2018 NHL Playoffs: Here are our bold picks and predictions for the Stanley Cup playoffs
Who will make the conference finals? The Stanley Cup Final? Who wins it all? We make those bold predictions and more
So what side should you back? And where does the value lie? Visit SportsLine to get NHL odds and picks for every Stanley Cup Playoff game, all from the advanced computer model on a red-hot 21-8 NHL run.
The only proper way to spend the few days between the end of the NHL's regular season and the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs is by tricking yourself into buying in certain teams, writing off others, and formulating storylines in your own head before a single postseason puck is even dropped.
Enter: Our Stanley Cup playoff picks and predictions!
In anticipation of the playoffs kicking off on Wednesday night, we've gone ahead and given our best shot at picking conference final matchups, Stanley Cup finalists and an eventual champion. We've also drafted a few bold predictions that will have you wondering whether we're on crazy pills, bath salts, or we're just just plain stupid. The choice is yours.
Anyway, what could go wrong?
Eastern Conference Finals
The Bruins will have a tough road to the ECF -- they'll likely have to go through Toronto and Tampa Bay -- and I feel like they could just as easily lose in the first round as they can make it to the SCF. But they've got top tier talent, depth and are well-rounded. They've also proven to be a very resilient and cohesive group throughout the year, so I'll put my faith in them.
Benjamin: Capitals over Bruins
The Lightning will be a tough out, but it's the picking against the Penguins that really puts my stomach in knots. It's sacrilegious to put the Caps anywhere near the Final, I know, but aren't these predictions all about looking foolish anyway? I'm doing this in the spirit of change!
Skiver: Lightning over Penguins
These are probably the best two teams in the conference, and I'm not sure it's too close. I have the Bruins giving the Lightning the old "what-for" in the second round, but ultimately, the Lightning have too many goal scorers. As for the Penguins, I could see a drawn out battle with the Capitals in Round 2, but ultimately if Murray is there I think Washington comes up short again.
Western Conference Finals
Am I picking against Nashville because everyone else is picking Nashville? Maybe. The Predators are stacked, especially on defense, but someone has to side with the Presidents' Trophy curse here. Winnipeg's offense is outstanding and Connor Hellebuyck has been great this year. If they can hold the line on D and get their special teams unit to click during the postseason, I don't see why they're not worthy of consideration.
Benjamin: Predators over Ducks
Anaheim is rolling and should get under the Preds' skin, but Nashville's depth can't be overstated. It's a shame we can't take two teams from the Central to the Western finals, because the Jets are talented enough to be there.
Skiver: Predators over Ducks
A potential date with the Jets in the second round definitely doesn't smile upon the Predators, but their defense can take the heat. The Ducks, meanwhile, have the chemistry and team playoff experience to bring the Golden Knights' Cinderella season to an end.
Stanley Cup Final
Blackburn: Bruins over Jets
Yeah whatever, I'm a Boston guy who's picking the Bruins...fight me. But seriously, the Bruins are good enough to win the Cup, but they could just as easily get bounced in the first couple rounds. The Stanley Cup playoffs are unpredictable and we're all going to die anyway, so let's just roll with it.
Benjamin: Predators over Capitals
Nashville is a trendy pick right now, and it helps that they enter the playoffs as the No. 1 team. But I like to think this is a carryover from last year's storybook run, except with Pekka Rinne and a plethora of personality coming through in the end.
Skiver: Predators over Lightning
Give me great offense against great defense and I'll pick the defense 100 percent of the time. I think the Predators can stymie the Lightning's fast-paced offense just enough to pull out a Cup in their second try.
- The Kings beat the Golden Knights in round one: Vegas has had an unbelievable season and nobody expected them to make the playoffs, never mind win their division, but they've got a tough opening round draw. It's more than possible the Kings frustrate the Golden Knights defensively and hand them an early exit in a tight opening round series.
- Alex Ovechkin scores a series-clinching goal: Ovechkin takes too much flak for the Capitals' postseason woes, but this could be the year that changes, baby! (I bet you've never heard that one before.) The Caps may not make it to the Cup Final completely erase their demons, but they'll make the Conference Final and Ovechkin will be a huge reason why. Or they'll lose in the first couple rounds and this could be the last time we see him in a Capitals uniform. Either one.
- Capitals will advance to the Final: This one speaks for itself in the conference finals picks. Washington hasn't gotten past the second round since 1997-98, but with all the pressure of going "all in" by the wayside, this is the year Alex Ovechkin and Co. will surprise.
- Patrik Laine will net a hat trick vs. the Wild: Minnesota is in for a rude awakening against Winnipeg's offense, and Laine has the tools to go off early in the playoffs.
- Ducks win at least two games against the Sharks without John Gibson: Ryan Miller has been exactly serviceable enough for the Ducks, and even if Gibson plays in G1, I don't think he'll make it the series without getting hurt. If/when Miller has to step in against San Jose, I expect him to be more than serviceable.
- Ovechkin will put up at least 11 points again the Penguins -- and the Capitals will lose: This one is more depressing than anything, because once again, it's Ovechkin trying to will his team and coming up short. Ovechkin sputtered against the Penguins the playoffs last year, putting up five points, but I see this being a rerun of his 2009 series against the Penguins, in which he scored 14 points in a losing effort.
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