The 2022 NHL Conference Finals are set to get underway Tuesday, May 31st.
We’re back with our Conference Finals predictions for the East and West. The Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers faceoff in the Eastern Conference Final, while the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers square off in the Western Conference Final.
Our Round 2 predictions didn’t go quite as well as our opening round picks. We only went 2-for-4 in Round 2 predictions after picking the correct winner of every first-round series.
Will we bounce back with our Conference Final picks? We’re confident in our NHL semi-final predictions after thoroughly analyzing both matchups.
Without further ado, here are our 2022 NHL Conference Finals predictions:
New York Rangers vs Tampa Bay Lightning
The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning meet in the NHL Eastern Conference Final. Tampa Bay is on the cusp of advancing onto the Stanley Cup Final for a third consecutive season. The Rangers, meanwhile, are playing in the ECF for the first time since 2015. Gerard Gallant’s club has exceeded preseason expectations as their rebuild has arrived ahead of schedule.
Igor Shesterkin vs Andrei Vasilevskiy is the biggest storyline of the Eastern Conference Final. The two Russian goalies are among the best in the league at their position. It’s hard to say one goalie is truly better than the other, but Vasilevskiy has been lights out in elimination games. The Lightning goalie has posted a shutout in six of his last seven series-clinching victories.
Andrei Vasilevskiy has been absolutely remarkable in series-clinching games. 🤯 #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/8wmX1thN5K
— NHL (@NHL) May 24, 2022
It’s very hard to pick against the two-time defending Cup champs in the Eastern Conference Final. They swept the Panthers in Round 2 and are going to have a huge rest advantage over the Rangers. New York required seven games to beat Carolina in Round 2 after also playing seven games the previous round vs Pittsburgh. That fatigue is likely to catch up to them in the later games of the ECF.
The final reason we’re predicting Tampa Bay in this series is the advanced metrics. It’s no secret the Rangers have been one of the worst possession teams in the NHL Playoffs. They have a 45 CF%, which is the lowest among the remaining teams. They rely heavily on Shesterkin, which works great when they have the goalie advantage. But with Shesterkin meeting his match in Vasilevskiy, New York’s weakness will get exposed. Tampa is the more complete team, and we’re predicting them to win the Eastern Conference Final.
Prediction: Lightning in 6
Colorado Avalanche vs Edmonton Oilers
While the Eastern Conference Final promises a goalie duel, the Western Conference Final delivers us a superstar battle. Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid faceoff in the WCF between the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers. Both superstars are playing in the NHL Conference Finals for the first time in their careers. McDavid vs MacKinnon stats show just how impressive these two players have been since entering the league.
While McDavid vs MacKinnon is the big storyline in this series, it’s not the main factor in our series prediction. The Avalanche have simply been dominating the 2022 playoffs, posting an 8-2 record and leading the league in various statistical categories. They’ve been the best possession team (61 CF%) and feature 16 different players with at least one goal. We picked Colorado to win the Stanley Cup in the offseason, and we’re not changing our prediction now.
Not only are we picking Colorado to beat Edmonton, but we’re predicting them to do it rather convincingly. The Oilers are going to have a hard time keeping pace with this Avalanche team. Sure McDavid is the best player in the world, but the Avs held him to only four assists and seven shots in three regular-season meetings. The Avalanche have an elite defense led by the pairing of Devon Toews and Cale Makar. MacKinnon, meanwhile, feasted on the Oilers’ defense this season, scoring in every game and firing 15 shots on goals.
Neither the Oilers nor Avalanche have gotten great goaltending this postseason, but Darcy Kuemper exudes more confidence than Mike Smith. The Avs’ netminder posted a .921 save percentage during the regular season and doesn’t make the type of puckhandling mistakes Smith is known for. Even if the Oilers win at home in this series, do you really envision the Avs losing multiple games at Ball Arena? Colorado is 35-6-5 on home ice this season and will keep that momentum going in the Western Conference Final.
Prediction: Avalanche in 5