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2023 NHL Playoff predictions: Sportsnaut experts give their picks

Our NHL Playoff predictions are now live with Sportsnaut experts providing their picks as the postseason gets going.

This postseason came down to the wire, with just a few points and last-minute wins determining the order, which was eventually decided in the very last day of the regular season schedule.

The tight nature of the standings–especially in the west–adds a whole lot of intrigue to the mix, and some series are sure to be hard fought and close. Below are the NHL Playoff predictions from Sportsnaut’s cast of experts.

Related: 2023 NHL Playoff schedule

Erica Commisso

Eastern Conference finals

Safe pick: Boston Bruins over Carolina Hurricanes

nhl playoff predictions: boston bruins over carolina hurricanes
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins came charging out of the gate to have a season no one expected. They’re strong from top to bottom, with David Pastrnak leading the charge up front and Linus Ullmark leading all goalies in regular season statistics.

The Hurricanes play a solid defensive game, but Boston has a better chance of neutralizing Carolina’s starpower in Sebastian Aho and Brent Burns. They could easily continue their dominance well into an NHL playoff run.

Bold pick: New York Rangers over Tampa Bay Lightning

While the Lightning’s sheer NHL playoff experience can carry them despite a less-than-stellar season, the Rangers have tons of playoff experience–thanks, in part, to deadline additions like Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane–and a goalie in Igor Shesterkin who continues to impress.

Western Conference finals

Safe pick: Edmonton Oilers over Colorado Avalanche

A rematch of the Western Conference final could favor Edmonton this time around, thanks to injuries on Colorado’s lineup and solid additions to Edmonton’s, in the form of Mattias Ekholm. At this point, it’s not a matter of will Connor McDavid win the Stanley Cup, but when.

Bold pick: Dallas Stars over Vegas Golden Knights

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Dallas Stars
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

If Jake Oettinger can shut out the opposition, Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz can score goals when it counts, and Miro Heiskanen be relied on in the back end. The Stars also have a ridiculously good power play. That could be the secret to topping Vegas, who has a struggling penalty kill and an aging netminder.

NHL finals

Safe pick: Boston Bruins over Edmonton Oilers

It would be a showing of dynamic offenses, but ultimately the Bruins’ goaltending would prevail, shutting out McDavid and Draisaitl and eliminating a huge part of what makes the Oilers a threat. With the teams pretty evenly matched, talent-wise, it just comes down to Linus Ullmark being a more reliable in the blue paint.

Bold pick: New York Rangers over Dallas Stars

NHL: Dallas Stars at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers are built almost exactly like the Colorado Avalanche were last year, except they have the advantage of a better goaltender. It could be the secret sauce that tops the Dallas Stars, who have been known to have some Cinderella NHL playoff experience in the past–including a Cup final run in the shortened 2020-21 season.

Ryan Gagne

Eastern Conference Finals

Safe pick: Boston Bruins over Carolina Hurricanes

If the Bruins eliminate a pesky team like the Florida Panthers and dispatch the winner of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning series, they would be four wins away from the Stanley Cup Final. Ultimately, at that point, only the equally challenging Hurricanes would stand in their way. This series would become an instant classic.

During the regular season, the Bruins escaped the Canes with a 2-1 record, winning both contests in extra time, leaving us only hoping that these two powerhouse teams cross paths in the playoffs. Considering their historic rivalry dating back to the Hartford Whalers days, this series has the potential to go seven games.

Bold pick: Tampa Bay Lightning over New York Rangers (Part III)

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Last year the Lightning advanced to their third consecutive Stanley Cup Final after eliminating the Rangers in six games, improving to 2-0 against their New York rivals in head-to-head matchups in the Eastern Conference Finals. Now, the Rangers are loaded with offensive power and ready to challenge the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, and Hurricanes for a chance at redemption against the Lightning.

Meanwhile, the Lightning is on the verge of achieving an unmatched feat since the 1980-84 Islanders, appearing in four straight Stanley Cup Finals. Although fans may not look forward to this matchup (again), the dynamics have changed slightly, making the series more intriguing to follow.

Western Conference Finals

Safe Pick: Vegas Golden Knights over Colorado Avalanche

Even though the Golden Knights used every last second of the season to secure the top spot in the Western Conference, they have been a consistent team to reckon with all season. Realistically, once they sort out their goaltending issues, possibly deploying future Hall of Famer Jonathan Quick to save their season, they could advance to their second Stanley Cup Final in six years.

Luckily, the top two teams in the conference won’t face off until the third round. However, should the defending champions, the Avalanche, continue on the tear they’ve been on since the All-Star Game, they won’t go down without a fight defending their title until the dying seconds of a possible game 7 situation. Ultimately, if Vegas wants to be the best, they must beat the best.

Bold pick: Colorado Avalanche over Edmonton Oilers (Part II)

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Colorado Avalanche
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows by now that Connor McDavid is on a mission to win regular season hardware and raise his first Stanley Cup and possibly claim the Conn Smythe Trophy. Despite retooling the lineup, inexperience will cost the Oilers again as rookie of the year candidate Stuart Skinner will learn that sometimes you have to fail first to find success.

Even though these two clubs played each other three times this year, all requiring overtime, the Avalanche will once again halt McDavid’s quest for a Stanley Cup ring by playing a complete game and not relying on special teams or just two players to win.

Stanley Cup Final

Safe pick: Boston Bruins over Vegas Golden Knights

If the top two teams in each conference meet in the Stanley Cup Final, all stories will center around former Bruins head coach and now Golden Knights bench boss Bruce Cassidy. Interestingly, Boston went on to have the greatest statistical season of all time, months after relieving Cassidy of his duties, which means he’s still got the inside knowledge on how the team operates.

Even though these clubs split their regular season matchups at a game a piece, all bets will be off in this potentially wild Stanley Cup Final. Ultimately at that point, the Bruins would be on the verge of a historical accomplishment while the Golden Knights could prove to be the most formidable challenge they face all season.

Bold pick: Colorado Avalanche over Tampa Bay Lightning (Part II)

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Colorado Avalanche
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

During the Stanley Cup Final last year, the Avalanche earned its third championship while serving the Lightning a piece of humble pie, ending their two-year reign at the top of the league. Despite the appeal of a rematch between these two teams, the regular season was one-sided, with the Lightning taking both games in early February.

Furthermore, when they meet again in June, both teams will be worn down after competing in consecutive full-length playoff runs, leading to a potentially lackluster Stanley Cup Final. Ultimately, youth, skill, and outstanding goaltending will help the Avalanche prevail over the Lightning (again), ending this particular chapter in Tampa Bay’s history.

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