2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs – Opening Round Predictions
The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Wednesday, April 10. Here are my predictions for each of the eight opening-round series. As always, bear in mind that I don’t take predictions seriously and these are merely for fun. Feel free to offer up your predictions in the comments section below.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Columbus Blue Jackets. The Lightning dominated the standings this season, winning their first Presidents’ Trophy and tying the league record for most wins (62) in a season. They have a very deep roster featuring the league’s leading scorer (Nikita Kucherov), the reigning Norris Trophy winner (Victor Hedman) and a potential Vezina Trophy candidate (Andrei Vasilevsky).
The Blues Jackets needed the second-last game of the season to clinch a playoff spot. They acquired Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Adam McQuaid before the trade deadline but the moves didn’t significantly improve them. They were swept by the Lightning in the season series and outscored 17-3. The Jackets will be gamers but they lack the depth to upset the Bolts. Prediction: Lightning in four.
Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs The Lightning’s dominance in the East overshadowed a strong performance by the Bruins. They possess one of the league’s top scoring lines in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. The Bruins can also rely on a solid defense corps and two dependable goaltenders in Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak.
The Leafs also have considerable firepower, led by John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and Auston Matthews. Defensive depth, especially on the right side, is a concern. Starting goalie Frederik Andersen’s heavy workload and a lack of a reliable backup is another worrying issue. Prediction: Bruins in six
Washington Capitals vs Carolina Hurricanes. For the first time in 10 years, the Hurricanes reached the playoffs. They have talented young forwards such as Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov and a deep blueline corps, the Hurricanes are an entertaining bunch that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The Capitals could find it difficult to repeat as Stanley Cup champions but they have the talent to pull it off. Led by captain Alex Ovechkin, centers Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom, defenseman John Carlson and goalie Braden Holtby, their championship roster from last season remains largely intact. Their depth in experienced talent should see them through. Prediction: Capitals in five.
New York Islanders vs Pittsburgh Penguins. The Islanders defied the odds this season by clinching a playoff berth and home-ice advantage in the opening round. Under coach Barry Trotz, they’ve significantly improved on the blueline and between the pipes, with Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss having the league’s lowest goals-against average.
It’s been an up-and-down season for the Penguins, who weren’t assured of a playoff spot until the final week of the season. They still possess plenty of postseason experience and offensive skill, led by superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Goaltender Matt Murray played well down the stretch, which should provide them with a much-needed edge. Prediction: Penguins in seven.
Calgary Flames vs Colorado Avalanche. For the first time in 30 years, the Flames topped the Western Conference. Led by Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Matthew Tkachuk, the Flames are a dangerous offensive club. They also have a strong blueline corps anchored by captain Mark Giordano. Goaltenders Mike Smith and David Rittich, however, have been inconsistent.
The Avs squeaked into the playoffs in the final week of the season. Of late, they’ve received stellar goaltending from Philipp Grubauer. They also have potent first-line scoring punch with Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen, though the latter’s been sidelined since mid-March. The Avs could make a series of it but they won’t be a match for the Flames’ depth. Prediction: Flames in five.
Nashville Predators vs Dallas Stars. The Predators finished atop the Central Division for the second straight season, but they’re not the dominating club that won the Presidents’ Trophy last season. Injuries to Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, and P.K.Subban contributed to a decline in scoring, especially on the power-play.
While the Stars have their own offensive depth issues, they could pull off an upset. Ben Bishop posted the league’s best save percentage (.934) and second-best goals-against (1.98) plus he has plenty of postseason experience. If he can stay healthy and if captain Jamie Benn rediscovers his playoff beast mode from three years ago, the Stars could surprise in the opening round. Prediction: Stars in six.
Winnipeg Jets vs St. Louis Blues. Following last season’s march to the Western Conference Finals, the Jets looked like Canada’s best hope to end its 26-year Cup drought. However, they stumbled down the stretch and fell out of first in the Central. Injuries to Dustin Byfuglien and Josh Morrissey hampered their blueline while goaltender Connor Hellebuyck faced a league-high 2,051 shots.
The Blues, meanwhile, soared from dead last in the West on New Year’s Day into third in the Central. Interim head coach Craig Berube instilled a more aggressive puck-possession system while mid-season call-up Jordan Binnington provided them with much-needed clutch goaltending. The Blues are rolling while the Jets seem to be fading. Prediction: Blues in six.
San Jose Sharks vs Vegas Golden Knights. The Golden Knights aren’t surprising anyone as they did in their debut a year ago, but they’re still a very good team. Marc-Andre Fleury is among this season’s top goaltenders. The addition of two-way winger Mark Stone at the trade deadline provided a welcome boost to the forward lines.
While a potent offense and a solid blueline carried the Sharks to second overall in the Conference, goaltending is their Achilles’ heel. Martin Jones and Aaron Dell have not performed well this season. If Jones cannot regain the form that carried the Sharks to the 2016 Cup Final, they will make an early exit. Prediction: Golden Knights in seven