2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs – Conference Finals Predictions
We’re down to the Final Four in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the Eastern Conference, it’s the Boston Bruins squaring off against the Carolina Hurricanes. Meanwhile, the San Jose Sharks tangle with the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference.
After going three-for-eight with my opening round predictions, I broke even with my second-round selections, correctly picking the Bruins and Sharks. So let’s see how I fare with my Conference Finals picks.
As always, these predictions are merely for fun. Like everyone else, I’m making my best guess and I don’t take them seriously. Don’t get upset if I don’t select your team to win. If you feel like taunting me if these picks fail to pan out, you’ll be wasting your time because I don’t care.
Boston Bruins vs Carolina Hurricanes. The Bruins needed seven games to eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs and six games to despatch the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, upset the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in seven games and swept the New York Islanders.
The plucky Hurricanes are once again the underdogs, facing a Bruins team that finished eight points ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings. They don’t have any notable superstars. Heck, head coach Rod Brind’Amour is more recognizable to most hockey fans than many of his players.
Nevertheless, the Hurricanes are a hardworking team stocked with good young talent. Forwards Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Nino Niederreiter, and Warren Foegele provide the offensive punch. Veterans Jordan Staal and captain Justin Williams still have lots left in the tank.
Their blueline, anchored by Jaccob Slavin, Justin Faulk, Dougie Hamilton, and Brett Pesce, is among the league’s best. They’re also getting solid goaltending from veterans Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney.
The Hurricanes are a team on the rise. They’re an exciting bunch who should continue to improve in the coming years.
The Bruins, meanwhile, are loaded with plenty of recognizable talent. Forwards Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak power the offense. Ageless captain Zdeno Chara leads the defense corps. Goaltender Tuukka Rask is playing his way into contention for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Roster depth is proving invaluable for the Bruins in this postseason. David Krejci and Charlie Coyle are among those stepping up offensively when needed. Underrated Torey Krug and young rearguards Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are logging big minutes on the blueline.
The Hurricanes have proven they cannot be taken lightly this spring. Nevertheless, I have my doubts they can match up well with the Bruins.
The Bruins are no longer haunted by the ghosts of playoff failures past. Rask is a reliable starter who’s no longer rattled in postseason play. The Bruins can withstand physical punishment and dish out plenty of their own. Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak can be neutralized for a game or two, but they’ve proven difficult to contain for an entire series. Boston’s special teams are among this spring’s best while the Hurricanes are among the worst. I believe they’ve got the depth and experience to take this series.
It’s been a terrific run for the Cinderella Hurricanes, but midnight is about to strike. PREDICTION: BRUINS IN SIX.
San Jose Sharks vs St. Louis Blues. The Sharks eliminated the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche with each series going the full seven games. The Blues bounced the Winnipeg Jets in six games but needed seven to vanquish the Dallas Stars.
Three years after reaching the Stanley Cup Final, the Sharks are one series away from another shot at hockey’s ultimate prize. They’re a star-studded team, featuring Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns on defense with Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and the ageless Joe Thornton at forward.
The Sharks also overcame some adversity along the way. They rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to beat Vegas. Goaltender Martin Jones was shaky through the first half of that series but has regained his steady form. Pavelski missed all but one game of the Avs series with a concussion.
If you want to talk about beating the odds, look no further than the Blues. Dead last in the league on Jan. 3 and given up for dead, they surged into a playoff berth, upset the favored Jets, and ground out a hard-fought victory over the Stars. Under-estimate this team at your peril.
Under interim coach Craig Berube, the Blues improved their forechecking and puck possession. Mid-season call-up Jordan Binnington is playing like a Vezina Trophy contender between the pipes. Jaden Schwartz has become a postseason scoring machine while captain Alex Pietrangelo is among the postseason’s best defensemen.
While the Blues are this season’s comeback story, they could struggle to overcome San Jose’s depth of talent, leadership, and postseason experience. The Sharks aren’t dysfunctional like the Jets and carry a lot more firepower than the Stars.
The Sharks are hungry for another shot at the Stanley Cup. They’re poised to take a big bite out of the Blues. PREDICTION: SHARKS IN SIX.