as the playoffs reshuffle and revert back to a 1v4 2v3 seeding format. So depending on how things shake out, we could get an all East or all West Stanley Cup final.
For my predicted teams, the following seeding would occur:
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Washington Capitals
2018 Stanley Cup rematch, this should be a tough, skilled and physical series. Both teams have experience and high-end talent but for me, the Vegas goalie tandem is really going to put them over the edge against the Caps. Furthermore, I think the Knights are deeper and have a stronger blueline. Just like Washington was in 2018, the Knights are due in 2021. There is no doubt if we see this series come to fruition that Vegas will use 2018 as motivation going forward. Going to reverse 2018 and go Knights in six.
Pick: VGK 4-2
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
This should be a very high skilled series which could yield quite a few goals. Both teams were able to dominate their divisions, however given the difficulty of the central we should really get a better appreciation of how good this Hurricanes team is. They are certainly miles off from the team that got pounded by the Bruins in the bubble last year. I get they are hard to trust for many and I really would have liked to see them address the blue paint with a solid starter, but their blueline is so deep that it really doesn’t matter who is in net. I think the two teams offenses will go toe-to-toe and the goaltending matchup is about the same. Its Carolina’s defense that give them the edge. Hurricanes in five.
Pick: CAR 4-1
Stanley Cup Finals
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Much like with the Capitals series, Vegas will have the upper hand in net. I think that goes a long way in this series as both teams matchup pretty well offensively and defensively. However, I think Vegas has great two-way forward play, solid veteran leadership, grit, and players that can play in all situations. They’ve been a cup favorite every year since 2018 and much like Tampa did last year Vegas should finally get the monkey off their back. While both teams will be battle tested at this point given their divisional games and other matchups, the Golden Knights were built to win right now while the Canes have more longevity. Vegas in seven.
Pick: VGK 4-3
2021 Stanley Cup Champions – Vegas Golden Knights