After an exciting first round, the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs produced some more great hockey with three of the four series going a full 7 games. I expect nothing less for the conference finals.
I have teamed up once again with former San Jose Shark/Kansas City Blade J.F. Quintin to handicap the conference finals. Here is our predictions:
#6 New York Islanders vs #2 Tampa Bay
The New York Islanders are the only remaining team to come from the qualification round. They have surprised many by reaching the conference finals but I picked them to win in their series against the Capitals and the Flyers. They play great team defense and wear teams down. However, I am a bit concerned with their goaltending situation. The Islanders replaced Semyon Varlamov with Thomas Greiss for game 7. Greiss responded and pitched a shutout. I generally don’t like teams Stanley Cup prospects making such a goalie change after the first round. Meanwhile the Tampa Bay Lightning are set in the nets with Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning have a lot of offensive firepower and seem to be much more committed defensively than they were the past couple of seasons. In my second round preview, I liked the Islanders to advance from the Eastern Conference but I am switching course to Tampa Bay. I’ll take the Lightning in 7 games. J.F. will take the Islanders in 6.
- My prediction: Tampa Bay in 7 games
- J.F’s prediction: New York in 6 games
#3 Dallas vs #1 Vegas
The Vegas Golden Knights were my Stanley Cup pick after the first round. They will remain my favorite but I will have to admit that they looked more vulnerable than I expected in the second round against a young and fairly inexperienced Vancouver team. They did not play very disciplined hockey at times and then had troubles getting the puck past Canucks rookie goaltender Thatcher Demko. Vegas will have to raise their game vs Dallas to advance because the Stars have experience and depth. Plus the Stars are a hungry team having lost in last year’s conference final to the St Louis Blues. The Golden Knights goaltender situation now appears to be firmly set with Rob Lehner. Lehner pitched three shutouts in the series vs the Canucks, including the deciding game 7. This should be a great series that is really a toss-up. I’ll go with Vegas in 7 games. J.F. likes Dallas in 6 games.
- My prediction: Vegas in 7 games
- J.F’s prediction: Dallas in 6 games