The NHL playoffs started with 16 teams and now, only four remain. The Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Vegas Golden Knights, and Dallas Stars each have the Stanley Cup well within their sights. We were treated to an excellent semifinals on both sides and there’s no reason not to expect the same thing moving forward. No team wants to go home at this stage, but unfortunately, only two teams can advance. Make sure to check out the Stanley Cup Playoff schedule, Vegas Odds, and Matchup Report each day to help you with your betting and NHL DFS plays. Let’s break down the matchups for the Eastern and Western Conference Finals.

As always, you can send your love/hate tweets to me on Twitter @fuzzychris91. 


Carolina Hurricanes vs. Florida Panthers

If you had the Florida Panthers making it this far, you need to buy yourself a lottery ticket. Not many people had them getting past the Boston Bruins and Toronto fans were very confident they would make quick work of them. In the end, the Panthers showed everyone that hockey is played on the ice and that underdog teams can cause upsets. They will have a tough task against the Hurricanes, but this series will be close.

Since taking over the starting job, Sergei Bobrovsky is 7-2 with a 2.82 GAA and a .918 SV%. We’ve known for a long time that Bobrovsky is capable of being elite, but for the last two seasons, he’s been quite inconsistent. When he’s on his game, he makes his team better. The play of Matthew Tkachuk is also something to point out. He didn’t score a goal in the second round, but he was still very effective. He is the engine that propels this team forward.

For Carolina, they reminded the entire league that they are elite and that they need to be taken seriously. Frederik Andersen is 5-0 with a 1.80 GAA and the Hurricanes as a team are allowing just 2.55 goals per game, which is second-best in the playoffs. Despite not having Max Pacioretty or Andrei Svechnikov in the lineup, they’ve been able to generate goals and put up some big numbers. Can they continue their strong offensive play in this round?

When a team gets scoring from everyone in their lineup, it’s hard for opposing teams to focusing in on just one line and limit them. Carolina is a balanced hockey team and that won’t change in this round. They are going to have to be aware of Tkachuk and Aleksander Barkov, but if they can just limit their time and space, then they should be able to survive. Carolina also comes into this series with the best penalty kill, operating at exactly 90%. Florida is going to need to take advantage of their power plays because if they don’t, they’re going to really struggle to score goals. One could argue that Carolina doesn’t have as dangerous of an offense as Toronto or Boston, but they have more depth and that’s hard to defend.

In the end, the Hurricanes are a better overall team, but they will still need to play their best hockey in every game of this series or we could see another Florida team in the Stanley Cup Finals. We should expect this series to go the distance with the Hurricanes punching their ticket to the next round

Prediction: Carolina in 7

Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights

Both these teams have taken very different paths to get to this point. Vegas has no trouble getting past Winnipeg, but they lost Laurent Brossoit early in round two and were able to limit Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. For Dallas, they needed seven games to get past a very good Seattle team. One could say that they haven’t played their best hockey to this point, but are they going to figure it out in this round?

Jake Oettinger is an elite goalie in this league, but his numbers so far are just not good enough. He has a 2.75 GAA and a .903 SV%, which is respectable, but he can certainly take his game to another level. Dallas has found most of their success on the power play, where they are operating at 31.7% while also having the third-best penalty kill. Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz were also really good in the second round, but others need to step up.

For Vegas, the loss of Brossoit didn’t seem to hurt them too much. Adin Hill stepped right up and finished the series with a 2.19 GAA and a .934 SV%. It really doesn’t matter who starts in goal for them, because their defense is good enough to give anyone a chance to perform well. We also saw Jonathan Marchessault step up in a big way in the last two games and Jack Eichel has been as advertised. The most underrated part of this team is probably their defense. They have a great balance of high-end defenseman who can move the puck up ice and others who can block shots and give the team quality minutes. So who has the edge in this series?

The answer is simple for me: Vegas. As a team, they have more depth, their defense is better and their goaltending has been solid. The Stars may have more big names on their roster, but Jason Robertson hasn’t been great and the rest of that lineup has been decent. Jake Oettinger still hasn’t found his game and I don’t think the task for him gets any easier moving forward. If you can slow down McDavid, Draisaitl and company, you can slow down any other team. There are lots of things that the Golden Knights did extremely well last round, so if they can replicate that in this round, they should be able to make their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. 

Prediction: Vegas in 6