- Can the Panthers avoid a sweep vs. the Bruins?
- Will the Maple Leafs finally make it to the second round?
- David Pastrnak, Mitch Marner, and Jack Hughes will be players to watch.
The 2022-23 NHL regular season has wrapped up, and all attention has turned to Stanley Cup odds as the playoffs get underway. The eight Eastern Conference teams advancing to the postseason have been matched for the first round, with the format including the top three teams from each division and two Wild Card teams.
So which Eastern Conference players should you be watching in the first round? Here are three player predictions and four series predictions.
Stanley Cup Playoffs Predictions: First Round
David Pastrnak Will Record Over 10 Points
The Bruins have been untouchable all season, and even on a flawless lineup, Pastrnak has managed to shine bright. During the regular season, the 26-year-old right winger recorded 61 goals, 52 assists, 113 points, and 407 shots, ranking him second in the league on goals, third on points, and first on shots.
👏 DAVID PASTRNAK 👏
The third @enterprise hat trick of the season for David Pastrnak (@pastrnak96) gets him to the 60-goal plateau for the first time in his career! pic.twitter.com/6NNhEasnWA
— NHL (@NHL) April 10, 2023
Pastrnak has played in 34 playoff games in his nine-year career and recorded 39 points (15 goals, 24 assists), so he’s no stranger to performing under pressure. 2022-23 has been his best year across all stats by far, so I’m expecting even bigger things this postseason.
It’s a big ask, but facing off against the Panthers, I think 10 points is basically a given for Pastrnak.
Mitch Marner Will Record Over 6 Assists
Marner had the best season of his seven-year career in 2022-23, and that bar was already set very high. During the regular season, he recorded 30 goals, 69 assists, 99 points, and 196 shots, including a 19-game home point streak to set a franchise record — and the impressive stats don’t end there.
In December, 2022, Marner rode a 23-game point streak, surpassing Darryl Sitter and Eddie Olczyk (18 games) to set a Maple Leafs record. The streak was the longest in the NHL since 2015 (Patrick Kane, 26 games) and made Marner only the 12th player in league history to record a points streak of at least 23 games.
MITCHELLY MARNER!!!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/tmxUuSHjgq
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) December 11, 2022
Going into the playoffs, I don’t expect the 25-year-old right winger to slow down. Marner has copped his fair share of criticism for previous postseason performances, but after recording two goals and six assists in seven playoff games last season, he’s proven that any drought he was dealing with is over.
In the first round, I think Marner recording at least six assists is very likely.
Jack Hughes Will Record Over 10 Shots
Hughes finished the regular season with 43 goals, 56 assists, 99 points, and 336 shots, ranking him eighth in the NHL in goals, 10th in points, and fifth in shots. His 99 points are also a new franchise record for a single season, breaking that of Patrik Elias (96).
In his fourth season in the NHL, this is Hughes’ first trip to the playoffs. While he’s been a player to watch since he debuted, 2022-23 has been a breakout year for the 21-year-old center, and I don’t expect him to take his foot off the gas in the postseason.
Meeting the Rangers in the first round, I think 10 shots by Hughes is a borderline conservative estimate. Keep an eye on the Devils star.
Florida Panthers vs. Boston Bruins
|Game 1||April 17||7:30 p.m.||TD Garden|
|Game 2||April 19||7:30 p.m.||TD Garden|
|Game 3||April 21||7:30 p.m.||FLA Live Arena|
|Game 4||April 23||3:30 p.m.||FLA Live Arena|
|Game 5||April 26||TBD||TD Garden|
|Game 6||April 28||TBD||FLA Live Arena|
|Game 7||April 30||TBD||TD Garden|
Boston Bruins: 65-12-5
Florida Panthers: 42-32-8
Prediction: Bruins in five games.
In the 2022-23 regular season, the Bruins and Panthers met four times, each taking home two wins. The Bruins won their two home games, and the Panthers won their two, implying home ice advantage will be important in this series. Honestly, even though the Panthers finished the season well, I don’t think this will be a particularly difficult series for the Bruins. I’m picking it in five games, but I also don’t think a Boston sweep is out of the question.
Since the Bruins have the better regular-season record and, therefore, home ice advantage, Games 1, 2, 5, and 7 will be played at TD Garden in Boston, while Games 3, 4, and 6 will be played at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
|Game 1||April 18||7:30 p.m.||Scotiabank Arena|
|Game 2||April 20||7:00 p.m.||Scotiabank Arena|
|Game 3||April 22||7:00 p.m.||Amalie Arena|
|Game 4||April 24||7:30 p.m.||Amalie Arena|
|Game 5||April 27||TBD||Scotiabank Arena|
|Game 6||April 29||TBD||Amalie Arena|
|Game 7||May 1||TBD||Scotiabank Arena|
Toronto Maple Leafs: 50-21-11
Tampa Bay Lightning: 46-30-6
Prediction: Maple Leafs in six games.
Toronto and Tampa Bay met three times during the regular season, with the Maple Leafs winning two games — one at home and one on the road. I certainly don’t think the Lightning will go down without a fight, but against Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander, John Tavares, and a seemingly endless list of other stars on the Maple Leafs, the Lightning have a lot to be worried about, even if the Maple Leafs historically love to fall apart in the first round of the playoffs.
Since the Maple Leafs have home ice advantage, Games 1, 2, 5, and 7 will be played at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, while Games 3, 4, and 6 will be played at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
New York Islanders vs. Carolina Hurricanes
|Game 1||April 17||7:00 p.m.||PNC Arena|
|Game 2||April 19||7:00 p.m.||PNC Arena|
|Game 3||April 21||7:00 p.m.||UBS Arena|
|Game 4||April 23||1:00 p.m.||UBS Arena|
|Game 5||April 25||TBD||PNC Arena|
|Game 6||April 28||TBD||UBS Arena|
|Game 7||April 30||TBD||PNC Arena|
Carolina Hurricanes: 52-21-9
New York Islanders: 42-31-9
Prediction: Hurricanes in seven games.
In the regular season, the Hurricanes played four games against the Islanders and won three — one at home and two on the road. Of all the Eastern Conference matchups, I think this will be the tightest, even if the records don’t necessarily reflect it.
I still think Carolina will have the edge, but New York’s Ilya Sorokin in net will be a major obstacle for the Hurricanes.
Since the Hurricanes have home ice advantage, Games 1, 2, 5, and 7 will be played at PNC Arena in Raleigh, while Games 3, 4, and 6 will be played at UBS Arena in Elmont.
New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils
|Game 1||April 18||7:00 p.m.||Prudential Center|
|Game 2||April 20||7:30 p.m.||Prudential Center|
|Game 3||April 22||8:00 p.m.||Madison Square Garden|
|Game 4||April 24||7:00 p.m.||Madison Square Garden|
|Game 5||April 27||TBD||Prudential Center|
|Game 6||April 29||TBD||Madison Square Garden|
|Game 7||May 1||TBD||Prudential Center|
New Jersey Devils: 52-22-8
New York Rangers: 47-22-13
Prediction: Devils in six games.
New Jersey and New York met four times during the regular season, with the Devils taking home three wins — two at home and one on the road. I expect the Hudson River rivalry will continue to be fierce, especially with the Rangers having pulled it together in the second half of the season after acquiring Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko. Still, I think the Devils will have the edge in this matchup, despite their lack of playoff experience.
Since the Devils have home ice advantage, Games 1, 2, 5, and 7 will be played at the Prudential Center in Newark, while Games 3, 4, and 6 will be played at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
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