Skip to main content

2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Predictions for each 1st-round series

NHL: Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning
Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

With the Stanley Cup Playoffs getting underway, it’s also predictions season. Hockey experts have their own takes on who will do what this spring and we’re no different at Sportsnaut.

Let’s see what out experts think about the first-round series in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Related: 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs: schedules, results, TV info for every 1st-round series

Predictions for 1st-round series in 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

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

Sportsnaut hockey experts Jim Cerny and Ryan Gagne provide their predictions for each of the eight 1st-round series in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Related: 2024 NHL Draft order, top prospects and lottery odds

Eastern Conference

New York Rangers (M1) vs. Washington Capitals

Jim Cerny (Managing Editor/Lead Hockey Writer): This is the biggest mismatch in the first round. The Rangers, who established franchise records for wins (55) and points (114) and won the Presidents’ Trophy, are superior in every facet of the game and much deeper than the Capitals, who squeaked into the playoffs in their last game of the season. The Caps may start the series without injured defensemen Nick Jensen and Rasmus Sandin, making their task even more difficult. As Greg Wyshynski of ESPN told me this week, Washington has “one path to victory and that’s (goalie) Charlie Lindgren.” It won’t be enough. Rangers in 5.

Ryan Gagne (Staff Writer): In a David vs. Goliath matchup, the Washington Capitals are no match for the NHL’s best team, the New York Rangers. However, as a scrappy team that doesn’t score many goals, the Capitals need to defend well and force the Rangers to alter their game plan to gain any momentum or face a short series. Rangers in 5.

Carolina Hurricanes (M2) vs. New York Islanders (M3)

Gagne: As one of the favorites to capture the Stanley Cup, the Carolina Hurricanes must set the tone early and shut down one of the League’s hottest teams entering the postseason, the New York Islanders. In a rematch from 2023, this series could be a clean sweep or an intense seven-game series. The Hurricanes are favorites to win and will overpower the Islanders in all facets of the game. Hurricanes in 5.

Cerny: The Islanders are going to keep things close each game, whether it’s the red-hot Semyon Varlamov or 2023 Vezina finalist Ilya Sorokin in net. But the Hurricanes can match that right now because Frederik Andersen is playing at an extremely high level since returning from his blood clot issue. In the end, Jake Guentzel, Sebastian Aho and an incredibly deep Carolina defense corps will be too much for New York to handle. Hurricanes in 6.

Florida Panthers (A1) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (WC1)

Cerny: The Panthers just may be the best team in the NHL, and they’re super motivated after losing in the Stanley Cup Final to the Vegas Golden Knights last spring. But the Tampa Bay Lightning are, well, the Tampa Bay Lightning, probably the one team that any serious Cup contender least wishes to play in the first round. Despite all their playoff experience and pedigree, the Lightning are missing key players, like defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, and are not as deep as the Panthers. Panthers in 6.

Gagne: The Florida Panthers need to return to the Stanley Cup Final to finish their mission from last season. But standing in their way are NHL scoring champion Nikita Kucherov and the veteran-laden Tampa Bay Lightning, who have never lost to the Panthers in the playoffs. The Panthers are a hungrier team, though, one that’s about to end the Lightning’s long run as a contender. Panthers in 6.

Boston Bruins (A2) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (A3)

Gagne: Fans need to see Original Six matchups more often in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs usually play memorable series. Ultimately, can Auston Matthews continue his torrid scoring pace, or will the Bruins netminders bounce back from last season’s disappointment? History is on Boston’s side, plus their team isn’t as one-dimensional, and it has a major edge between the pipes. Bruins in 6.

Cerny: OK, it’s true. The Maple Leafs haven’t defeated the Bruins in a playoff series since 1959 nor won the Stanley Cup since 1967. Last season was the first time in their Core 4 era that Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander and Co. actually won a playoff round. So, yes, history is on Boston’s side. Maybe it’s just a hunch, but the Maple Leafs find a way and the Bruins are bounced in the first round for the second straight postseason. Maple Leafs in 6.

WATCH: ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski talks Stanley Cup Playoffs with Sportsnaut

Western Conference

Dallas Stars (C1) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (WC2)

Cerny: The Stars finished one point behind the Rangers for the Presidents’ Trophy and just might be the most complete team in the NHL, especially now that goalie Jake Oettinger seems to have straightened out some issues. Keep an eye on rookie Logan Stankoven, who could be a breakout surprise in these playoffs. The defending champion Golden Knights are a tough out, though, especially if Mark Stone and Tomas Hertl play and are healthy. Stars in 6.

Gagne: The Dallas Stars draw the reigning Stanley Cup champion, the Vegas Golden Knights, who may be a completely different team from the regular season if everyone is healthy. In what could be one of the most intense series in the opening round, it’s anyone’s ballgame. The Golden Knights grinded through adversity all season, but the Stars will expose their weaknesses in a great first-round clash. Stars in 7.

Winnipeg Jets (C2) vs. Colorado Avalanche (C3)

Gagne: Here’s another series that could go the distance, pitting Central Division rivals who battled the Stars for first place down the stretch of the season. Colorado struggled the final week or so and overworked goalie Alexandar Georgiev looked exhausted. Winnipeg is one of the surprise teams in the NHL this season. Connor Hellebuyck, the Vezina Trophy favorite, will be the series MVP in this series and the Jets advance. Jets in 7.

Cerny: The Jets have a substantial advantage between the pipes, but Hellebuyck and their defense will be challenged by Nathan MacKinnon and Co. The Avalanche will miss injured forward Jonathan Drouin in this series and need a big effort from Casey Mittelstadt, who’s making his postseason debut. This one is going seven games, and the Jets will find a way to win the series. Jets in 7.

Vancouver Canucks (P1) vs. Nashville Predators (WC1)

Cerny: The Canucks stumbled down the stretch but righted themselves to win 50 games and the Pacific Division. Arguably no team was hotter the past couple months than the Nashville Predators, who went from out of the playoff picture to the first wild card in the Western Conference. These teams are pretty evenly matched and this series features a great goalie duel between Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko and Nashville’s Juuse Saros. Flip a coin on this one. But the Predators pull off a mini-upset and win Game 7 on the road. Predators in 7.

Gagne: The Vancouver Canucks have a deep and talented lineup and could end up in the Stanley Cup Final. However, they must first get past the Nashville Predators, who many wrote off a couple months ago. The Canucks have been a top team all season with a balanced lineup that will outpace the Predators in the end. Canucks in 6.

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

Gagne: Connor McDavid is the best player in the NHL, but there are plenty of questions about the rest of the Edmonton Oilers, which the Los Angeles Kings need to take advantage of. This is the third consecutive first-round meeting between the teams, so they know each other well. The Oilers have found success under since Kris Knoblauch took over as coach in November, but he doesn’t play defense or stop pucks, which the Kings do. Kings in 7.

Cerny: This has the chance to be the highest scoring series of all in the first round, so should be fun to watch. Part of the reason for that is that each team has plenty of firepower. The other reason is defense and goaltending are question marks for each. Even though Kings goalie Cam Talbot was an All-Star this season, he’s going to be outplayed by his less-experienced Oilers counterpart Stuart Skinner. Oilers in 5.

Mentioned in this article:

More About: