We have entered the Conference Finals stage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and for only the second time in the last five years, the Vegas Golden Knights are not one of the final four teams remaining. Instead, we have the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche in the West and New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning in the East. National Hockey Now’s picks for the third round are below, but first how we did.
In the second round, we didn’t do so hot in our predictions. We all had the Panthers beating the Lightning which looks like a fool’s mistake in retrospect. Similarly, we all took the Flames to beat the Oilers and Hurricanes to beat the Rangers. But we were all correct in assuming the Avs would beat the Blues.
NATIONAL HOCKEY NOW’S STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF PICKS
Colorado Avalanche v. Edmonton Oilers
Owen Krepps — Vegas Hockey Now — Oilers in 7
You know what? I don’t even care anymore. This series is going to be so fun I don’t even care who wins. I am going with the Oilers just to avoid the trap that we had last round with everyone picking the same teams. I think the Avalanche are the far better team, but the Oilers could upset with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Nazem Kadri has proven to shut down McDavid in the past though. I think Darcy Kuemper will struggle to stop the Oilers’ high-flying offense and McDavid gets to his first Cup Final.
Colby Guy — Florida Hockey Now — Avalanche in 5
While this will be a fun offensive series, Mike Smith is not a good enough goaltender to handle Colorado’s offensive attack. The Avalanche are also way too deep of a team both offensively and defensively compared to the Oilers and it will help them to a relatively easy series win. I would not be surprised if Connor McDavid steals a game or two on his own, however.
Stefen Rosner — NYI Hockey Now— Avalanche in 7
We have a battle between Nathan Mackinnon and Connor McDavid, one that all eyes will be on. Just like depth will play the key role in the Lightning advancing past the Rangers, the Colorado Avalanche have that depth on both sides of the puck. The Oilers are very top-heavy, with glaring holes in their defense and goaltending. McDavid will have to have a heroic effort to make this a series, which he very well could. And you have to respect Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane for what they have been able to do. Darcy Kuemper is not an elite goaltender in my eyes and the Oilers have the ability to beat elite netminders as they did with Jacob Markstrom. Kuemper will need to be good or he could be dealt the same fate. I’ll stick with my gut here and say that the Avalanche find a way to get it done.
Jimmy Murphy — Boston Hockey Now — Oilers in 7
Tampa Bay Lightning v. New York Rangers
Owen Krepps — Vegas Hockey Now — Lightning in 4
The New York Rangers do not deserve to be in the Final Four. They lucked their way into an Eastern Conference Finals appearance playing third-string goaltenders in the first two rounds. Even then it took them 14 games to make it past the Penguins and Hurricanes. Andrei Vasilevisky will shut this team down.
Colby Guy — Florida Hockey Now — Lightning in 6
The Tampa Bay Lightning continued to prove to be the most untouchable team the NHL has seen in ages after dismantling a Florida Panthers team that looked like the deepest team in the playoffs. For a team to continue its dominant ways without one of its best players through both depth contributions and a defensive system that rivals any the league has seen in the last 20 years is crazy. A young team like the Rangers will have a hard time against that. Shesterkin v. Vasievskiy will be fun to watch, though.
Stefen Rosner — NYI Hockey Now — Lightning in 6
The New York Rangers, through the first two series, won the goaltending battle. Now against Andrei Vasilevisky, the best goaltender in the NHL, it will come down to depth, goal-scoring depth. The Lightning are vying for a third-straight Stanley Cup because of their depth. Most teams that lose a Brayden Point type of player will not last long. For the Lightning, it was just another player going down as others picked up the slack. The Rangers have relied heavily on their youth but unless their stars show up from Game 1 on, the Lightning have too many weapons to slow down. One more point on the goaltending, the Rangers have gone up against backups, and third-string netminders their entire playoff run. And winning has not been easy. Now they have to beat Vasilevskiy four times. Very unlikely.
Jimmy Murphy — Boston Hockey Now — Rangers in 5