NHL Playoffs: Eastern Conference Semifinals Preview & Predictions

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    Final Season Standings with Futures Market

    SeedTeamRecordPointsTo Win East
    R1 / R2
    To Win Cup
    R1 / R2
    A1Florida Panthers58-18-6122+250 / +165+500 / +360
    A2Toronto Maple Leafs54-21-7115+500+1000
    A3Tampa Bay Lightning51-23-8110+500 / +300+1100 / +650
    M1Carolina Hurricanes54-20-8116+500 / +230+1000 / +600
    M2New York Rangers52-24-6110+1000 / +600+1700 / +1300
    M3Pittsburgh Penguins46-25-11103+900+2000
    WC1Boston Bruins51-26-5107+850+1800
    WC2Washington Capitals44-26-12100+1600+3000

    Series Previews & Predictions

    A1 Florida Panthers vs. A3 Tampa Bay Lightning
    Series Odds: Panthers -146
    Game 1: 7:00pm EST – Tuesday, 5/17
    Key Injuries:
    – C Brayden Point (TB) was forced to leave Game 7 with a left leg injury after it bent awkwardly, his status is unknown.

    Regular Season Meetings (Tied 2-2)
    October 19 – Florida W 4-1 on the road
    November 13 – Tampa Bay W 3-2 OT at home
    December 30 – Florida W 9-3 at home
    April 24 – Tampa Bay W 8-4 on the road

    Series Outlook: We have a southern showcase in the NHL Playoffs semifinals between the President’s Trophy winner (Florida) and defending Stanley Cup Champions (Tampa Bay). Take another look at the regular season results between these teams; you have an absolute route by each team, an OT battle, and a game played during the first week of the NHL season. Digging a bit deeper, it’s a good idea to completely disregard these matchups. The only game featuring both starting goaltenders, Bobrovsky (FLA) and Vasilevskiy (TB) was the 3-2 OT victory by Tampa way back on November 13th but both teams look a bit different today as Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov didn’t play in that one along with their Game 7 hero Nicholas Paul (acquired from OTT) and Panthers’ Claude Giroux (acquired from PHI). You might be thinking, what about April 24th when Tampa crushed Florida 8-4 on the road? At that point the Panthers were riding a 13-game win streak with a stranglehold on the President’s Trophy with 4-games remaining, and sent backup goalie Spencer Knight between the pipes to give Bobrovsky a much needed night off — only to force him to spell Knight after he gave up 5 goals on 17 shots. Aaron Ekblad, a critical piece of the Panthers backend didn’t suit up either.

    In Round 1 the Panthers were favored to handle the Washington Capitals (series odds were -300), but it could’ve gone either way. The Caps dominated Florida through the first 3 games, jumping out to a 2-1 series lead taking home-ice, but it was the Panthers who persevered, winning 3-straight tight games including 2 OT thrillers. Meanwhile Tampa Bay battled Toronto in one of the most anticipated Round 1 matchup in recent memory. Toronto was a slight favorite (-122) to win the series with their home-ice advantage but it was Tampa that won a gritty Game 7 on the road 2-1. The series was back-and-forth all the way through, but tightened up in Games 5-7, all 1-goal games with Tampa winning 2 to clinch the series. The defending champs will be an underdog again this series.

    Tampa Bay is led by Steven Stamkos (42 regular season goals) and had 5 other goal scorers eclipse 20 (Brayden Point, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, Ross Colton, & Victor Hedman). Andrei Vasilevskiy (TB) was Vezina candidate with the 2nd most goalie wins behind Top-10s in GAA & Sv%. Florida led the league with 4.11 goals-per-game (GPG); Tampa was T7 with 3.48. Between the pipes for the Panthers is 33-year-old veteran Sergei Bobrovsky with a ridiculous 39-7 record. The story with the Panthers is more about the offense though as Bobrovsky can be beat; he ranks 19th in GAA and Sv% among goalies with at least 25 starts. The Panthers had 6 players that scored 20+ goals led by Aleksander Barkov’s 39.

    Series Predictions

    M1 Carolina Hurricanes vs. M2 New York Rangers
    Series Odds: Hurricanes -200
    Game 1: 7:00pm EST – Wednesday, 5/18
    Key Injuries:
    – G Frederik Andersen (CAR) missed all of Round 1 with a lower body injury but is expected to return at some point this series although it’s still unclear. Backups Antti Raanta and Pyotr Kochetkov filled in admirably by getting Anderson back healthy would be a huge boost. He went 35-14-3 with a 2.17 GAA and .922 save percentage in 52 appearances this season.

    Regular Season Meetings (Carolina 3-1)
    January 21 – Carolina W 6-3 at home
    March 20 – New York W 2-0 on the road
    April 12 – Carolina W 4-2 on the road
    April 26 – Carolina W 4-3 on the road

    Series Outlook: It took both teams 7 games in Round 1 to advance as both took advantage of the home-ice they earned through their regular season finishes. In what matters most, Carolina won both matchups against New York in the final month of the regular season on the road. The first win on April 12th went to Frederik Andersen who’s status remains unclear, and the other victory went to 2nd backup Pyotr Kochetkov but if Andersen can’t go Game 1, it would be Antti Raanta in net; he started the final 4 games of Carolina’s series against Boston. How about that March 20th shutout victory on the road for New York though, Vezina favorite Igor Shesterkin (NYR) must’ve stood on his head right? Nope — his backup Alexander Georgiev won that one on a perfect 44-save night.

    In Round 1 Carolina defended home-ice to perfection, winning all 4 in dominant fashion by a goal margin of 18-6, but they were equally dominated by Boston on the road being outscored 14-6 in their 3 loses. It was nearly an identical type of series for the Rangers who were also dominated by the Penguins in their first 2 road games (Game 3 & 4) by a margin of 14-6, but after losing home-ice in a gutting Game 1 3OT loss, they ultimately found a way to storm back from a 3-1 series deficit. Down 2-0 in both Game 5 and 6, they came back in both to win by 2, and closed out Game 7 at home with a power-play goal by Artemi Panarin in OT.

    It’s still unclear if Frederik Andersen will be back in net for the Hurricanes this series. He didn’t end up being a finalist for the Vezina, but his numbers all season were more than worthy after a 35-14-3 record with a 2.17 GAA (2nd) and .922 save percentage (T3) in 52 appearances. Carolina relies on stellar defensive play with Andersen as the backbone, but if he can’t go, the nod will likely go to Raanta as mentioned earlier. The Canes allowed the fewest shots per game in the NHL during the regular season (28.1) and offensively are led by a pair of 30+ goal scorers with Sebastian Aho (37) and Andrei Svechnikov (30). In net for the Rangers is Vezina favorite Igor Shesterkin who led the NHL in GAA (2.07) and Sv% (.935). He looked visibly rattled throughout his first 3 starts against Pittsburgh but did just enough to allow his team to come back and win 3-straight, which should be a nice confidence boost as his playoff experience was his only major flaw heading into Round 1. Like Carolina, New York is also scrappy on defense — they block shots (9th most), kill penalties (8th best %), and also execute well on power plays (4th best %). LW Artemi Panarin is one of the best facilitators in the game with 74 assists (T3), feeding team team goal scoring leader Chris Kreider (52) along with Mika Zibanejad (29).

    Series Predictions

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