Excitement is in the air as teams gear up for the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The brackets are now complete, with some top teams looking to make a run for the cup. The Eastern Conference features a highly anticipated rematch of last year’s first-round series between Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning. Meanwhile, in the West, the Colorado Avalanche defends their title against the Seattle Kraken. Let’s take a look at each series and make some predictions.
Starting in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins enter the playoffs having completed the best regular season of all time by wins and points, with 65 wins and 135 points. As expected, this puts a lot of pressure on them to perform. They will face the Florida Panthers, who rallied for a playoff spot after an uneven season under first-year coach Paul Maurice. Boston is the favorite to win this series, but the Panthers could bring some surprises.
Toronto Maple Leafs versus Tampa Bay Lightning is a rematch of last year’s seven-game first-round series. The Maple Leafs are making their seventh straight playoff appearance but have not won a series since 2004. They’ll look to change that with the trade acquisition of 2019 Conn Smythe winner Ryan O’Reilly. The Lightning, on the other hand, has been stumbling its way into the postseason, but the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions can never be counted out. Expect the Maple Leafs to put up a fight, but the Lightning should take this series in six games.
Up next is the Carolina Hurricanes versus the New York Islanders. Carolina is the Metro champions for the third straight year, and the loss of dynamic forward Andrei Svechnikov could hurt them in the playoffs. Despite this, they should have what it takes to overcome the Islanders, who have plenty of postseason experience after back-to-back final four appearances in 2020 and 2021.
The last series in the Eastern Conference is between New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers. This was a breakout year for the Devils, who have only made the playoffs once since 2012. They broke the franchise’s all-time points record and have Jack Hughes, the No. 1 overall pick in 2019, who put together the best offensive season in team history. The Rangers, looking to build on last year’s conference final appearance, picked up a pair of stars at the trade deadline in Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko. This series could go either way, but the Rangers should take it in seven games.
Moving to the Western Conference, we have the Vegas Golden Knights versus Winnipeg Jets. After missing the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s young history last season, the Golden Knights are back in the postseason, claiming their fourth division crown in six years and the conference’s No. 1 seed. Jack Eichel, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, is set to make his long-awaited postseason debut with Vegas. They will be playing the Jets who did just enough to hold onto a playoff spot following a serious second-half swoon. This series could be closer than expected, but the Golden Knights should win in six.
Next, we have the Edmonton Oilers versus the Los Angeles Kings. The Oilers enter the playoffs red-hot after winning 14 of their last 15 games. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins led a league-leading offense. McDavid, in particular, had a historic season with 150 points, becoming the first player since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96 to do so. The Kings will certainly have their hands full, but they pushed the Oilers to seven games in the first round last year. They’ve also gotten great play from goalie Joonas Korpisalo since he came over via trade. Expect the Oilers to win in five games.
The Colorado Avalanche, the defending champions, will face the Seattle Kraken in the first round. Colorado enters the playoffs seemingly under the radar despite being the defending champs. The Kraken, on the other hand, finished last in the Pacific Division in their inaugural season last year but improved by 40 points. This series could be closer than expected, but the Avalanche should take it in six games.
Lastly, we have the Dallas Stars versus the Minnesota Wild. Dallas spent a large chunk of the season atop the Central Division but was passed by the Avalanche for the division crown on the final day of the season. Despite losing home ice, Dallas should be a prime contender. Jason Robertson is an emerging superstar, and the team has four other 70-point scorers highlighted by veterans Jamie Benn and Joe Pavelski. Minnesota has its own superstar in Kirill Kaprizov, recently returned from injury, but can the Wild score enough to keep up with the Stars? Expect the Stars to win in six games.
In conclusion, this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs have some exciting matchups, with a mix of veteran and young teams looking to make a run for the cup. Fans can expect some thrilling games and maybe even some upsets. But in the end, it’s anyone’s game.
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