2019 NHL Stanley Cup Predictions
And then there were four. After a truly insane first round of the NHL Playoffs, things mostly leveled off and returned to some semblance of sane in the second round. Favorites won three of the four series, and you can hardly call the lone underdog, Carolina, a surprise as they were up against another upstart in the Islanders. It's far from the Conference final pairings that anyone would have predicted, but it isn't as crazy as it could have been. Personally, the second round went much better for me than the opening round did. I still have both of my projected Cup finalists alive and will likely stick with them here.
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And that leads us to our job now - to make our Stanley Cup predictions with four teams left. The Eastern final gets underway on Thursday in Boston, with the Western final kicking off on Saturday in San Jose (Odds to win the Stanley Cup and series prices are from BetOnline):
Eastern Conference Final
Carolina (+135) at Boston (-155): Now things are getting serious with the Hurricanes. When they won their first-round matchup in seven games, it seemed like they were a CInderella team and midnight was about to strike. But then they came out and were, by a wide margin, the best team in the second round. They were reasonably lucky to win their first two games in New York, but then they came home and dominated to sweep. They were surely tired after needing overtime in Game 7 of the opener in what was a very tough series. But being tired is far from the issue now - it feels like they haven't played a game in a month. Now the question is not whether they are tired but instead if they are rusty. Or if they have had too much time to read their own headlines or to get into their own heads. They had some injury issues, so the time is an advantage in that sense. But they are not an experienced team when it comes to the playoffs, so it is very possible - and perhaps likely, the more I think about it - that they are going to lose some of the magic they had up to this point. Columbus and Colorado were teams that were as good or better than Carolina in their opening-round wins while being just as surprising, but they couldn't keep it rolling in the second round in the same way - and both had long layoffs before the series. Carolina is at real risk of the same problem.
The biggest issue for Carolina is that they are playing the best team left in the playoffs. Boston is deeper than the other teams, more talented than most, and most experienced. Boston does a good job of countering what Carolina does, and that makes it a tough matchup. Boston's discipline continues to be a concern, but they have an edge in most spots on the ice and are favored for a good reason. They were my pick to win the East before the last round, and they remain that way.
Western Conference Final
St. Louis (+110) at San Jose (-130): Both of these teams had to survive Game 7 in the second round to make it to this point. San Jose has played seven in both rounds, which isn't ideal. The Blues had to play two overtimes in their Game 7 epic, but they have an extra day of rest, so that's not a huge concern. The Sharks get credit for coming this far, and are the less surprising of the teams, but I haven't loved how they have been playing. I still don't trust their goaltending and they aren't playing like a particularly cohesive or happy team - there have been far too many discussions and harsh words between teammates on the ice. And I'm not crazy about their coaching. St. Louis has been ridiculously hot since early January when they were last in the entire NHL. They won an incredibly tough, tight series against Dallas, and doing so should give them a boost here. The Blues feel like the tougher team, and that gives them the edge in this one. I took them to win this series before last round, and I'll happy do the same again at this price.
Stanley Cup Finals
Boston vs. St. Louis: I like what St. Louis has done a lot, but I can't take them here. The Bruins have a big edge in net - Binnington has been a great story, but he is just a rookie, and Rask is a very well proven veteran at this point. Boston has more experience, a little more depth, has had an easier path to this point, and should have an easier path to the finals from where they are now. Boston has been the favorite since the end of the first round, so I didn't go out on a limb to pick them to win then, and I'm not taking huge risks here. A wild ride to the Cup should be a lot more chalky, and Boston will hoist the mug.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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