Two rounds down, two more to go on the road to the 2021 Stanley Cup. The Canadiens, Golden Knights, Islanders, and Lightning are the NHL’s final four teams this season, just as we all predicted back in January, right?
We get a repeat matchup from the 2020 bubble with Tampa Bay and New York, and a first-time playoff meeting between Montreal and Vegas thanks to this unique playoff and the semifinal re-seeding.
Who do you think will advance? Here’s what we see happening:
ISLANDERS vs. LIGHTNING – series livestream link
Game 1: Sun. June 13: Islanders at Lightning, 3 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game 2: Tues. June 15: Islanders at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
Game 3: Thurs. June 17: Lightning at Islanders, 8 p.m. ET (USA Network / Peacock)
Game 4: Sat. June 19: Lightning at Islanders, 8 p.m. ET (USA Network / Peacock)
*Game 5: Mon. June 21: Islanders at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
*Game 6: Wed. June 23: Lightning at Islanders, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
*Game 7: Fri. June 25: Islanders at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
James O’Brien, NHL writer: Lightning in 6. After these playoffs, it does not feel great to go “chalk,” especially not with both picks. The Islanders look legitimately dominant, and totally comfortable in their playoff skin. But the Islanders have been killers these playoffs, so I expect a replay of last year’s series: skin-tight, with the Bolts manufacturing just enough finish.
Adam Gretz, NHL writer. Lightning in 6. I really want to pick the Islanders here because, quite honestly, I am tired of them making me look like an idiot and I want to be on the right side of one of their series. But then I look at Tampa Bay’s roster and the way Andrei Vasilevskiy is playing and I just can not bring myself to do it. The Islanders make this difficult, and I could see one or two of these games going to overtime, but the Lightning just have too much star power and the best goalie in the league.
Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Lightning in 6. I believe the Islanders are more equipped to play the Lightning than the Bruins would have been. I also think we are living in Andrei Vasilevskiy’s world at this point. If you look at the entire body of goalies left in the playoffs they’re all playing at a high level, including Semyon Varlamov with the Islanders. Vasiklevskiy is having One of Those Years, though, and I’m not betting against them.
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Lightning in 6. The Islanders took care of the Penguins thanks to Tristan Jarry‘s goaltending. They then out-smarted a Bruins team featuring an injured Tuukka Rask and some disappearing stars. Now it’s the defending champions and Conn Smythe Trophy favorite Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes. Tampa Bay looks even stronger than a last postseason, but New York will make them grind for every victory.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Lightning in 7. The last time the Lightning lost a playoff series, Andrei Vasilevskiy played poorly, Victor Hedman got hurt, and Nikita Kucherov got suspended. It would take another apocalyptic series of events to make me believe the Islanders could pull this out. The fact that I’m predicting seven games is proof of how much I believe in Barry Trotz, but I just don’t quite see the Islanders being able to get over the hump.
Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Lightning in 7. This series will be so close and could even go into overtime in Game 7. The Lightning are defending Stanley Cup champions and beat the Islanders in six games in the Edmonton bubble last season, but the Islanders are primed for the upset with four lines that can contribute. While the Lightning have all the stars in Kucherov, Stamkos, Point, Hedman and Vasilevskiy, the Islanders have been playing playoff hockey all season and coach Barry Trotz will get them close, if not over the top.
CANADIENS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS – series livestream link
Game 1: Mon., June 14: Canadiens at Golden Knights, 9 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
Game 2: Wed. June 16: Canadiens at Golden Knights, 9 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
Game 3: Fri. June 18: Golden Knights at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (USA Network / Peacock)
Game 4: Sun. June 20: Golden Knights at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
*Game 5: Tues. June 22: Canadiens at Golden Knights, 9 p.m ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
*Game 6: Thurs. June 24: Golden Knights at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (USA Network / Peacock)
*Game 7: Sat. June 26: Canadiens at Golden Knights, 8 p.m ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
James O’Brien, NHL writer: Golden Knights in 7. You know, the surprising thing about the Stanley Cup Playoffs is that we can still be surprised by the Stanley Cup Playoffs. So, with not-the-utmost confidence, I pick the Golden Knights over a Canadiens team that’s quietly quite similar: both teams hog the puck at even-strength, lean toward quantity over quality on offense, and boast big-name goalies at the top of their games. Vegas deploys just ever-so-slightly better versions of what Montreal has, which, yes, means they’re probably an injury or suspension away from following the same path as the Maple Leafs and Jets. Gulp.
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Golden Knights in 6. Montreal is a great story, and I could easily see Carey Price winning a game or two, but this seems like one of the biggest mismatches in recent semifinal history. At least on paper. Vegas is a buzzsaw right now and after what it just did to Colorado in Games 2-6 of that series I am thinking that the Golden Knights reach their second Stanley Cup Final in four years.
Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Golden Knights in 7. I feel like I’m going to end up on one of those Twitter lists making fun of people who didn’t pick the Canadiens and then they go and win again or something, but, I love the way Vegas is playing right now. Also, and this is true of anyone who would have come out of the North, let’s see how the Canadiens play against a “real” team. We all know the Canadian teams were, uh, less good. So how do the Habs fare against literally not the Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Golden Knights in 5. Vegas has turned it on after that forgettable Game 1 against the Avalanche. They’re dominating at both ends of the ends, and with Montreal likely without Jeff Petry early on in the series, that’s an area to take advantage for the Golden Knights.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Golden Knights in 6. Can Carey Price steal this series? Sure. But Vegas just took down the best team in the league and doesn’t really have a weakness. I won’t be betting against them.
Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Golden Knights in 5. The Golden Knights will be too much for the Canadiens who have been great in the North Division playoffs, but their competition was not as strong as other divisions. The Golden Knights have four lines who contribute as well as a strong defense and while Carey Price is capable of stealing a game or possibly even two, Vegas is much the better team than Montreal.