Washington Capitals celebrate their overtime victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday in game 6 of the second round of the NHL Playoffs. For the first time since 1998, the Capitals will be heading to the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning (via @Capitals/Twitter)

COLUMN: Stanley Cup playoff conference-finals predictions

Vegas looks to keep the cinderella story rolling past the Winnipeg whiteout on Saturday May 12

The quest for the Stanley Cup continues as the conference finals of the NHL playoffs begins tonight with the Tampa Bay Lightning hosting the Washington Capitals. Here’s a preview (and predictions) of the two series:

Eastern Conference

Tampa Bay Lightning (54-23-5) vs. Washington Capitals (49-26-7)

Season series: Tampa Bay 2-1-0; Washington 1-1-1

First Round: Tampa Bay defeated New Jersey in five games; Washington defeated Columbus in six games

Second Round: Tampa Bay defeated Boston in five games; Washington defeated Pittsburgh in six games

Lightning: The Lightning are the favourites heading into this series.

Tampa Bay had eight more points than Washington during the regular season and were the top team in the Eastern Conference. They led the NHL in goals with 290, 17 more than the second-best team. They are continuing their scoring ways by compiling 3.5 goals for per game in the playoffs.

Tampa may be a small team, but they are skilled and shoot the puck as often as they can. They are spearheaded by Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point on offence, all producing at least a point per game.

What has really been outstanding has been their exceptional defence core with the likes of Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, newly acquired Ryan McDonagh and the emergence of rookie Mikhail Sergachev.

Second-line centre Brayden Point was easily Tampa’s best player against the Bruins, as he, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat shut down Boston’s top line and will most likely be given the task of shutting down Alex Ovechkin and Washington’s first line.

The Lightning are the personification of a new NHL that benefits speed and skill over size.

biiiiiiiiiiiiiig mood. 😍

A post shared by Tampa Bay Lightning (@tblightning) on

Capitals: For the first time in 20 years, Washington will be in the Eastern Conference final.

The Capitals are currently tied for the playoff lead in goals per game with 3.6 – 1/10th higher than the Lightning – so you can rest assured this series will be a high-scoring one.

First-line centre Niklas Backstrom has 13 points in 11 games and is listed as day-to-day with a right hand injury. Backstrom will need to get healthy to give the Capitals the push they need.

At the moment, franchise player Ovechkin is pulling his weight in the playoffs, tallying 15 points (8-7-15) in 12 games.

Goaltender Braden Holtby has been a brick wall since relieving Philipp Grubauer in Game 2 of the first round against Columbus. Holtby is 8-3 with a 2.04 GAA and a .926 save percentage.

Prediction: Tampa Bay over Washington in six games.

Without Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky, I find it hard seeing the Capitals coming out on top unless Ovechkin and Kuznetsov carry them through the series along with great goaltending. Tampa Bay’s unbelievable depth is hard to overlook.

Western Conference

Winnipeg Jets (52-20-10) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (51-24-7)

Season Series: Winnipeg 1-1-1 ; Vegas 2-1-0

First round: Winnipeg defeated Minnesota in five games; Vegas defeated L.A. in four games

Second Round: Winnipeg defeated Nashville in seven games; Vegas defeated San Jose in six games

Jets: After a thrilling win in Nashville in Game 7 to move on to the Western Conference final, the Jets showed something they have been lacking the past year: poise.

Centre Paul Stastny was the only player on the roster who has won a Game 7 in the playoffs and he has done it twice. He had two goals and an assist to lead the Jets past the Predators.

The Jets have the firepower to go line-to-line against Vegas, and they have the upper hand when it comes to size.

The Jets are leading the playoffs, along with Washington, with 3.6 goals per game. The question is whether they can score against the best goalie in the playoffs in Marc-Andre Fleury.

Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck is a part of the reason the Jets have made it this far, as he is posting a 2.24 GAA with a .927 save percentage in the playoffs through 12 games.

If Winnipeg can get their top two lines rolling and ignite the spark in Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers, then this series may be over quicker than you’d think.

Viva la #WPGWhiteout! Vegas, let's do this.

A post shared by Winnipeg Jets (@nhljets) on

Golden Knights: The dream is still alive. Vegas is here for two reasons: their speed and Fleury.

Fleury is hands-down the best goaltender remaining in the playoffs. Through 10 games, he has four shutouts, a 1.53 GAA and a .951 save percentage.

The Golden Knights play a style that is hard to keep up with. They have a relentless offence filled with speed that, as we have seen, most teams can’t match.

Almost half of their starting lineup are having career years and their first line is finding ways to score against some of the NHL’s best. Their first line of William Karlsson, Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault all are averaging at least a point per game.

Vegas needs to stick to their game and let Fleury do his thing in order to advance to the finals.

😱 for real? FOR REAL.

A post shared by Vegas Golden Knights (@vegasgoldenknights) on

Prediction: Vegas over Winnipeg in seven games. It’s hard to keep betting against Vegas, and at this point, what can’t they do?

First round preditions: 6-2. Second round: 3-1. Overall: 9-3.


@kieranroconnor
kieran.oconnor@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

TNG block roads, question gov’t on moose hunt

Chief Joe Alphonse confirmed Thursday they’ve deactivated the Raven Lake Road and the Mackin Creek Road just before the Island Lake turnoff

UBCM passes historic resolution brought forth by CCRD

If the resolution is successfully realized, it will mean groundbreaking change for local governments

Bella Coola RCMP appeal for public’s help in wake of suspicious fires

Four suspicious fires in the span of four months prompted local RCMP to bring in fire specialist

Municipal spending outpaces population growth 4-fold in B.C.: report

Canadian Federation of Independent Business has released its annual operational spending report

Series of suspicious fires prompt Bella Coola RCMP to bring in special investigator

Police investigate four fires set between June and Sept. in 4-Mile

Watch out for Pavement Patty: Drivers warned outside B.C. elementary school

New survey reveals unsafe school zones during 2018 back-to-school week

Horvat leads Canucks to 4-3 shootout victory over Kings

Vancouver dumps L.A. in NHL pre-season contest

Update: Search called off for missing plane between Edmonton and Chilliwack

Search efforts were concentrated along the Highway 5 corridor between Valemount and Kamloops

Why Whistler for ski jumping in 2026? Calgary proposal gets pushback

Calgary 2026 proposes re-using the 2010 ski jumping venue Whistler for that sport and nordic

Despite progress, threat of 232 tariffs dominates NAFTA negotiations

Any deal is seen to require congressional approval before Dec. 1 to survive new Mexican government

VIDEO: Hundreds line highway as family brings home body of B.C. teen

Northern B.C. showed their support by lining Hwy 16 as Jessica Patrick’s body returned to Smithers.

B.C. MP Todd Doherty receives award for saving man who collapsed on a plane

Conservative MP was flying from Vancouver to Prince George, B.C., in June last year

Alleged border jumper from Oregon facing 2 charges after police chase in B.C.

Colin Patrick Wilson charged with dangerous operation of motor vehicle, flight from a peace officer

More than 35 B.C. mayors elected without contest

No other candidates for mayor in the upcoming local election in 22 per cent of B.C. cities

Most Read