The 2019 Stanley Cup Finals


Did anyone expect the 102nd Stanley Cup Final to be between what was then the last place team in the National Hockey League in early January and a second fiddle team in the Atlantic Division all season? Probably not, but it makes for a great story. The St. Louis Blues won their three previous series in a minimum of six games at least and went toe-to-toe with their rivals the Dallas Stars in probably the most physical and exhausting play before winning in double overtime. The Boston Bruins slugged it out with their Original Six rival Toronto Maple Leafs before cruising past the Columbus Blue Jackets and sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes. With the adversity, constant questioning and celebrations between both these two winning their conferences, what should we expect in the Championship Series?

#3 Boston Bruins v. #4 St. Louis Blues

These teams played only twice during the regular season; one game was a blowout and the other ended in a shootout. Suffice to say, anything could happen. This much is certain: the series will come down to which goaltender blinks first. Jordan Binnington doesn’t look like a rookie at all as he’s helped the Blues rack up wins on the road under his constant focus and poise. Jaden Schwartz has stayed consistent in every round and could win the Conn Smythe (awarded to the most valuable player in the Finals and playoffs) Trophy if the Blues win the Cup.

The Bruins have a veteran net-minder in Tuukka Rask, who has given Boston a number three ranking in GA (goals against), made sure Boston had a cushion in two elimination games against Toronto and slammed the door shut on any chance Columbus and Carolina had on advancing to the Finals. While many have criticized Rask for past playoff performances, he’s made sure the Bruins get to the Finals twice during his tenure. While Zdeno Chara has been injured, the depth the Bruins have has again shown up and their top players in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have gotten better as their postseason stretches on.

What to watch for: Outside of which goaltender will win the stare-down, this matchup will resemble what most saw in the Dallas-St. Louis series: physicality, great coverage against offensive threats and for both teams to show off how deep their rosters are. While Dallas was a fantastic defensive team, Boston seemed more evenly balanced on both sides but made sure they could hit their opponents hard enough to knock them out of rhythm, something that frustrated the Maple Leafs and snuffed out Columbus. This could be hard to implement as St. Louis did the same thing to San Jose last round and pushed back hard against both Winnipeg and Dallas. One thing Dallas captain Jamie Benn did which helped Dallas take a game in St. Louis was to give his team an even four-on-four by snuffing out star player Vladimir Tarasenko. Dallas overwhelmed St. Louis and they scored three goals in the first period. Expect Boston to use a tactic like this if they get behind early.

Prediction: This may be the hardest prediction since the second round. Look for both teams to split the first four games, as that should give some clarity on how both will play each other. Both these teams want it badly, but St. Louis has the more meaningful chance since they haven’t been to the Cup Finals in decades and they’ve lost the times they went before. These Blues look more focused than previous years and they look to have shaken off those awful memories earlier in the decade. Blues win the 102nd Stanley Cup Finals 4-2 with Jaden Schwartz winning the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Conference Finals Prediction Record: 1-1



NBA Eastern Conference Championship Playoff Prediction

The second round of the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs were pretty polar. The Bucks dismantled the Celtics in five games (three of their five wins were decisive), whereas the Raptors had a dazzling last-second win over the 76ers in a full seven games. Although the Raptors had to beat the Sixers by winning that critical seventh game, they showed in most of the series why they were the second seed in the East. In the case of Milwaukee, they didn’t look too vulnerable against Boston as many predicted. The Bucks dropped a home game but laid waste to the Celtics in three of the next four. Will the Bucks trip up against Toronto and let the Raptors go to their first Championship ever or will they continue their steamroll to the Finals? Time to break down what could be a conference championship for the ages.


#1 Milwaukee Bucks v. #2 Toronto Raptors

The Bucks have a lot in their arsenal ranging from colossus Giannis Antetokounmpo and helpers Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez to bench depth in Ersan Ilyasova, Nikola Mirotic, Pau Gasol and Sterling Brown. The Bucks can do a lot of damage in a lot of ways: three-point shooting, power offense and heavy defense to name a few. Something that may help the Bucks could be the amount of rest they’ve had (they were the first team to advance to the next round in either Conference) in case this goes a full seven games.

The Raptors have a true star in Kawhi Leonard, as he gave the Raptors a shot of a lifetime to put the Sixers away in Toronto. He’s had plenty of help however with big men Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, as well as Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Danny Green (all except Ibaka are starters). Backups Jodie Meeks and Patrick McCaw can help open up the offense and help defensively if needed. Since Toronto went a full seven games against Philadelphia, they haven’t had as much rest and unfortunately for them, will not have home court advantage as the Bucks were the top seed in the East. Something they can feel good about is handling adversity (specifically last round against the 76ers), something Milwaukee has yet to face.

The biggest difference between these two teams is experience, especially for the star players on both teams. Giannis has yet to play this deep in the playoffs, whereas Kawhi was 2014 Finals MVP when he was with the Spurs. The Raptors have been to the Eastern Conference Finals before and are eager to break past this round and get to their first championship appearance. Even if the Bucks win this round, they’re going to take heavy fire from a veteran team that won’t back down.

Prediction: Raptors win series 4-3

Eastern Conference Second Round Predictions: 2-0

NBA Western Conference Championship Playoff Prediction

Unlike in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, the Western Conference’s series went to a minimum of six games before we knew what team was the first to advance. The teams that are left have taken hits to their rosters but are still going strong thanks to the talented core that’s carried them. While the Golden State Warriors may be the favorite to go back with two of their stars returning in this series, the Portland Trailblazers will provide a challenge, even when Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins come back into the lineup. Will Portland have enough to take down the Warriors, or will the Warriors cruise to another Championship appearance?

#1 Golden State Warriors v. #3 Portland Trailblazers

The Warriors held off the Rockets in Game 6 with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala leading the way. While Stephen and Andre are playing hurt, Klay was able to step up when it mattered, and all four had a game to remember. Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins will come back as the series progresses, and if they can get back to how they played before Cousins went down in the first round, there’s no stopping them.

For the Trailblazers, they’ve stayed relatively healthy throughout the playoffs, losing only Rodney Hood in the Game Seven against Denver (Jusuf Nurkic was out before the playoffs started). While Enes Kanter has been banged up, like Iguodala and Curry for the Warriors, he has played quality minutes and is a difference maker on defense.

The backcourt matchups of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum v. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will be exciting to watch. Beyond that, Portland have Kanter, Seth Curry and Al-Farouq Aminu, who are either their next highest scorers or their biggest threats offensively or defensively. The Warriors in contrast have Shaun Livingston, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Kevon Looney, and this is before factoring in how DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant will return this series, just not as soon as we thought.

Overall analysis: This looks to be a lopsided matchup, and not one that favors the Trailblazers. The Warriors have had more rest, more time to prepare and have the better depth. A lot of people will be focused on which backcourt does better, but it comes down to how well Portland can lock up Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. Once Durant and Cousins return, this will probably be a quick series.

Prediction: Warriors win series 4-1

NHL Western Conference Championship Playoff Prediction

The second round of the NHL playoffs were as exciting as could possibly be. Ben Bishop had over 50 saves before giving up the game winning goal to Patrick Maroon to close up the Blues and Stars series. The other series between the Colorado Avalanche and the San Jose Sharks came down to a full seven games before the Sharks won by one goal. The Sharks got healthier and stronger while the Blues were tested by their division rivals and made the changes necessary. These two teams will have another stellar conference championship series, with the winner probably taking possibly another seventh game. Time to predict who’ll possibly reach the Stanley Cup Finals from the Western Conference.

Western Semi-Conference Final Picks: 1-1


The last game these teams played was back when Jake Allen started Saturday, March 9th. An overtime win for the Sharks with only 17 saves out of 19 attempts for Martin Jones can offer a glimpse of what we may see throughout the series. Three star players sat out that game: Vladimir Tarasenko for the Blues, and Evander Kane and Erik Karlsson for the Sharks.

The biggest difference for these two teams are the goaltenders. Martin Jones has been battered throughout the postseason and had a rough regular season before that. However, he’s shown up when it matters most, especially in the two Game Seven’s the Sharks have been in. This series may be played with who’s got the more talented and carefully used depth outside the net than the reverse. Both teams haven’t had a lot of time to prepare for the first two games (which will be played in the SAP Center in San Jose), which may affect how the Blues play. This is going to be important because star net-minder Jordan Binnington hasn’t been rested once yet throughout the playoffs, whereas Martin Jones was pulled three out of seven games in the first round. Joe Pavelski didn’t seem to miss a step in his return in Game Seven and star free-agent signee Erik Karlsson looks like himself for the first time in three months, which means the Sharks defense could get confident and aggressive.

If the St. Louis Blues don’t start off well the first two games, they’re going to have to find ways to climb back into the series. They were good with physicality against Dallas, they’ve proven they can win critical road games (they’ve won five combined in the first two rounds) and Craig Berube has done his magic with lineup changes. This is going to be a series worth watching.

Prediction: Sharks win series 4-3


NHL Eastern Conference Championship Playoff Prediction

The second round for the Eastern Conference in the National Hockey League playoffs  didn’t have the upsets the first round did, but did have surprises and intensity. After playing the equivalent of three games in the first two, Boston took control after losing Game Three in Columbus, with their stars stepping up and suffocating Columbus’ offense in Games Five and Six. As for the Carolina Hurricanes, despite losing Petr Mrazek in Game Two, were aggressive and punished the Islanders every chance they got. They were able to get into Robin Lehner’s head in Game Four and scored three times before he was pulled midway into the second period, cementing a sweep. So which team will represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup? Time for the prediction.



First Round Predictions in the East: 2-2

#3 Boston Bruins v. #7/WC1 Carolina Hurricanes


It’s fitting this is the matchup. While it’s not what anyone expected, both teams’ rosters are focused around being close on and off the ice. Both are physical and rely on defense. Both play with passion and know when to step their games up, especially in third periods. Tuukka Rask wants to start and win a Cup badly. The Canes haven’t gone nor been in a Conference Final since 2009, and they had some extra rest.


Two big things stand out in this matchup: Goaltending and home ice. Rask has gotten better especially in the later rounds of the first two series. It’s been the opposite for Carolina, where Mrazek was hurt in Game Two against the Isles. Curtis McElhinney, who’s 35 years old, played most of the second round and led the Canes to a sweep. Carolina’s defense helped McElhinney quite a bit, but he was fluid and flexible on the ice and showed up when it mattered most. As of when this post was published, said Mrazek will probably start the first game in Boston.

The Hurricanes have gone 5-0 at home in the playoffs, all of those wins coming against the top two teams in the Metropolitan division, the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders. The home crowd has had an impact but this is where the Hurricanes have played their best hockey. It’s quite possible they win all their home games against Boston and push this to seven. The Bruins played their cards right and did well on the road in the first two series, losing the first road game in both and then going 2-0 after. Carolina feels different than in both Toronto (a more confident and balanced team) and Columbus (first time the Jackets reached the second round in franchise history). If Rask gets hot after Game Three with a stellar game four, this series will make it easier to pick.



Conference Final Prediction: Bruins win series 4-3