Tag Archives: predictions

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Battles Of Florida, Alberta Share Round 2 Top Billing


   Round one of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs is in the books and round two begins on two fronts tonight.

   Looking back on the first round I was six-for-eight which is not bad considering my record from previous years. I had Toronto winning over Tampa Bay in seven games but it was the Lightning emerging the winners in game seven as they put on quite a defensive clinic and hung on for a narrow 2-1 victory to send the Leafs packing after another first round exit.

    The other series where I was wrong was the Minnesota Wild – St. Louis Blues series. I said they were two evenly matched teams and they were, but Blues veterans delivered and that was the difference in the end.

   Now, a look at the second round match-ups.

Lightning vs Panthers

  This is a series that could go the limit as they are two evenly matched teams. During the regular season  in four meetings, both teams won twice. Overall, the Panthers, who finished first overall, outscored the Bolts  by a 19-15 margin.

    Goaltending is superior for both teams. Panthers’ Sergei Bobrovsky played a key role in the opening round against Washington. At the other end, the Tampa Bay’s Andrew Vasilevskiy  appeared to yield some soft goals early in that series but Vasilevskiy delivered in overtime in game six and was superb in game seven against the Leafs. That’s the way the Russian-born performed the past two seasons in helping Tampa Bay win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. He’ll have to come up big again if the Lightning are to advance.

   On defence, I think you have to give a slight edge to the Lightning led by Victor Hedman. He has good supporting staff with the likes of Erik Cernak, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sergachev. The Panthers have Aaron Ekblad as their blueline leader.

   Up front, I feel the Panthers have a little more fire power with Aleksander Barkov,  Claude Giroux, Sam Bennett, Anthony Declair and Sam Reinhardt. And don’t forget Carter Verhaeghe, who played for the Bolts last year. He got the opportunity to play in South Florida and he delivered including two overtime winners against the Capitals in the last series.

    On the Lightning side, Nikita Kucherov led the way against Toronto and he will need to come up big again if the Lightning are to advance. Steven Stamkos has a booming shot and scored against Toronto. However he needs to get more of his shots on the net rather than blasting  high and wide. Corey Perry played well in the series opener as did Anthony Corelli, Andrej Platt and Ross Colton. The big question mark is Braydon Point, he is questionable tonight because of a lower body injury when he fell into the boards in game seven against the Leafs. He only scored one goal but it came in overtime in game six to prolong the series. If he is out that leaves a big hole in Tampa’s offence.

    This series could be a “homer series” so I give the edge to the Panthers.

   Prediction: Panthers in seven games.

Rangers vs Hurricanes

This could be a goaltenders series. Igor Shesterkin carried New York during the regular series and he’ll have to come up big again if they are to advance. Meanwhile, Aniti Raanta was solid for the Hurricanes against  the Boston Bruins.

    While  the Hurricanes finished ahead of the Rangers during the regular season if the Rangers can get a split in the first two games of this series that could become a big factor in the series.

    I like the Rangers forwards units better than the Canes with the likes of Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Anthony Panarin and Ryan Strome.

  Carolina has some quality forwards led by Sebastian Aho but they are thin compared to New York. Where the Hurricanes have a slight edge is on the blueline. The Rangers have Adam Fox but I like Tony DeAngelo and Jaccob Slavin for the Canes.

   Specialty teams for both teams should also be a big part in the series. Who draws fewer penalties should be a key.

Prediction: Rangers in six games

Oilers vs Flames

    It is billed as the Battle of Alberta  and it should be just that. Look for a very physical series from start to finish.

   Calgary finished first ahead of Edmonton to get the home ice advantage. But that advantage could go out the window fast unless they can contain the Oilers’ Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. That’s going to be a big chore as McDavid with his size and ability and Draisaitl with his scoring touch literally destroyed the Los Angeles Kings.

   In my books the Oilers are far superior to the Flames. What Calgary will have to do is get more traffic in front of Oilers goalie Mike Smith and create some scoring chances. But to accomplish that first the Flames must find a way to stop McDavid and company from getting in their territory.. if they can’t then Calgary’s chances are slim.

   The bottom line –  the Flames need lots of production from the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk to get to the next round. And goalie Jacob Markstrom has to find a way to come really big. Calgary has the edge between the pipes as I am not sold on the Oilers’ Mike Smith.

Prediction: Oilers in six games

Blues vs Avalanche

   The Colorado Avalanche had a cake-walk in the first round against Nashville so they are well-rested. This round with the St. Louis Blues don’t look for a sweep but the Avs should prevail in the end.

    St. Louis, who finished 10 points back of  Colorado will have a battle on their hands. Up front, they are led by Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron and Vladimir Tarasenko. Jordan Bennington, who took over the goaltending chores for the Blues against Minnesota in game four and won three straight will have to remain red hot if the Blues are to advance.

    I simply like Colorado more, especially with the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen up front and Cale Makar solid on defence. And with the sweep over Nashville, that enabled goalie Darcy Kuemper to recover from an eye injury. He should be good to go.

Prediction:  Avs in six games.

(Wayne Redshaw has covered sports in Niagara for over 50 years, 33 and a half at the Welland Tribune. He was publisher of the FORE! Golfers Only for 12 years and also wrote for many newspapers and magazines in Canada and the United States.)

Will Talented Florida Panthers Replace Lightning As Stanley Cup Winner?


   Is it possible that the Stanley Cup could wind up in the Sunshine State for the third straight year?

   Yes that is possible but not in the trophy showcase of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning won’t be around when the curtain falls on the 2021-22 season in late June or thereabouts. The Lightning looked downright pathetic, especially on the power play in getting embarrassed 5-0 by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the series opener Monday night.

  However, while Tampa Bay will be long gone come late June there’s a good chance another Florida-based team – the Florida Panthers – could be drinking out of the Cup.

   But before we get too far ahead, let’s look at the remaining eight teams who begin their quest in the opening round of the playoffs tonight in Part 2 of my Stanley Cup Predictions.

Washington Capitals vs Florida Panthers

    The Panthers should have no problem disposing of the Washington Capitals in this series. The Panthers are simply loaded with talent both offensively and defensively.

  Florida Panthers became the first team to average more than four goals per game since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins. The Panthers finished with 337 goals. They had four players with 30-plus goals this season. That foursome included Aleksander Barko 39, Sam Reinhardt 33, Anthony Duclair 31 and Jonathon Huberdeau 30. Huberdeau also established a new NHL record for the most assists compiled by a left winger with 85. The acquisition of Claude Giroux just before the trade deadline should also help the Panthers’ cause, especially with the experience he brings to the table

    Besides depth up front, the Panthers are solid on the blueline anchored by Aaron Ekblad, who is expected to be back in the lineup since substaining a leg injury in mid-March.

   Goaltending, which is an important element in the playoffs, should be no problem with Sergei Bobrovsky.

   As for the Capitals, Alex Ovechkin could be back in the Caps lineup for the series opener. But the Caps are going to need more than Ovechkin, who hit 50 goals, if they are going to advance. In my opinion Washington’s age is becoming a factor.

Prediction: Panthers in four games

Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers

   This could be a short series too. The Rangers were a pleasant surprise this season. They have a good mix of young players that have blended in with some veterans. Chris Kreider popped in 52 goals. But there were others who contributed to the cause like Mike Zibanejad, Richard Strome and Artemi Panarin. Then on defence, Adam Fox was their leader.

    Between the pipes the Rangers relied on Igor Shesterkin and he delivered big time.

  Looking at Penguins this marks the 16th consecutive season that they have qualified for the playoffs. But after the first round, they should be gone. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang remain the main core of Pittsburgh. They also have some young talented players who can put the puck in the net. However, as a team overall, the good old days are behind them. And their goaltending is very suspect.

Prediction: Rangers in five games.

Dallas Stars vs Calgary Flames

   The Calgary Flames are Canada’s third team in this year’s Cup hunt and I think they could go a long way. The Flames topped the Pacific division compiling a 50-21-11 record. They are a well-balanced squad with Johnny Gaudreau at the controls. He recorded career-highs 40 goals and 75 assists for 115 points. He has some excellent support from a cast starting with Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, Tyler Toffoli, Mikael Bucklund and Blake Coleman.

   Jacob Markstrom handled the bulk of the goaltending chores for the Flames and is expected to get the call for the playoffs.

   As for the Stars they will be heard from in this series with the likes of Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz,Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin in the lineup. Yet the Stars can’t match the  Flames. 

Prediction: Flames in five games,

Nashville Predators vs Colorado Avalanche

   Nashville won three of four meetings with Colorado which included the final three. However, regular season and the playoffs are a completely different seasons. I like the Avalanche to prevail.

   This series will feature two of the best defencemen  in the league in the Preds’ Roman Josi and the Avs’ Cale Maker.

   Both teams also feature some of the NHL’s top forwards with Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Nazem Kadri suiting up for the Avalanche and Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg for the Predators to name just a few.

   I think Colorado has far more firepower up front and a stronger defence. In goal a big edge goes to the Colorado as the Preds’ No. 1 starter Jusse Saros is sidelined with an injury and will miss at least the first two games. Meanwhile, Colorado’s Darcy Kuemper is  healthy and ready to go.

Prediction: Avalanche in four straight games.

(Wayne Redshaw has covered sports in Niagara for over 50 years, 33 and a half at the Welland Tribune. He was publisher of FORE! Golfers Only for 12 years and also wrote for many newspapers and magazines in Canada and the United States.)

Canada, Eh? Veteran Sports Scribe Picks Leafs, Oilers To Win Respective Opening Round Series


   The NHL’s second season – the battle for Lord Stanley’s spittoon, better known as the Stanley Cup – begins tonight on four fronts and the big question is:  who will be left standing to cart the jug off the ice when it’s all over in late June or thereabouts?

    Sixteen teams are in the hunt including three Canadian-based clubs and only eight will survive after the first round. In this first segment (PART ONE) I preview the four series that open tonight. 

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Toronto Maple Leafs

    The Lightning have carted off the Cup the past two seasons and many experts figure Tampa is primed for a three-peat. I don’t and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the Maple Leafs prevail. Granted Toronto has gone 55 years since they last won the Cup. Furthermore, the club hasn’t won a series dating  back to 2004 and past five seasons after qualifying for the Stanley  Cup derby they have bowed out in the first round.

  This time around I think the Leafs are primed. They are coming off a record-setting regular season for wins (54) and points (115). They also had 13 players set NHL career highs in points. And Auston Matthews was the Leafs top sniper finishing with 60 goals, the most in the NHL in years.

  Another reason I’m picking the Leafs is I’m not totally impressed with Tampa. I spent four and a half months in the Tampa Bay area this winter so being a hockey buff,  I watched most of the Lightning’s games. They were spotty and inconsistent. Goaltender Andre Vasilevskiy, I thought, gave up some weak goals and defensively the team as a whole was guilty of too many give-aways. They just didn’t look like the same team that won back-to-back Cups.

 Steven Stamkos was by far Tampa’s best player game after game. Nikita Kucherov, who led the Lightning in points in last year’s playoffs, was a-passenger in a lot of games I viewed. And Brayden Point certainly didn’t have a banner year. Like most of his mates he was spotty.

  Losing the complete third line from last season through the expansion draft and free agency didn’t help matters for the Lightning. They had replacements but they weren’t enough. Now  in facing the Leafs in the first round, I can’t see Tampa Bay advancing. The Leafs have too much firepower with the likes  of Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares in the lineup. If there is a weak link in Toronto I would say it’s between the pipes. There have been times where Jack Campbell has been unbeatable and other games where he has left a lot to be desired yielding some soft goals.

  Prediction: Leafs in seven games.

Boston Bruins vs Carolina Hurricanes

    Carolina won all three meetings against the Bruins in the regular season and when the battle-smoke clears  the Hurricanes should advance.  The Hurricanes finished first in the Metropolitan Division and third overall in the League.

   Boston finished as the first wild card so not having home ice advantage could hurt. Goaltending is another question mark. Like Tampa Bay, the Bruins encountered a hot and cold season.

    The Bruins are led by David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. They will need all hands on deck to get past the Hurricanes.

   The big question for Carolina is when will goaltender Freddie Andersen return to the lineup? Andersen had a stellar regular season so hopefully he’s not on the injured  shelf too long. Overall, they have a nice core on defence and have Sebastian Aho leading the way offensively.

   Prediction: The Hurricanes in six games

St, Louis Blues vs Minnesota Wild

   This series could be the most evenly matched series of the entire first round. Minnesota had more points 113 to 109. However, St. Louis had more wins 43 to 37. That means the Wild were involved in more close encounters and platoon hockey is much different than the regular season.

   St. Louis has an edge on the blue line but I like the Wild’s goaltending more and that could be a determining factor.

  Prediction. Wild in seven games.

Los Angeles Kings vs Edmonton Oilers

    I just think the Oilers have too much firepower with Connor McDavid  and Leon  Draisaitl leading the way. And their power play is potent. If the Kings visit the penalty box too often the Oilers will cash in.

   If there is a weak link with the Oilers it is between the pipes with Mike Smith. They didn’t address goaltending before the trade deadline. But if they keep the puck away from their own end, they should advance. I don’t think the the Kings have enough depth.

   They have Jonathan Quick in goal to keep them respectable. But up front other than Anze Kopitarv they lack big guns.

   Prediction: Oilers in five games.

(Wayne Redshaw has covered sports in Niagara for over 50 years, 33 and a half at the Welland Tribune. He was publisher of FORE! Golfers Only for 12 years and also wrote for many newspapers and magazines in Canada and the United States.)