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2023 NHL Western Conference Finals Prediction
What a fun end to the second round. The best two teams in the west made it to the conference finals. Vegas dominated a hyped Oilers team the longer the series went and made the most of their special teams opportunities. Bruce Cassidy is proving why he was the best coaching hire this season and how bad Boston botched his firing. The original core on the Knights have been the difference makers on offense while goaltending has been smooth no matter who starts. Then there’s Peter DeBoer, who led Vegas to the conference finals in 2020 against the team he’s now coaching. This time there’s no bubble and fans can see the best series of the conference finals in person. In what could be a last gasp attempt to win and hold the Stanley Cup, Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski and Tyler Seguin have to go all out in a chess-match of a series. Both teams have their hands full, and many believe whoever wins this series has a great chance to win the championship. Time to break down who has the best shot to win the western conference and advance to the Stanley Cup finals.
#5 Dallas Stars v. #1 Vegas Golden Knights
There’s poetry knowing the Stars and Golden Knights face each other in another conference finals matchup. Nobody thought these two teams would have a rivalry when Vegas played Dallas in their first regular season game in 2017. It’s likely one of these rosters goes through a re-build after next season, so this is a must-win for both franchises.
The Golden Knights haven’t played goaltender Jonathan Quick and won’t specify on why. Regardless, coach Cassidy has correctly chosen who to start in net each series. Quick will be backup to Adin Hill when the series starts tonight, so there’s a high possibility we see him play some point this conference finals.
The goaltending topic hasn’t mattered much when Jonathan Marchessault, Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, and Vegas’ depth on defense shot-blocks and scores at will. Eichel plays like this could be his only chance to win a championship despite being in the league for six years. Cup winning teammates Alec Martinez, Alex Pietrangelo and Ivan Barbashev set the tone early with their physical play and clogging the middle of the ice.
This is the first series the Golden Knights will face a team matching their physical presence. Stars captain Jamie Benn’s enforces his will and takes a fair number of penalties to set the tone. While Benn targets opposing defenders, Joe Pavelski’s had the best playoff run of his career at 38. He’s surpassed both Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for most goals in the postseason for a current player. His puck passing combined with the play of Roope Hintz and Miro Heiskanen will often test the Vegas defense.
In what could be the last deep postseason run for either team with the current core players, the determining factor is depth. Dallas only has four centers with five forwards on each end, and barely eight eligible defensemen. The Golden Knights have more depth to work with, dwarfing the number of players Dallas has in each position. Factor in Cassidy being the better coach and Vegas being the more rested after ending their series earlier, the Stars face an uphill battle once the series settles in every other day.
Prediction: Golden Knights win the western conference and the series 4-1
Western conference playoff predictions after two rounds: 5-1
2023 NHL Eastern Conference Finals Prediction
What fun! The two best teams in the east are in the conference finals. On one side, the well designed, balanced and deep Carolina Hurricanes. Led by coach Rod Brind’Amour, captain Jordan Staal and veteran defenseman Brent Burns, the Hurricanes are the best and most complete of the remaining four postseason teams. Their opponent is last year’s President’s trophy winners and most formidable eighth seed anyone’s watched. Defensive leader Aaron Ekblad, two time winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and Conn Smythe favorite Matthew Tkachuk lead Florida’s charge. All three are Conn Smythe worthy after their team ousted two of the deepest and well built division rivals. Both squads will have their hands full and many believe whoever wins this series is the favorite to win the championship. Time to break down who has the best chance to win the eastern conference and advance to the Stanley Cup finals.
#8 Florida Panthers v. #2 Carolina Hurricanes
On paper, this is a lop-sided matchup. Carolina finally returns to the conference finals playing to the elite level many predicted at the beginning of the season. They made quick work of last round’s opponent and look more confident on every side of the puck. Despite injuries to some star players, the defense played well the previous round and depth stepped up when needed most.
Florida is not your average conference finals team. After finishing the biggest comeback in NHL history, they dominated a confident and well-rested Maple Leafs unit, almost completing a sweep. The most impressive feat is how stout the defense is anchored by defenseman Aaron Ekblad and Sergei Bobrovsky in net. Bobrovsky gave up nine goals last series versus Toronto and he’s the best goaltender remaining.
Both teams have high octane, physical and layered offenses. Aleksander Barkov and Jordan Staal captain their power-play units. Special teams and taking away the goalie’s vision will determine who wins each game.
The series will also be determined by coaching. Paul Maurice has made perfect adjustments since the 3-1 series deficit in Boston. The honest work ethic, playing the rinks to every advantage approach and elite defense makes audiences believe Florida’s the best and most consistent team left. The Panthers can also turn the tide of a game by instigating opposing players and starting fights. Since the infamous Ryan Lomberg hasn’t been at the center of any mayhem for at least a month due to injuries, expect his return to cause multiple stirs once the series sets in to take the Hurricanes off their game.
Upset prediction of the conference finals: Panthers win the eastern conference and the series 4-2
Eastern conference playoff predictions after two rounds: 3-3
2023 NBA Eastern Conference Final Prediction
The remaining two teams in the east had a long and fun second round. Boston and Miami were more committed and better coached than Philadelphia and New York. The Heat are on a roll led by coach Erik Spoelstra. It’s possible their run cements Spoelstra’s case for being a top five all-time NBA coach. One of these two dedicated teams has to advance to the championship round. Time to break down which one has the best chance to represent the east in the finals.
#8 Miami Heat v. #2 Boston Celtics
The second of two conference champion matchups audiences saw in the 2020 bubble, one team looks to correct previous playoff mistakes while the other has a chance to continue a storybook season. Like the other series, one team clinched an early playoff berth while the other had to make the playoffs by winning a lower seed at the end of the season from the play-in tournament. However if one watched both teams without knowing the seed number, there’s no question which of the two played better the last month.
The Celtics stumble continues despite their conference finals appearance. While their previous opponents were either inexperienced or got in their own way when it mattered most, Miami is neither. Jimmy Butler is the most determined star Boston’s starting five will guard before the finals and Erik Spoelstra will give rookie Joe Mazzulla coaching fits. Bam Adebayo and Kevin Love can counter Al Horford and Jaylen Brown while Butler and Jayson Tatum play at all-star levels. The Celtics have to grind out four wins against a more focused and rested opponent. It’s fair to assume Miami’s strengths and determination pull off another upset.
Upset conference finals prediction: Heat win series and advance to the NBA finals 4-2
Eastern conference playoff picks record: 4-2
2023 NBA Western Conference Final Prediction
The remaining two teams in the west had a long and fun second round. Denver and Los Angeles were more committed and better coached than the star-studded teams in Phoenix and Golden State. While the Lakers are on a roll and could be the hottest team remaining in the playoffs, the Nuggets are the team to beat after two dominant series. One of these two dedicated franchises must advance to the championship round. Time to break down which one has the best chance to represent the west in the finals.
#7 Los Angeles Lakers v. #1 Denver Nuggets
The first of two conference champion matchups audiences watched in the 2020 bubble, this one features a defensively locked in team versus an offensive powerhouse. Los Angeles dismantled their past two opponents to a degree where both teams eliminated have to re-vamp their rosters and make major moves at multiple positions. Denver stonewalled two highly talented offensive teams while scoring at will in their two series wins. They’re the highest seed in either conference the last month of play and don’t feel there’s pressure despite some historic firsts.
The term, “You’re as strong as you’re weakest link” hints which team wins this series. The Lakers are the better defensive team but need consistent scoring from players not named Anthony Davis or LeBron James. The Nuggets have the best scoring presence and offensive starting five remaining but need to play solid defense in order to take pressure off stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
Two factors regarding who advances are coaching and the forward positions. Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. will have a hard time versus Jarred Vanderbilt and LeBron James on both sides of the ball. Gordon’s inconsistency in the middle of last series’ win against Phoenix raises red flags the longer this best-of-seven continues. Michael Porter Jr. will struggle to limit LeBron’s impact for many reasons. The forward duo that performs better certifies who wins each game.
To me, the better coach will determine who advances to the finals. Unlike his former mentor in Milwaukee, Darvin Ham breaks down technique, mistakes and film better. He makes pivotal adjustments while planning how to exploit an opposing team’s weaknesses without overusing his star players’ health. Mike Malone has done a great job shifting Denver’s attention to play better defense against offensive minded teams deep in the playoffs. It’s possible Ham’s adjustments force the Nuggets to focus back on offense with how the Lakers are the opposite of their previous opponents. Malone might not have a lot of answers once both teams settle into the series.
Prediction: Lakers win series and advance to the NBA Finals 4-2
Western conference playoff picks record after round one: 4-0
2023 NHL Eastern Conference Second Round Playoff Predictions
The first round of the NHL playoffs intrigued and entertained many fans and analysts. The best regular season NHL team of all time was eliminated after going up three games to one versus last year’s President’s trophy winners. Toronto finally won their first playoff series in 19 years. New Jersey continues to shock the NHL world after their elimination shutout of the Rangers. Carolina proved they can take care of business with flexible goaltending and no Andrei Svechnikov. Four fantastic teams will show audiences why they made it this far, but only two elite teams will go to round three. It’s time to predict which two have the best chance of advancing to the conference finals.
#8 Florida Panthers v. #5 Toronto Maple Leafs
No one had this second round matchup even as a distant thought. The Florida Panthers led by their head coach Paul Maurice and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky pulled off the biggest upset in NHL history. The Toronto Maple Leafs finally ended their 19 year curse and got past the first round, and they did it against this decade’s reigning eastern conference champions. Both teams bring confidence, high octane offense and grit. While most would laugh it’s fair to say the winner of this series has a great chance of not just going to the Stanley Cup finals, but winning their first title this century.
Serious fans and analysts should go over film on Auston Matthews’ play from last series. His half dozen blocked shots in a series clinching game shows how far he’s come from being a pure goal scorer. The addition and leadership of Ryan O’Reilly has changed the locker room into perennial loser to a determined team believing they can win it all by executing the small and physical parts of the game on a near religious basis.
No team matured faster than last years President’s trophy winning Panthers. They also shot-block well, but there are other factors tilting in their favor. Paul Maurice’s explicit tirade after lackluster performances and losses to more physical teams such as Ottawa reversed Florida’s trajectory. NHL Network analysts have broken down the Panthers playing the side of the rinks perfectly while fresh coaching has heightened physical play near the net and excellence in reading defensive coverages. They’re behind only said Senators in penalty minutes, meaning they can fight and cause a lot of trouble no matter how smooth a game goes. Even better, the defense is rock solid with Aaron Ekblad finally playing every game in the postseason.
The series will be determined by who’s better in net every night. Florida has the luxury of starting Sergei Bobrovsky or Alex Lyon if either falters. The Leafs are dependent on Ilya Samsonov due to Matt Murray’s season ending injury. Samsonov has to win almost every game by playing close to perfect against a more determined team, and he hasn’t been in these spots before unlike Bobrovsky. Regardless of who wins, this might be the best series in round two.
Upset of round two: Panthers win series 4-2
#3 New Jersey Devils v. #2 Carolina Hurricanes
This might be the most polar matchup of round two. New Jersey defies every expectation this season and keeps making storylines no matter the topic. Whether it’s their top four offense in the league or the emergence of Akira Schmid in net, nothing seems to dampen the mood in Newark. Captain Nico Hischier and star Jack Hughes lead the offense while veteran defensemen Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Graves keep the defense steady and alert. One of the best advantages for the Devils is their loose style of play while having fun and expecting to learn more lessons than coach Lindy Ruff can teach.
ESPN commentator Dominic Moore said it best when Carolina played the Islanders at the start of last series, “Safe is suicide.” The Hurricanes have to take risks just like when they unexpectedly got past the Washington Capitals five seasons ago. Carolina has the better roster and more veteran team like the Rangers did, but pressure is building on coach Rod Brind’Amour to get the team out of the second round or conference finals.
Just like Florida and Toronto, the winner of this series will be the one with better goaltending. While Frederik Andersen will start and play more this series after Antti Raanta sputtered, the Hurricanes have the option to make a switch if things don’t go well with Andersen. Akira Schmid’s comparison to Devils and league legend Martin Brodeur is worthy praise, but even Brodeur struggled at times in the playoffs and it sunk New Jersey’s chances at a championship. Perhaps Schmid takes out another team that spent lots of money upgrading the roster. It might be harder with how coach Brind’Amour’s been in similar situations both as a player and coach.
Prediction: Hurricanes win series 4-2
Eastern conference first round picks record: 1-3
2023 NHL Western Conference Second Round Playoff Predictions
The first round of the NHL playoffs intrigued and entertained many fans and analysts. In the west, the reigning Stanley Cup champions were eliminated against the newest NHL franchise in their first ever playoff appearance. After a dramatic two overtime loss, Dallas crushed Minnesota in all but one game and scored on almost half of their power-play opportunities. Vegas keeps winning even if Jonathan Quick doesn’t start, and Leon Draisaitl had a point in almost every Oiler goal in a six game series victory against Los Angeles. Four fantastic teams will show audiences why they made it this far, but only two elite teams will advance to the conference finals. It’s time to predict which two have the best chance of advancing to the conference finals.
#3 Edmonton Oilers v. #1 Vegas Golden Knights
Edmonton might have dispatched the Los Angeles Kings in six games but one more member of south California’s franchise stands in their way. This time he has a better defense, team and coach on his side.
Jonathan Quick didn’t have to play a game last series versus Winnipeg, meaning he’s the freshest player on either team heading into Wednesday’s series. The defensive core of Alex Pietrangelo, Alec Martinez, Nicolas Hague and Shea Theodore are a more stout and formidable unit familiar with Quick’s style of play and have gone to at least a conference championship.
Vegas’ offense hasn’t peaked this postseason either. Jonathan Marchessault didn’t score last series but he’ll have plenty of chances with Jack Eichel, William Karlsson, Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone drawing increased coverage. Edmonton goalies Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell might feel too much pressure against a veteran offense that’s been in similar situations in previous postseason runs.
None of this diminishes the historic Oilers offense led by the first 100+ point scoring trio on any team since the 1995-1996 Pittsburgh Penguins. Leon Draisaitl’s Conn Smythe performances coupled with Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ play ensures the winner of each game has to score four goals or more. Overall Vegas has the better built team, depth and coaching. As both teams settle in, expect the Golden Knights to be the more determined and most physical team.
Prediction: Golden Knights win series 4-2
#7 Seattle Kraken v. #5 Dallas Stars
The Seattle Kraken did something no NHL team in over 100 years of existence did last series; they eliminated the current Stanley Cup champions in their first ever playoff series win and appearance. Many audiences thought that series would go past four games, but not a full seven where Seattle scored first every time. Scoring depth and the loss of a captain matters more than most think…including this page.
That said, Dallas is a much different team than Colorado. The Stars are deep at center alone and will give Seattle problems with their veteran playmakers throughout the series. The Kraken’s defense was fortunate they only faced an Avalanche offense pressured to score two goals or more to win each game. The Stars’ layered offense baits opponents early and often. They apply constant pressure and take advantage of inexperienced defenses wanting to score on the rush in transition. Dallas also has two of the best paired defensive lines remaining out west. Seattle’s lack of offensive stars who can drive the puck deep into Dallas’ zone and take command of offensive possessions late when trailing will be highlighted further in the series.
Finally, Jake Oettinger is the best goaltender in the conference. He out-dueled a red-hot Filip Gustavsson last round despite some early subpar performances. Philipp Grubauer’s style of movement in net is a negative against a power-play that scored 44% of the time last series versus one of the league’s best defenses.
Prediction: Stars win series 4-2
Western conference first round picks record: 3-1
2023 NBA Eastern Conference Second Round Playoff Predictions
The first round was full of surprises and upsets. Boston struggled after game four while the New York Knicks took care of Cleveland in five games. Philadelphia is desperate to reach the championship and feels they have a lot to prove even if MVP candidate Joel Embiid doesn’t play most of the series. Miami is the hottest team on both sides of the ball. Jimmy Butler led the Heat towards an upset in Milwaukee and dominated despite foul trouble in multiple games. Two of the remaining four will advance to the conference finals. Time to break down which of the two have the best chance to make round three.
#3 Philadelphia 76ers v. #2 Boston Celtics
This is the series everyone penciled in due to easy opponents both the 76ers and Celtics had in round one. However, things couldn’t be more different due to star center and MVP candidate Joel Embiid injuring his LCL in Philadelphia’s series clinching win versus Brooklyn. Embiid’s uncertain return means James Harden will be the main target of the Celtic defense. Tyrese Maxey, P.J. Tucker and Tobias Harris must make up the scoring difference and play shutdown defense against Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon. This series could end faster than most anticipate if Embiid doesn’t return by game three.
Prediction: Celtics win series 4-1
#8 Miami Heat v. #5 New York Knicks
The more exciting and least expected series in the east. Jimmy Butler dragged the Heat to round two after back-to-back franchise best performances. Miami’s advantage over New York is their health. While Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo are out, Kyle Lowry’s return helped Miami in critical scoring runs last series. Knicks star Julius Randle injured his ankle near the end of their first round clinching victory in Cleveland and couldn’t play game one. Randle might have minute restrictions when he returns. The Knicks also don’t have the elite playmakers Milwaukee does, so Butler won’t be doing everything on offense the way he had to last series. Starters such as center Bam Adebayo have to step up on offense, be the best big man on defense and dominate by the basket.
It’s up to Tom Thibodeau’s defense to suffocate any chance Miami has of making significant scoring runs, just like they did to the Cavaliers. Both Thibodeau and Erik Spoelstra are creative coaches and will be quick with early adjustments and adjusting starting rosters. Expect a long and fun series.
Upset prediction of round two: Heat win series 4-3
Eastern conference first round picks record: 2-2
The Draymond Stomp — Color My World
The next games will be a big test for Draymond and the Warriors. If the Warriors are eliminated in this year’s playoffs, then Draymond could be on the way out. With lucrative contracts already given to Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole, the Warriors’ will have a difficult time accommodating a similar extension for the 33-year old Draymond.The Draymond Stomp — Color My World
2023 NHL Western Conference First Round Playoff Predictions
If one was told the NHL’s western conference had more 100 plus point teams make the postseason than the east (despite Boston’s historic season), many fans and analysts would question the validity. While true, many wonder if whoever comes out of the conference can put up a fight against an eastern conference heavyweight. Los Angeles followed up last year’s impressive season with improvement but has to face Edmonton again. Dallas and Minnesota are favorites to make the conference finals but couldn’t win their division against an up-and-down Avalanche team. The current Stanley Cup champions won’t have their captain all postseason and begin the playoffs against the newest NHL franchise. Only four teams advance to the second round. Time to break down which four have the best chance to move on.
#5 Los Angeles Kings v. #3 Edmonton Oilers
How things change in a year. Last season’s playoff prediction was written as a sweep. Not only did the series go seven games but the regular season matchups after showcased the Los Angeles Kings being the only team to suffocate and slow down a historically great Edmonton Oilers power-play. Despite the goalie change from Jonathan Quick to Joonas Korpisalo, coach Todd McLellan’s done a better job guiding the team’s defense, improving the offense and growing young talent.
Like some teams this postseason, Los Angeles would fare better against another opponent. Edmonton will go as far as MVP favorite Connor McDavid takes them and Stuart Skinner has been the better goaltender the past two months in Alberta. He knows how to stop the Kings offense and slow down charges toward the net. The Oilers offense won’t be fully contained, but expect Los Angeles to drag down pace of play the longer this series lasts.
Prediction: Oilers win series 4-2
#8 Winnipeg Jets v. #1 Vegas Golden Knights
This postseason re-match of the 2018 conference finals won’t live up to the hype but it could surpass the potential. While Vegas was the best team out west, Winnipeg seesawed. Both Bruce Cassidy and Rick Bowness are coaches any player would want to play for. When the latter called out his team for abysmal offensive production, the star players led the way and stepped up when needed most. When Cassidy criticized the defense, the Golden Knights became one of the better units to defend against the puck.
The last time these two met in the postseason it was one sided after two games. That won’t repeat even if Vegas advances. The Jets still have an elite goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck and Josh Morrissey will lead a top ten defense against a Golden Knight offense needing an early test. If Bruce Cassidy’s team wants to get back to the Stanley Cup finals, they must learn valuable lessons and apply pressure against a team already in playoff form.
Prediction: Golden Knights win series 4-3
#7 Seattle Kraken v. #2 Colorado Avalanche
Don’t look now but another Seattle versus Denver rivalry is taking shape in the playoffs. This time it’s the Kraken’s franchise postseason debut, and it comes against the reigning Stanley Cup champions. A total reverse of last season, Seattle scores in bunches while playing lackluster defense at best. The Avalanche are also in a reverse. Injuries to captain Gabriel Landeskog, Erik Johnson and Darren Helm could present depth problems in later rounds.
Colorado’s defense is more stout this year with Alexandar Georgiev in net and Mikko Rantanen’s highest scoring year will present a lot of problems to the newest team in the league. Regardless of result, general manager Ron Francis did a great job with asset management and hiring the right people to coach up a jumbled roster.
Prediction: Avalanche win series 4-1
#6 Minnesota Wild v. #4 Dallas Stars
This is the best series in the conference. Minnesota’s lockdown defense, hot goal-tending duo and a potent offense (even without Kirill Kaprizov) faces a resurgent Dallas Stars team layered in offensive scoring depth and great defense. Dean Evason and Peter DeBoer are the right coaches for both teams at this moment.
Rivalries are the main theme between these teams. Both coaches faced each other in the postseason a few years ago (when DeBoer was coaching the Golden Knights) and pulled out every trick. The Stars’ connection to Minnesota before moving to Dallas ensures there will be many fan reactions, fights, intimidation and a lot of penalty minutes for both teams. Expect enforcers Ryan Reaves and Jamie Benn to land in the penalty box often and games elongated with a lot of four-on-four power plays.
As much as coach Evason’s Wild have succeeded and defied expectations again, DeBoer’s Stars have more veteran leadership, talent and enough playoff experience to win the series. This could be Dallas’ last chance for a deep run in the playoffs and cornerstones such as Benn, Tyler Seguin and Joe Pavelski will do everything possible to get near the Stanley Cup one more time.
Prediction: Stars win series 4-3
2022 NHL Western conference playoff picks: 4-4