April is the best time of the year for hockey fans as the 82-game regular season reveals the NHL playoff picture in 2019. Tampa Bay has dominated the league all year, entering as serious favorites to compete for a championship. Pittsburgh and Washington will challenge the Lightning in the east, while Vegas, Winnipeg and Nashville look to oust the western conference leading Calgary Flames. Our predictions for the 2019 Stanley Cup finals suggests surprises and upsets in both conferences.
NHL Divisional Playoffs
Eastern Conference Playoffs – Projected Matchups
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Montreal Canadiens/Columbus Blue Jackets (Wild Card 2)
The Tampa Bay Lightning will finish the season with the best NHL futures odds
after securing the Presidents’ Trophy with ease. Regardless of the squad which qualifies to meet the Lightning, Tampa Bay will be considered heavy favorites to wrap up a quick series win.
Neither the Blue Jackets nor the Canadiens match up well against the best team in the league.
Washington Capitals vs Carolina Hurricanes (Wild Card 1)
Washington didn’t suffer a Stanley Cup hangover this season, despite the loss of bench boss Barry Trotz. Instead, the Capitals have come on strong during the second half of the season, surging towards the top of the Metropolitan division. Carolina fulfilled their promise as an up-and-coming power in the east with a superb regular season filled with unique celebration. The Canes will carry their momentum over to give the Caps a tough time in the playoffs, but Washington should be considered a great value for NHL playoffs odds.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Islanders
Perhaps the most surprising squad of the 2018-19 season, the New York Islanders far outplayed expectations after losing John Tavares to free agency. Coach Barry Trotz managed to transform the Isles into a stout defensive squad in less than a year, lifting New York into the post season. Their reward for a fantastic turnaround is a first-round matchup against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, who expect to proceed deep into the playoffs. Unless Crosby goes down, it’s tough to see the Isles making the second round.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Boston Bruins
A classic original six matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins will play out once again in the first round. The Leafs need to elevate their game to the next level, otherwise the Bruins will walk all over Toronto again. Their meeting in the 2018 playoffs resulted in an exciting, seven-game win for Boston, a result which would greatly disappoint a Leafs squad filled with elite, young talent.
Western Conference Playoffs – Projected Matchups
Calgary Flames vs Colorado/Minnesota/Arizona (Wild Card 2)
An incredible 2018-19 campaign for the Flames boosted Calgary to top spot in the western conference, an outcome no one predicted prior to the start of the regular season. They’ll cruise into home ice advantage on their half of the bracket, matched up against the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild or Arizona Coyotes, depending on how the final wild card spot plays out. Calgary will be considered strong favorites against any wild card club they encounter, even if the Flames lack playoff experience.
Winnipeg Jets vs Dallas Stars (Wild Card 1)
Predicted to secure top spot in the west before the season began, the Winnipeg Jets will enter the post season in a strong position coming out of the Central. The Jets earned respect with a strong playoff run which was ended by the Golden Knights last year. This season, Winnipeg begins their playoff odyssey against the Dallas Stars. The Stars have one of the hottest goalies in the league, Ben Bishop, along with snipers Benn and Seguin. However, a first-round upset for Winnipeg would be a major surprise.
San Jose Sharks vs Vegas Golden Knights
Last year’s Stanley Cup finalists will be in for a tough first-round matchup against the San Jose Sharks, who will enter the post season with home ice advantage against the Vegas Golden Knights. The Golden Knights have gotten better as the season progressed, trading for Mark Stone to solidify one of the most dangerous forward corps in the league. However, the most important difference between the clubs will be between the pipes, where Marc-Andre Fleury will provide a decided advantage over the inconsistent Martin Jones.
Nashville Predators vs St. Louis Blues
After an incredible run to the Stanley Cup finals a couple of years ago, the Nashville Predators need to regain their edge after being ousted by the Jets during the 2018 playoffs. Unfortunately for the Preds, the St. Louis Blues are the hottest team in the NHL since the New Year, bolstered by the sudden rise of goalie Jordan Binnington, who will receive votes for the Calder Trophy. This matchup will be one of the more intriguing clashes, promising great disappointment for the losing squad.
NHL Conference Finals Futures
NHL futures for the eastern conference will feature the Tampa Bay Lightning as strong favorites to raise the Prince of Wales trophy. However, the best betting value will feature the Washington Capitals at +900 and the Penguins at +1000, a pair of playoff-hardened teams with the ability to defeat any squad in a seven-game slugfest. The Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs should be considered a bit expensive because of their impending clash in the first round, which could deplete either team of resources.
- Tampa Bay Lightning +100
- Boston Bruins +500
- Washington Capitals +900
- Toronto Maple Leafs +950
- Pittsburgh Penguins +1000
- New York Islanders +1100
- Carolina Hurricanes +1200
- Columbus Blue Jackets +1700
- Montreal Canadiens +1700
The wild western conference features a murderer’s row of lethal hockey teams capable of punching a ticket to the Stanley Cup finals. Calgary enters as the favorite to win the Clarence Campbell Bowl, but the Flames simply don’t feature the playoff pedigree like other western competitors. The Vegas Golden Knights, Winnipeg Jets and San Jose Sharks represent better value at +500, while the St. Louis Blues (+750) could find their stock rising quickly if they maintain their momentum.
- Calgary Flames +275
- Vegas Golden Knights +500
- Winnipeg Jets +500
- San Jose Sharks +500
- Nashville Predators +650
- St. Louis Blues +750
- Dallas Stars +1700
- Colorado Avalanche +2000
- Minnesota Wild +3000
- Arizona Coyotes +3000
Stanley Cup Futures
Sportsbooks consider the Tampa Bay Lightning to be more than three times more likely to win a championship in 2019 than the next-best Flames, according to Stanley Cup odds published by the industry. However, Washington showed that Tampa Bay wasn’t unbeatable last year, and the Lightning will need to prove their ability to elevate deep into the playoffs.
Will this be the year that the west recaptures the Stanley Cup? With all due respect to Calgary, the Jets, Golden Knights, Sharks and Predators all have what it takes to survive the western conference gauntlet, along with the best that the east has to offer. Since Vegas is deeper than last season, the Golden Knights will provide the best value for those who don’t believe that the Lightning will cruise to a cup.
- Tampa Bay Lightning +190
- Calgary Flames +700
- Boston Bruins +800
- Vegas Golden Knights +1200
- Winnipeg Jets +1200
- San Jose Sharks +1200
- Nashville Predators +1500
- Washington Capitals +1500
- Toronto Maple Leafs +1600
- Pittsburgh Penguins +1700
- St. Louis Blues +1800
- New York Islanders +1800
- Carolina Hurricanes +2000
- Columbus Blue Jackets +3000
- Montreal Canadiens +3000
- Dallas Stars +3500
- Colorado Avalanche +4000
- Minnesota Wild +6000
- Arizona Coyotes +6000
Which Teams Will Earn An NHL Wild Card Playoffs Spot?
As the regular season grinds to a close, the odds of making NHL Playoffs diminish for fringe teams like the Edmonton Oilers, Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets.
The eastern conference will witness the Canadiens and Blue Jackets struggle to cement the last spot as Carolina pulls away to secure the first wild card. The winner of the upcoming match between the Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets will likely determine who’s in and who’s out. Carey Price has been lights out this season, so expect the Habs to disappoint the Jackets.
Ahead of Minnesota, Arizona and Colorado with an extra game in hand, Dallas should be able to hang onto the first wild card spot. The Avalanche own a lead over the fading Coyotes and Wild. Expect Colorado to cement the final playoff spot when April rolls around.
NHL Playoffs 2019 Predictions
NHL Wild Card Teams
Eastern Conference: Carolina Hurricanes, Montreal Canadiens
Western Conference: Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche
Eastern Conference Champion
Western Conference Champion
Vegas Golden Knights
Stanley Cup Champion
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