We’re down to the final four teams of the 2021-22 NHL season. One of the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche, or Edmonton Oilers will be this year’s Stanley Cup champion.
In the East, it’ll be a battle of the goaltenders with the excellent matchup between Andrei Vasilevskiy and Igor Shesterkin. The other angle in the Rangers-Lightning series will be Tampa Bay’s pursuit of a third straight title, something no NHL team has done since the early 1980s New York Islanders.
The Western Conference Final will be one of star power with the Avalanche taking on the Oilers. Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Leon Draisaitl, Cale Makar… This is going to be a fun one.
On to the the Pro Hockey Talk Conference Final predictions!
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
LIGHTNING vs. RANGERS
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Lightning in 6. You’re going to read so much about “The Rangers are finally going to face a No. 1 goalie” this round, and while that’s true — and good luck beating Andrei Vasilevskiy — the Lightning are a machine right now. And let’s not forget they could get Brayden Point back this series. Igor Shesterkin, like he was against Carolina, will be New York’s best hope.
Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Lightning in 6. The Lightning have been resting their wounds after defeating the Panthers in four straight while the Rangers were forced to play a pair of seven-game series. While Igor Shesterkin will keep the Rangers close in most games, Andrei Vasilevskiy will once again show that he is the best goaltender in the world in leading the Lightning to another Stanley Cup Final.
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Lightning in 7. Igor Shesterkin and Andrei Vasilevskiy take turns stealing games for their respective teams, but Steven Stamkos shows again why he is one of the best players of his era by having a huge series.
James O’Brien, NHL writer: Lightning in 7. Anthony Cirelli hammers home the notion that he should be a regular threat to win the Selke Trophy by making life miserable for Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
AVALANCHE vs. OILERS
James O’Brien, NHL writer: Avalanche in 6. As great as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have been, the Avalanche simply have too many horses. Amid the hype around McDavid vs. Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar will steal some of that mainstream shine. In the process, Makar heightens the “who is the Avalanche’s actual best player?” debate with MacKinnon. (At least, I have been having that debate a lot lately, inner-monologue-style.)
Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Avalanche in 7. This is going to be one great series with three of the best forwards in the world partaking in the action. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will give the Avalanche everything they can handle but the depth of the Avs led by Nathan MacKinnon will prevail. No one will likely catch McDavid or Draisaitl for the scoring lead as they are seven points ahead of the third place Mika Zibanejad.
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Avalanche in 6. Mike Smith is this year’s hot goalie that you wouldn’t expect. That’s why they’ll put up a fight against an Avalanche team that was just challenged by the Blues. Oh, and they have those guys named Connor and Leon. But in the end, Colorado will be too powerful, between their arsenal up front and their elite blue line that can move the puck just about better than anyone.