2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals Preview

After two rounds of playoff hockey, four heavyweights remain, all with legit shots to win the Stanley Cup.

The Dallas Stars made history, ousting the previous two champions in the first two rounds. Every game Dallas looks to be getting better and more comfortable, and considering they are the most well-rounded team in the NHL, that’s a bad sign for Edmonton, Florida, and the New York Rangers. Florida looks to be Dallas’ counterpart in the East, with few flaws in their game. Meanwhile, New York continues to surprise me, and survived a very game Carolina squad in the Atlantic Division finals.

If there is a dark horse pick to win the Stanley Cup, it is Edmonton, a squad with concerns again in goal. At times, the Oilers had all sorts of issues with its bottom six forwards a against deeper Vancouver squad. But by Game 7, the Edmonton team that destroyed the Los Angeles Kings in the first round looked like it was back.

The Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup are anybody’s to win, but I’m sticking Dallas as my pick. Here’s my preview of the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Eastern Conference Finals

Atlantic Division Finals

New York Rangers vs. Florida Panthers

After walking through the first round against Washington, Carolina nearly pushed the Presidents Trophy winners to the brink, before Chris Kreider’s heroics pushed New York into the Conference Finals. New York has all its top offensive weapons playing well in the playoffs, including Mika Zibanejad (team-leading 11 assists and 14 points), Vincent Trocheck (team-leading 14 points), and Artemi Panarin, while Alexis Lafreniere is coming into his own. While their defense has been strong, the Rangers will face another level of offense with Florida. Igor Shesterkin (8-2-0, 2.40 GAA, .923 SP) looks poised to stop the Cats.

In the top-heavy Atlantic Division, I expected Florida to be pushed, even after the Panthers looked pretty dominant against Tampa Bay and Boston. The Panthers’ offensive juggernaut is cooking, led by Matthew Tkachuk (team-leading 14 points), Aleksander Barkov (13 points), and Carter Verhaeghe. Florida also has an elite defense that stifled offense from Boston and Tampa Bay. Brandon Montour and Gustav Forsling have been awesome. In goal, playoff Bob is back, as Sergei Bobrovsky (8-3-0, 2.37 GAA, .902 SP) has looked nearly unbeatable at times in these playoffs.

This should be an awesome series as the two deepest offensive teams in the Eastern Conference face off against each other. I like Florida’s additional star power, and the veteran goalie edge, but the margins in this series are close. I am picking the Panthers to outlast the Rangers in six games.

Western Conference Finals

Dallas Stars vs. Edmonton Oilers

Dallas looked awfully impressive knocking out the 2023 champion Vegas Golden Knights in round one and then the 2022 champion Avalanche in round two. Dallas’ balanced lineup ate up top-heavy Colorado and spit them back out, and easily could have swept the Avs. Miro Heiskanen (team-leading 13 points) has been a force from the blue line, while young guns Wyatt Johnston (team-leading seven goals) and Jason Robertson key the offensive attack. As an added bonus, coach Peter DeBoer has veterans Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin offensively too. Dallas had an added X-factor in goaltender Jake Oettinger (8-5-0, 2.09 GAA, .918 SP), who is doing his best Duncan the Walrus impression in the playoffs.

While Vancouver feasted on Edmonton’s depth players at times in the Pacific Division finals, the Oilers’ stars did much of the same against the Canucks. Leon Draisaitl has been the best player in the playoffs so far, and he leads all scorers with eight goals and 24 points. Connor McDavid (team-leading 19 assists and 22 points) is also red-hot, while defenseman Evan Bouchard (20 points) is fast becoming the best offensive weapon on the blueline left in the playoffs, especially on the power play. It continues to not be pretty for Stuart Skinner (7-3-0, 2.87 GAA, .881 SP) in the playoffs, but the hometown hero won Games 6 & 7 against Vancouver and that is all that really matters.

Dallas just annihilated a team similar to Edmonton, so I would expect the Stars to make quick work of the Oilers. Edmonton does have a vaunted power play, so if they can make this a special-teams series, they have a shot. Five-on-five Dallas should own play, and I think that will win the Stars this series in six games.

2024 Stanley Cup Finals Prediction

Dallas over Florida in seven games

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