It’s the best time of year once again – hockey is back! With five games on the docket for Opening Night, the stage is set for what will be an incredible season of hockey.
This will be a year unlike any other in the NHL. The abbreviated 56-game schedule means it is that much more important to get points every night. Teams will only play opponents within their same division, which will crank up the animosity and undoubtedly form new rivalries. The divisional realignment to form the All-Canadian “North Division” means there’s an excellent chance for the Stanley Cup to return north of the border for the first time since 1993.
In case you missed any of the previous awards in the Knup Sports NHL Awards Prediction Series, you can find them here:
This preview will begin with a snapshot of each team alphabetically by division, a standings order prediction for each division, then a playoff prediction for each matchup. As a reminder, the top four teams in each division make the playoffs (no Wild Cards), the No. 1 seed will play the No. 4 seed in a best-of-seven series and will play the winner of the No. 2 vs. No. 3 seed series. The playoff winners of each division will be seeded based on regular season points total, so it’s possible two teams that would normally play in the same conference would meet in the Cup Final.
It is unclear at this time what will happen when the league reaches the semifinal round. With any luck, COVID-19 regulations will allow for international travel by then, or at the very least open the border for players to travel to another hub city for play.
Knup Sports NHL Season Preview – North Division
The Calgary Flames kept their roster very similar from last year to this year but did make a major splash in free agency, landing former Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom. Calgary’s middle-of-the-pack goaltending has slowed them up at times over the past few years, and they haven’t had a consistent goaltender since Miikka Kiprusoff retired in 2013. If Markstrom can build off last year’s success (23-16-4, 2.75 GAA, .918 save %, 2 SO), Calgary will be a tough team to beat, especially as the playoffs roll around.
The pressure is mounting for the Edmonton Oilers to put a capable team together around superstar Connor McDavid. While Leon Draisaitl makes for an excellent one-two punch of offensive firepower, the depth, defense, and goaltending around them leave plenty to be desired. A Qualifying Round loss to the bottom-seeded Chicago Blackhawks was, frankly, inexcusable, and fans and players alike were quick to show their frustration. Bringing in defenseman Tyson Barrie to beef up the blue line is a great start, but for the Oilers to have real success this year, they will need more from Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamomoto, Darnell Nurse, and Ethan Bear.
One of the playoff bubble’s biggest upsets came when the Montreal Canadiens knocked off the Pittsburgh Penguins. Montreal was the last team to make it to the bubble and had fewer points than any other team in the regular season standings. Still, they were able to take down Sidney Crosby and the Penguins with excellent defense and top-notch goaltending. I’m still not sold on Montreal’s forward group, though I expect great seasons from Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Unfortunately, the Canadiens will likely go only as far as Carey Price can carry them, once again.
The outlier of the North Division is the Ottawa Senators. With one of the worst rosters in the league, an owner who spends just enough to get to the salary cap floor, and a front office that has let players like Erik Karlsson, Matt Duchene, Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Mark Stone all leave the team since the start of the 2018-19 season, things in Ottawa don’t look good. While they were able to land a pair of Top 5 picks in the draft lottery, and used them to select blue-chip prospects Tim Stützle and Jake Sanderson, Ottawa will likely end up with another Top 5 selection this year.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are, in my opinion, the cream of the crop in the North Division. They have a talented core of young players, namely Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, who are under immense pressure to bring Toronto their first championship since 1967. The Maple Leafs bolstered their roster this offseason, bringing in veterans Joe Thornton and Wayne Simmonds to add a physical element of play at both ends of the ice.
The team with the most roster turnover in the North Division is the Vancouver Canucks. Goaltender Jacob Markstrom left via free agency for Calgary, so the Canucks signed former Washington netminder Braden Holtby to bridge the gap until Thatcher Demko is ready to be the full-time starting goalie. They also lost defenseman Chris Tanev and forward Tyler Toffoli but did manage to land Travis Hamonic in free agency and Nate Schmidt via trade. The Canucks aren’t ready to be Cup contenders yet, but they’re at most a year away from knocking on the door.
Finally, the Winnipeg Jets roll in with goaltender Connor Hellebuyck taking home a Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender. Hellebuyck led the NHL in shots against, saves, and games played and near-singlehandedly carried the Jets to the playoffs. Unfortunately, Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine were injured in Game 1 of the Qualifying Round against Calgary and missed the rest of the series. With both players healthy and ready to go for the season, Winnipeg should be right around the playoff mark once again.
NORTH DIVISION STANDINGS PREDICTION
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
2. Calgary Flames
3. Edmonton Oilers
4. Vancouver Canucks
5. Winnipeg Jets
6. Montreal Canadiens
7. Ottawa Senators
Knup Sports NHL Season Preview – East Division
One East Division team starting the year with a much different looking roster is the Boston Bruins. The Bruins saw defensemen Zdeno Chara (their former captain) and Torey Krug leave via free agency. Boston will also be starting the year without both of their top line wingers. David Pastrnak is recovering from offseason hip surgery; Brad Marchand also needed surgery to repair a sports hernia, though he is closer to returning than Pastrnak. Boston still has the league’s best goalie tandem in Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, but can they keep the team afloat while waiting for Pastrnak and Marchand to return?
The Buffalo Sabres missed the playoff bubble by percentage points, marking the ninth straight season they missed the playoffs. Buffalo has the NHL’s longest active playoff drought. To try to end that streak, the Sabres signed former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall to provide a scoring punch alongside Jack Eichel. It’s a big gamble, as Hall signed a one-year deal. Should they miss the playoffs again, Hall could walk in free agency again, and Eichel could ask for a trade, waiving his no-trade clause. It’s time to put up or shut up in Buffalo.
Another team who just missed the playoff bubble, the New Jersey Devils were stunned on Saturday after goaltender Corey Crawford, who signed with the Devils after 13 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, announced his retirement less than one week before the start of the season. While Crawford was likely to split time or back up with goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, losing Crawford puts a big dent in New Jersey’s goaltending room. While former first overall picks Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes are still developing, both are poised for a breakout season this year. Their development likely won’t be enough to get the Devils into the playoff picture, but the season should be a big step forward for the franchise.
The New York Islanders checked off the biggest box of their offseason agenda when they re-signed restricted free agent center Mathew Barzal to a three-year deal. Barzal led the team in points last season, and much of the Isles’ offense runs through him. Rookie goaltender Ilya Sorokin is likely to see increased playing time this season as well. Head coach Barry Trotz spurred New York to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, where they lost to the eventual champion Tampa Bay Lightning. While trading Devon Toews was necessary to keep Barzal and remain under the salary cap, his absence leaves a hole in the blue line that Noah Dobson may not yet be ready to fill. I think the Islanders will once again surprise people this season.
Getting the best of both worlds, the New York Rangers were the lucky team who got to both compete in the playoffs and still win the first overall pick in the lottery draft. They used the pick to take winger Alexis Lafrenière, who is a strong candidate to with the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year. One of the most significant changes will be in net, where Igor Shesterkin will be taking over for Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist had been the Rangers netminder for the past 15 years, and he left for Washington in free agency (Lundqvist will miss the entire 2021 season after undergoing open-heart surgery). They are a relatively young team with a great core that will be competing for a title in the near future.
The Philadelphia Flyers were one of the surprise teams last year, clinching the top seed in the playoff bubble and advancing to the second round of the playoffs after eliminating the Montreal Canadiens. Philadelphia’s offense sputtered down the stretch, getting shut out twice by the Islanders, bookending the series with no goals in Game 1 and Game 7. They’ll be getting some offense back for this season now that Oskar Lindblom has completed his chemotherapy to treat a rare case of bone cancer. Nolan Patrick is healthy and cleared to play as well. The Flyers are a team on the rise.
Are the Pittsburgh Penguins contenders or pretenders? That was the lingering question after their stunning Qualifying Round loss to the Montreal Canadiens. The offseason raised more questions after the team decided to retain their 2020 first round pick as part of a conditional trade with Minnesota, but then traded that pick to the Maple Leafs to bring Kasperi Kapanen back to Pittsburgh. While they in some ways improved their blue line by letting Jack Johnson go, they also lost Justin Schultz. The Penguins also moved goaltender Matt Murray to Ottawa at the draft and did not sign anyone in free agency. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will once again do the heavy lifting in the scoring department, but do the Penguins have enough depth behind them, offensively, defensively, and in net, to make a Cup run, or is their window slamming shut?
The Washington Capitals moved on from goaltender Braden Holtby, who backstopped the Caps to their 2018 Stanley Cup win. While the plan was to use former Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist as the backup to Ilya Samsonov, Lundqvist needed open heart surgery and announced he would miss the entire 2021 season. While Samsonov’s sample size is small, it seems he’s ready to take over as the starter. He’ll have some great defensive help in front of him, as Washington brought in defensemen Justin Schultz and Zdeno Chara in free agency. Alex Ovechkin should once again be in the mix to win the Richard Trophy. With new head coach Peter Laviolette at the helm, the Capitals should be a much more focused group than we saw in the bubble.
EAST DIVISION STANDINGS PREDICTION
1. Philadelphia Flyers
2. Washington Capitals
3. New York Islanders
4. Buffalo Sabres
5. Boston Bruins
6. Pittsburgh Penguins
7. New York Rangers
8. New Jersey Devils
Knup Sports NHL Season Preview – Central Division
The Carolina Hurricanes have turned the franchise around in short order. Three years ago, they finished 36-35-11 and were 14 points out of a playoff picture. They seemed like a team that was stuck, too good to bottom out, but not good enough to make a playoff push. However, finishing as a Wild Card team two seasons ago and finishing as a No. 6 seed last year, the Hurricanes are on the right track. They hit the jackpot drafting Sebastian Aho in the second round. Even better was taking Andrei Svechnikov second overall in 2018. Trading to acquire Teuvo Teräväinen from the Chicago Blackhawks, Nino Niederreiter from the Minnesota Wild, and Dougie Hamilton from the Calgary Flames all turned Carolina into a serious contender. While there are lingering concerns over their goaltending tandem of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer, the Hurricanes are one of the most complete teams in the NHL.
In contrast to how Carolina has built things, the Chicago Blackhawks are running out of ways to prop up their roster after winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013, and 2015. Jonathan Toews is out indefinitely with a mysterious illness. Kirby Dach injured his wrist at the World Junior Championships and will be out for 4-5 months. Alex Nylander is on long-term Injured Reserve, and defenseman Brent Seabrook is still recovering from surgeries on his shoulder and on both hips last January and February. It’s unknown when Seabrook will be back. Goaltender Corey Crawford was not offered a new contract, meaning it will fall on Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia to mind the net. Patrick Kane will still be a constant threat to score, but too many of the Hawks’ senior players are late into (or past) the prime of their careers, and too many of the young players aren’t ready for top minutes yet. It could be a very ugly season in the Windy City.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have been playoff darlings over the past two seasons. In 2019, they swept the Tampa Bay Lightning as a No. 8 seed following the Lightning’s historically good regular season. Last year, they upset the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Qualifying Round, then rematched with the Lightning in the First Round. Goaltender Joonas Korpisalo made 85 saves in a thrilling five OT Game 1, where Columbus lost 3-2. The Blue Jackets rallied for a Game 2 win, but three consecutive one-goal losses saw the eventual champion eliminate Columbus. The Blue Jackets traded to bring in Max Domi from Montreal, and despite a rocky relationship with star center Pierre-Luc Dubois, who may want out of Columbus, the Blue Jackets have a good roster in place. The sooner the Dubois drama is over, either by trade or by putting trade rumors to bed, the better of Columbus will be.
After cruising through the Western Conference Finals, the Dallas Stars came up just short against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Cup Final. This year, they’ll be division rivals, thanks to the COVID-necessitated realignment. Several Dallas players are still on the injured list to begin the season, including goaltender Ben Bishop and center Tyler Seguin. Anton Khudobin will miss the start of the season while quarantining after there were complications getting a visa to return to Dallas. On the eve of the season, the league announced 17 Stars players tested positive for COVID-19, though many are asymptomatic. While the league works around what to do in the short term, the Stars will find a way to make things work in the long run, especially if youngsters Miro Heiskanen, Denis Gurianov, Roope Hintz, and Joel Kiviranta can pick things up where they left off at the end of the playoffs.
It’s going to be another ugly year for the Detroit Red Wings, who are still in the early stages of building a contender. General manager Steve Yzerman built the Tampa Bay Lightning into a perennial powerhouse, so patience is paramount for Red Wings fans while he works his magic. Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha are still fun players to watch who will manage to put up respectable numbers. Seeing how young players like Tyler Bertuzzi, Filip Zadina, and Robby Fabbri continue to develop will be exciting for the future of the team. Landing Troy Stetcher in free agency is nice, but Red Wings fans will want to start looking at mock drafts and figure out who they need most for the rebuild.
The Florida Panthers were quickly bounced out of the playoff bubble by the New York Islanders last summer, and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky struggled throughout most of the season. The weird thing about Bobrovsky is that he struggles in even-numbered seasons but thrives in odd-numbered seasons. His two Vezina trophies came in 2013 and 2017. If the trend follows suit, Bobrovsky should be in for another excellent season this year. Losing Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov, and Erik Haula to free agency leaves some big holes in the forward rotation, but the defense should still be a solid unit. Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau will be on different lines to start the season, perhaps to spread out the scoring touch. Ultimately, Florida’s fate comes down to which Bobrovsky shows up.
Similar to the Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators are going through a bit of an identity crisis. Part of that comes from the end of the Pekka Rinne era, as Juuse Saros will be the starter in net in what will likely be Rinne’s final season. The formerly stout defense seems thin once you get past Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. The forwards have become the landing spot for ex-Minnesota Wild forwards, as Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, and Luke Kunin have all landed in the Music City. Nashville should once again be in the playoff mix, but can Juuse Saros carry them through the playoffs?
The defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning redeemed themselves after last year’s playoff implosion. After being one of the most dominant regular season teams for the past several years, they finally put it together and got the Cup win they needed. Star winger Nikita Kucherov will miss the entire regular season after undergoing hip surgery, but moving him to long-term Injured Reserve allowed the Lightning to re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Cirelli to a three-year deal. Tampa Bay had to let go of defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Zach Bogosian to stay under the Cap. However, they’re still well-positioned for another Cup run, especially if Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy can stay healthy.
CENTRAL DIVISION STANDINGS PREDICTION
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Carolina Hurricanes
3. Nashville Predators
4. Columbus Blue Jackets
5. Florida Panthers
6. Dallas Stars
7. Chicago Blackhawks
8. Detroit Red Wings
Knup Sports NHL Season Preview – West Division
The Anaheim Ducks were cellar-dwellers last season, but things are looking more mighty than before. Trevor Zegras is waiting in the wings for his NHL debut; though it may not come this season, he stood head and shoulders above the rest of the players at the World Junior Championships. If Anaheim doesn’t want to burn a year of his entry-level contract in an abbreviated season, the decision makes sense. That said, Zegras will be a breath of fresh air for Ducks fans. Troy Terry and Sam Steel will be expected to step up and deliver this season, as will Danton Heinen and Sonny Milano. Goaltender John Gibson will likely end the season near the top of the saves list, but how many goals end up in the net behind him will fall largely on the defense. Kevin Shattenkirk is a veteran leader who will bring championship experience from Tampa Bay. Anaheim will likely be on the outside looking in this year, but it won’t be long before the quack is back.
Out in the desert, the Arizona Coyotes went through one of the most turbulent postseasons/offseasons in recent memory. General manager John Chayka resigned the night before the playoffs began. Due to a violation of the league’s Combine Testing policy, the Coyotes forfeited a 2020 second round pick (because they had already traded their first round pick) and a 2021 first round pick. They didn’t get a pick until the third round, where they selected Mitchell Miller. After the draft, information spread quickly about Miller’s past, where he had bullied and racially harassed a developmentally disabled black classmate. Miller was found delinquent in juvenile court on assault charges and to have violated the Ohio Safe Schools Act. After public outcry when the horrific details of Miller’s past came to light, the team announced they renounced their draft rights to Miller. Will all this drama off the ice, things on the ice look about the same as last year. Arizona lost Taylor Hall to free agency but signed Derek Brassard to add center depth. The Coyotes were 11th in the Western Conference when the league paused for COVID last March. They’ll be similarly positioned this year.
The betting favorite to win the Stanley Cup this year, the Colorado Avalanche boast one of the league’s deepest rosters. They’ve got incredible high-end scoring from Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, with depth behind them in Nazem Kadri, Gabriel Landeskog, and Andre Burakovsky. They have a pair of outstanding young defensemen in Samuel Girard and Calder winner Cale Makar, with further depth in Bowen Byram, Ryan Graves, and Devon Toews. While neither half of the goaltending tandem of Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz will rank among the league’s best, with Colorado’s roster, they may not need to be great for the Avalanche to win. Colorado is built for sustained success over the next several years, and the rest of the league is taking notice.
The Los Angeles Kings have fallen off quickly after their Stanley Cup wins in 2012 and 2014, but looking more in-depth at their numbers, they aren’t as far off as one might think. While the offense was anemic, scoring the second-fewest goals in the league, 11 playoff teams had more goals allowed than the Kings. With the prospects they have in the pipeline, including Arthur Kaliev, Alex Turcotte, Blake Lizotte, Akil Thomas, Tobias Björnfot, and second overall pick Quinton Byfield, there’s a ton of scoring punch on the horizon. It likely won’t manifest this year, which is difficult for veteran players like Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, and Drew Doughty, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and the Kings will be on the upswing again soon.
The wait is finally over for Minnesota Wild fans. Russian star Kirill Kaprizov has finally arrived in Minnesota, five years after being drafted. He’s slated to play first line minutes from the jump and looks to be the pure scorer the Wild have been lacking since entering the league in 2000. First round draft pick Marco Rossi was injured at World Juniors, so his Wild debut may be delayed. He may play a few games for Minnesota without burning a year of his entry-level contract, then returns to playing with ZSC Lions in the Swiss League. The Wild addressed their goaltending issues by signing former Oilers and Flames netminder Cam Talbot. Minnesota’s defense put up incredible advanced stats a year ago, but the goaltending was atrocious. If Talbot can put up numbers at or around league average, it will be a significant improvement. Minnesota will also debut the second full-time captain in team history, defenseman Jared Spurgeon, after Mikko Koivu’s contract was not renewed this offseason.
The San Jose Sharks were caught between a rock and a hard place last season. They had traded their first round pick as part of a package to bring in Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson, but Karlsson was playing through injury and limited to 56 games. Due to injuries, the Sharks had 34 different skaters play a game for the team. Only the Senators, Ducks, and Bruins had more players suit up. With the young talent San Jose had to move to keep under the salary cap, the team struggled to score goals, with only Evander Kane and Timo Meier reaching the 20-goal mark (neither hit 30). Only four others hit the 10-goal mark, including defenseman Brent Burns. The Sharks used all of their draft picks on forwards to restock the prospect cabinet, but none of them are expected to make their NHL debut this year. They acquired Ryan Donato and Devan Dubnyk from the Wild; Donato should be a middle-six forward, and Dubnyk will split time with Martin Jones. It will be another challenging year for the Sharks, but at least they have their own first round pick this year.
After winning the Stanley Cup in 2019, the St. Louis Blues didn’t experience much of a championship hangover. They were first in the Western Conference when the COVID pause hit. However, the hangups hit when they returned to the ice, going 0-2-1 in the round-robin, then losing to the Vancouver Canucks in the first round. After losing defenseman Alex Pietrangelo to free agency, the Blue signed free agent Torey Krug to man the blue line and provide a punch on the power play. Star winger Vladimir Tarasenko is still recovering from surgery, and Alex Steen has been forced to retire due to back injuries. However, moving them to injured reserve freed up enough cap room to sign Mike Hoffman. If Justin Faulk returns to his level of play from his Carolina days, the Blues will have one of the best defensive groups in the league. I especially wonder if Hobey Baker winner Scott Perunovich will make his Blues debut this season. Jordan Kyrou is on the taxi squad to begin the year, but I expect him to make an impact with the big club soon.
Last but certainly not least, the Vegas Golden Knights went all-in during free agency to sign defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. They moved Nate Schmidt to Vancouver to free up the room, but Pietrangelo is undoubtedly an upgrade. They still have an excellent forward group, led by Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, and Alex Tuch. An excellent goaltending tandem in Robin Lehner and Marc-André Fleury fit perfectly with Vegas’ style of building their systems from the net out. I have a few concerns about their depth scoring, but if their role players step up, Vegas will be a strong contender in the West Division.
WEST DIVISION STANDINGS PREDICTION
1. Colorado Avalanche
2. Vegas Golden Knights
3. St. Louis Blues
4. Minnesota Wild
5. Arizona Coyotes
6. Anaheim Ducks
7. Los Angeles Kings
8. San Jose Sharks
FIRST ROUND PLAYOFF MATCHUPS – NORTH DIVISION
No. 1 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. No. 4 Vancouver Canucks: TORONTO WINS
All offense in this series, but the Leafs come out on top.
No. 2 Calgary Flames vs. No. 3 Edmonton Oilers: EDMONTON WINS
Connor McDavid wills the Oilers to a first round upset.
FIRST ROUND PLAYOFF MATCHUPS – EAST DIVISION
No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 4 Buffalo Sabres: PHILADELPHIA WINS
At least Buffalo got here. Flyers take this one in a hurry.
No. 2 Washington Capitals vs. No. 3 New York Islanders: WASHINGTON WINS
The Caps prove last season’s loss was a fluke. Revenge and advance.
FIRST ROUND PLAYOFF MATCHUPS – CENTRAL DIVISION
No. 1 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 4 Columbus Blue Jackets: TAMPA BAY WINS
It’s becoming a tradition. Lightning roll through Columbus and into the second round.
No. 2 Carolina Hurricanes vs. No. 3 Nashville Predators: CAROLINA WINS
Nashville puts up a fight, but Carolina advances in 7.
FIRST ROUND PLAYOFF MATCHUPS – WEST DIVISION
No. 1 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 4 Minnesota Wild: COLORADO WINS
The Avalanche make quick work of the Wild here. Over in 5.
No. 2 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 3 St. Louis Blues: BLUES ADVANCE
Another series meant to go the distance. It’s a shame the three best Western Conference teams all ended up in the same division.
SECOND ROUND PLAYOFF MATCHUPS – NORTH DIVISION
No. 1 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. No. 3 Edmonton Oilers: TORONTO WINS
Toronto proves they are the kings in the North and advance to the Semifinal Round.
SECOND ROUND PLAYOFF MATCHUPS – EAST DIVISION
No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 2 Washington Capitals: PHILADELPHIA ADVANCES
Carter Hart outduels Ilya Samsonov in the battle of young goalies to push the Flyers through.
SECOND ROUND PLAYOFF MATCHUPS – CENTRAL DIVISION
No. 1 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 2 Carolina Hurricanes: CAROLINA ADVANCES
Carolina bottles up the Lightning and takes down the defending champs.
SECOND ROUND PLAYOFF MATCHUPS – WEST DIVISION
No. 1 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 3 St. Louis Blues: AVALANCHE ADVANCE
Another series that goes the distance, Avs advance in 7.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
2. Colorado Avalanche
3. Philadelphia Flyers
4. Carolina Hurricanes
SEMIFINAL 1 MATCHUP
No. 1 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. No. 4 Carolina Hurricanes: CAROLINA ADVANCES
So close, Canada. Maybe next year. Carolina to the Cup Final.
SEMIFINAL 2 MATCHUP
No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 3 Philadelphia Flyers: COLORADO ADVANCES
Philadelphia fails to keep up with the Avs’ offense. Colorado moves on.
STANLEY CUP FINAL
No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 4 Carolina Hurricanes
We would be so lucky to get Avalanche-Hurricanes for a Stanley Cup Final. Beyond all the natural disaster puns you could make, this series comes down to two teams with talented young rosters and would be a dogfight to the very end. But coming out on top……
CAROLINA BEATS COLORADO IN SEVEN GAMES
Carolina gets an excellent performance from Petr Mrazek, Andrei Svechnikov wins the Conn Smythe, and the Hurricanes hoist the Stanley Cup.