Stanley Cup predictions: Sporting News' 2021 NHL playoff picks

Stanley Cup predictions: Sporting News’ 2021 NHL playoff picks

After a 56-game sprint, the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs are officially here. 

Sixteen teams will now hit the ice to fulfill their dreams and drink from Lord Stanley’s Cup in July. Figuring out who the ultimate victor will be is always a crapshoot because, well, that’s what makes the playoffs so spectacular: anyone can win.

With that in mind, Sporting News takes a stab at predicting who will be the last team standing when all is said and done.

MORE: NHL playoff bracket, schedule, scores

Stanley Cup playoffs 2021 predictions

East Division

FIRST ROUND WINNER
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (4) New York Islanders NYI in 6
(2) Washington Capitals vs. (3) Boston Bruins BOS in 5

Why the Islanders? Barry Trotz is a mastermind and knows how to win — and he definitely knows how to beat the Penguins. He led the Isles to a sweep of Sidney Crosby and Co. in 2019.

Why the Bruins? The Bruins have solid goaltending, strong defense and scoring punch — led by the “Perfection Line” and a determined Taylor Hall.

NHL PLAYOFFS 2021: East Division series predictions, odds, breakdowns

SECOND ROUND WINNER
(3) Boston Bruins vs. (4) New York Islanders BOS in 6

Why the Bruins? Pre-Taylor Hall trade, it was all Isles. Post-Taylor Hall trade, it was all Bruins. Hall, by the way, netted four goals in three games as a Bruin vs. the Islanders, including the overtime winner on May 10.

North Division

FIRST ROUND WINNER
(1) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (4) Montreal Canadiens TOR in 7
(2) Edmonton Oilers vs. (3) Winnipeg Jets EDM in 5

Why the Maple Leafs? Auston Matthews (Rocket Richard Trophy winner), Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza, Mitch Marner. The Leafs are stacked, and that doesn’t include the defense.

Why the Oilers? Edmonton won the last six meetings between these two clubs by a combined 21-7.

SECOND ROUND WINNER
(1) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (2) Edmonton Oilers TOR in 7

Why the Maple Leafs? It’ll be almost two months since these clubs last met if they face off in the second round, and since the Oilers won in overtime on March 29, Toronto has gone 13-4-4.

How will NHL playoffs work in 2021? Teams, format, bracket for Stanley Cup chase

Central Division

FIRST ROUND WINNER
(1) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (4) Nashville Predators CAR in 5
(2) Florida Panthers vs. (3) Tampa Bay Lightning TBL in 6

Why the Hurricanes? Don’t let the two losses to the Predators to close out the season fool you. The Hurricanes rested some key guys and Rod Brind’Amour has his club amped for a deep run.

Why the Lightning? Nikita Kucherov is back.

SECOND ROUND WINNER
(1) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (3) Tampa Bay Lightning CAR in 6

Why the Hurricanes? The Hurricanes are healthy and will grind down the Lightning.

West Division

FIRST ROUND WINNER
(1) Colorado Avalanche vs. (4) St. Louis Blues COL in 5
(2) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (3) Minnesota Wild VGK in 6

Why the Avalanche? The Presidents’ Trophy-winning club is just too deep for the Blues to handle.

Why the Golden Knights? The Wild will give them a run, backed by Kirill Kaprizov, but the Golden Knights guys know how to turn it up in the postseason.

SECOND ROUND WINNER
(1) Colorado Avalanche vs. (2) Vegas Golden Knights VGK in 7

Why the Golden Knights? It’ll be a battle to the very end but the Golden Knights’ goaltending will be the deciding factor.

Stanley Cup semifinals

FIRST ROUND WINNER
(1) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (4) Boston Bruins VGK in 6
(2) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (3) Toronto Maple Leafs TOR in 6

Why the Golden Knights? Mark Stone is one of the best two-way centers and will shut down the “Perfection Line.” Oh, and the fact that Vegas is the home of the 2021 William M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the league.

Why the Maple Leafs? The Leafs are a determined bunch, aiming to right the previous couple of years’ wrongs. Joe Thornton and his epic playoff beard will push this team past the Hurricanes.

Stanley Cup Final

SECOND ROUND WINNER
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Toronto Maple Leafs VGK in 6
Conn Smythe Winner Marc-Andre Fleury

Why the Golden Knights? This will be a big-time matchup as the teams have high-octane offenses. As mentioned, the Golden Knights’ goaltending will be a key factor as they aim to shut down the Leafs’ potent power play.



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