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Tank's Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 Predictions

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

(A1) Florida Panthers vs. (WC2) Washington Capitals

Panthers in Six

The Panthers just completed the best season in franchise history, winning the President's Trophy as the best team in the regular season. The President's Trophy is often the kiss of death for winning the Stanley Cup. The Panthers have not won a playoff series since their 1996 Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Washington Capitals struggled late in the season but held on for the second Wild Card. The Capitals still have Alex Ovechkin, who can steal a game or two, but the Capitals cup in 2018 will remain alone as the window of opportunity is closing in Washington. 

(A2) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (A3) Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning in Seven

The Tampa Bay Lightning are the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions. In 2019 they won the regular season and were swept in the first round. They saved their push for the playoffs in the last two seasons, including last year when they finished third in the Atlantic and went on their run. The Toronto Maple Leafs have not won a playoff series since 2004 and have often struggled when the playoffs begin as defense tightens, and the Leafs' stars have trouble finding open ice. The Lightning are experts at turning up the defensive pressure and will win the series. 

Metropolitan Division

(M1) Carolina Hurricanes vs.  (WC 1) Boston Bruins 

Bruins in Seven

The Carolina Hurricanes had a great season winning the Metropolitan Division; they relied all season on goaltending and defense. The Boston Bruins have been one of the strongest defensive teams over the last decade, and they have made several deep runs into the playoffs. Expect this series to be low-scoring and intense. This series looks and feels like one that will go seven games. The difference will come to who can get the game-winning goals in the third period or overtime, and that is Brad Marchand, who will get Boston to the next round in a seven-game series. 

(M2) New York Rangers vs. (M3) Pittsburgh Penguins

Rangers in Six

The New York Rangers have had a remarkable season; they could have the top goalie, top defenseman, top coach, and the MVP on their roster. After a disappointing 2021 season, the Rangers were among the top teams in the East, but their lack of playoff experience could be an issue. The Pittsburgh Penguins have a winning pedigree, but the past two years struggled in the postseason. If the Penguins are to make a run, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin need to turn the clock back five years. Igor Shesterkin in goal will be the difference as the Rangers dispatch the Penguins in six. 

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Western Conference 

Central Division

(C1) Colorado Avalanche vs. (WC 2) Nashville Predators

Avalanche in Four

The Colorado Avalanche have been the favorite to win the Stanley Cup the past two seasons. They have the best record in the Western Conference and need to hit the ground running. The Nashville Predators are a surprise playoff team that relied on their goalie Jusse Saros. Unfortunately, Saros is hurt and will miss the start of the series. Expect the Avalanche to quickly burry the Predators as this series has the best potential to end in a sweep, as Colorado looking for a long run, shows no mercy to Nashville.

(C2) Minnesota Wild vs. (3) St. Louis Blues

Blues in Seven 

The Minnesota Wild made the most significant acquisition at the trade deadline, landing Marc-Andre Fleury to play in goal. Fleury has taken the Penguins and Golden Knight to the Stanley Cup Finals. Despite his bobble last season, he has been one of the most reliable playoff goalies in the previous 20 years. The St. Louis Blues won the Stanley  Cup in 2019 and have a team capable of another long run this season. The Blues have one of the top penalty kill and power-play units in the NHL and will win this series, which should be close throughout. 

Pacific Division 

(P1) Calgary Flames vs. (WC 1) Dallas Stars

Flames in Five

The Calgary Flames may finally have found the last piece needed to make a long playoff run. For Johnny Gaudreau, this could be his Calgary swan song as the Flames' star is a Free Agent and will get a big payday. After struggling in previous playoff chances, Gaudreau will be looking to show he can win at crunch time. Helping his chances is an improved defense that helped Calgary win the Pacific Division. The Dallas Stars had championship aspirations but backed into the playoffs and will quickly back out as the Flames win the series easily. 

(P2) Edmonton Oilers vs. (P3) Los Angeles Kings

Oilers in Six

The Edmonton Oilers will go only as far as their defense can take them. The Oilers can score with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl lighting up the scoreboard. However, Edmonton's lack of defense and a reliable goalie has been their undoing in the playoffs. The Los Angeles Kings squeezed into the third spot in the Pacific Division despite being one of the weaker teams to make the playoffs, as the Pacific Division, top to bottom, was the worst in the NHL. The Kings do not have the weapons to skate with the Oilers and will be lucky to get the series to a sixth game.