Kent Tukeli | Wed 11/04/2018 - 11:48 EDT

2018 Stanley Cup Playoff Bracketology Predictions

2018 Stanley Cup Playoff Bracketology Predictions

NHL Playoffs First Round

Eastern Conference Playoff Bracket

New Jersey Devils vs Tampa Bay Lightning

My Team's Next MatchNew Jersey Devils

Tampa slowed considerably to close the regular season, but they still managed to hold on to first place in the eastern conference. The Devils needed to finish on a hot streak to fend off the Florida Panthers, which usually bodes well for a long playoff run, but Tampa Bay’s too deep at every position and New Jersey doesn’t score well without Taylor Hall on the ice.

Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning Advance In Four Games

Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs

My Team's Next MatchBoston Bruins

Some NHL observers believe that the Bruins were slowing down at the end of the season, but Boston finished only a single point behind the Lightning. Toronto defeated the Bruins three times this season, but regular season results don’t mean much, and the Maple Leafs defense doesn’t inspire confidence for a long playoff run. The Leafs will take a game or two similar to last season, but Boston will prevail.

Prediction: Boston Bruins Advance In Six Games

Washington Capitals vs Columbus Blue Jackets

My Team's Next MatchWashington Capitals

Washington played well enough down the stretch to secure top spot in the Metro Division, but the Blue Jackets won ten consecutive games in late March to punch their ticket in the post season. Washington’s post season curse will continue by starting Philipp Grubauer while Sergei Bobrovsky looks for redemption with the first excellent playoff series of his career.

Prediction: Columbus Blue Jackets Advance In Six Games

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Philadelphia Flyers 

My Team's Next MatchPittsburgh Penguins

The importance of goaltending in the playoffs cannot be overstated, and the Philadelphia Flyers made the post season despite their netminding. Elliott returning from injury should help a bit, but the Flames were comfortable giving up Brian because of a horrible 2017 playoffs. Expect the Penguins to win a physical, high-flying and high-scoring series.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins Advance In Five Games

Western Conference Playoff Bracket

Colorado Avalanche vs Nashville Predators

Kudos to the Colorado Avalanche for pulling off a stunning climb back into the playoffs after finishing with 48 points last season. Unfortunately for the Avalanche, they’ll meet the Presidents’ Trophy winner in the first round. Nashville should dominate this matchup, leveraging hard-fought experience from their 2017 playoff run into an easy win.

Prediction: Nashville Predators Advance In Five Games

Los Angeles Kings vs Vegas Golden Knights

Los Angeles is a bit of an unfortunate first round matchup for Vegas, who split regular season meetings against their Pacific Division rivals. The Kings had to win 15 of their last 24 games to narrowly secure a playoff spot, allowing the fewest goals against in the league. Los Angeles still has Quick, Kopitar, Carter and Doughty from previous rings, which will help the Kings upset Vegas.

Prediction: Los Angeles Kings Advance In Six Games

Minnesota Wild vs Winnipeg Jets

The Minnesota Wild wouldn’t be considered favorites against the Winnipeg Jets under any circumstances, but an injury to defensemen Ryan Suter reduces the odds of a Wild series win to near nil. Winnipeg’s one of the deepest teams in the league, able to roll three scoring lines. Minnesota will be overwhelmed, giving the Jets a chance to sweep.

Prediction: Winnipeg Jets Advance In Four

San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks

Anaheim might have challenged for top spot in the Pacific Division if injures didn’t tear through the middle of the lineup. When Getzlaf and Kesler returned, the Ducks climbed back into the playoffs with a strong second half of the season. The Sharks don’t have the playoff pedigree of Anaheim, and San Jose backed into the playoffs with one win in their last six, giving the edge to Anaheim.

Prediction: Anaheim Ducks Advance In Six Games

NHL Playoffs Second Round

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins vs Tampa Bay Lightning

The top two teams in the east will have an opportunity to eliminate each other before the halfway mark of the playoffs, which could create the best series of the post season. Neither club has a discernable weakness, but the Lightning’s slight advantage in terms of scoring depth will be more valuable than the Bruins superior pugnacity. Boston will wish they didn’t lose their last game of the season against Florida.

Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning Advance In Seven Games

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Columbus Blue Jackets

The reward for Columbus’ playoff breakthrough will be a match against the Stanley Cup champs. Columbus features the depth and goaltending to knock off a cursed Capitals club, but the Penguins will present an impossible challenge. Pittsburgh’s one of the best home teams in the NHL, and they’ll leverage home ice advantage into another series victory.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins Advance In Five Games

Western Conference

Nashville Predators vs Winnipeg Jets

In a Central Division full of killers, the Predators and the Jets were the deadliest. One of these two teams will not progress to the western conference finals, which would be disappointing for both clubs. Winnipeg’s been nearly unbeatable at home all season and rolls the best group of forwards in the league. Similar to the east, the second round will likely determine the Stanley Cup final participant from the west.

Prediction: Winnipeg Jets Advance In Six Games

Los Angeles Kings vs Anaheim Ducks

This could turn into the most brutal, defensive slugfest of the playoffs, as both teams specialize in dominating center ice and clogging lanes. The Kings ended up enjoying superb seasons from Kopitar, Quick, Brown and Doughty, but the Ducks feature superior depth and match up well against the Kings. Expect the underrated Ducks to make the western conference finals.

Prediction: Anaheim Ducks Advance In Seven Games

Eastern Conference Finals

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Pittsburgh Penguins

A seven-game clash with the Boston Bruins will drain the Lightning of much of their vital energy, while the Penguins sail through a relatively easy bracket from the Metropolitan side of the east. Tampa will be the first team to drop a home game in this series, giving the Penguins the small window of opportunity necessary to earn their third straight ticket to the Stanley Cup finals.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins Advance In Six Games

Western Conference Finals 

Anaheim Ducks vs Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg will need to overcome Nashville’s speed and skill to make it to the conference finals, but the path to the Stanley Cup finals will involve the physically punishing style of the Ducks. Getzlaf and Kesler can grind and frustrate any top six group of forwards, even the Jets. Anaheim’s playoff experience and center depth will test Winnipeg to the limit, with the Jets home advantage and power play making the difference.

Prediction: Winnipeg Jets Advance In Seven Games

Stanley Cup Finals

Winnipeg Jets vs Pittsburgh Penguins

Winnipeg explodes with joy after making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup finals, brutalized by a ridiculous western conference gauntlet. Pittsburgh’s one of the few teams with greater high-end talent that the Jets at every position, along with experience from two championship runs, helping the Penguins remain focused. Pittsburgh cements their dynasty with a third consecutive cup, anointing Sidney Crosby as a top-five play in NHL history.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins Win Stanley Cup In Six Games

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