2022 Stanley Cup Finals

The finals matchup is set. Both Colorado and Tampa Bay are stacked with stars, quality depth, defense and offense. Their power-plays and penalty kills are some of the best since playoffs began. Whoever wins the finals deserves the accolades and label of champion. Without further delay, it’s time to break down which team has the best chance of winning the finals and taking home both the Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup.

#5 Tampa Bay Lightning v. #1 Colorado Avalanche

Roster depth, brilliant captains, best defensemen remaining, prolific passing, scoring and shot-blocking. When we think of Colorado and Tampa Bay, this is what comes to mind. Coaches Jon Cooper and Jared Bednar have stayed calm and poised, guiding their teams series after series. Many fans and analysts believe this is the best Cup finals matchup in over a decade. All the action and quality play shown nationally prove it’s hard to disagree.

Two of the league’s fastest scoring and puck-handling stars in Nikita Kucherov and Nathan MacKinnon face off in a championship series even casual viewers will remember for a long time.

The two time reigning champion Lightning should get a lineup boost especially on the power-play with the return of Brayden Point sometime this series. Despite his absence since round one’s game seven against Toronto, Tampa’s power-play stayed consistent and alert. Physical, gritty play generated from Ondrej Palat, Steven Stamkos and Pat Maroon propel the Lightning to take series leads, especially when game fives roll around. On defense and the penalty-kill, whenever elite defender Victor Hedman struggles, Ryan McDonagh, Jan Rutta, Erik Cernak, Zach Bogosian and Mikhail Sergachev step up to shot block and clog passing lanes.

Colorado swept Nashville and Edmonton, two quality teams a good part of the NHL had fits trying to contain. Despite a controversial series against the Blues, the Avalanche doubled down and outworked coach Craig Berube’s team. Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Cale Makar stepped up on both offense and defense. When Darcy Kuemper couldn’t play, Pavel Francouz filled in well and closed out two series in sweeps. Pesky star Nazem Kadri may not be available to play in the series, and that might determine how physical Colorado plays in the first three games.

Series deciding matchup: Nikita Kucherov v. Cale Makar

Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar locked down Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid as best he could. The result was a four game sweep. Kucherov is much more talented, physical and ahead in his career than McDavid, adding new dimensions to his game. The younger Makar (along with Devon Toews) will have his hands full with the speedy superstar who can pass and launch the puck at any spot on the ice. Whoever wins this head-to-head gives their team the best chance of pushing the opposition around to win the series.

Verdict: This series reminds me of Jon Cooper’s Tampa Bay team that went to the finals v. Chicago in 2015: high scoring, lots of speed and quality passing, and solid defense. Injuries in net stalled Tampa’s rhythm, causing coach Cooper to second guess who to start in net for games three, four and six. They were also relieved to get past the second round of the playoffs around that time. There’s a lot of the same structure in Colorado. Unfortunately for them the Lightning played stronger teams in the eastern conference. Tampa Bay’s obsession and want to win another title will establish them as the first dynasty of the 21st century.

Prediction: The Tampa Bay Lightning win the Conn Smythe and Lord Stanley’s Cup 4-2

Conference finals picks: 2-0
Overall Playoffs Picks: 9-5

2022 NBA Finals Championship Prediction

What an exciting finals matchup in the league’s 75th year of existence. Both the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors had phenomenal regular seasons and even better playoff runs. Boston routed Brooklyn, out-dueled Milwaukee and edged out Miami. There was either a sweep or a full seven game series. The Warriors broke down Denver, Memphis and Dallas teams highlighted by stars who finished their seasons with injuries or gasping for air. That’s why whoever loses this series could feel a low unlike any other. It’s time to break down which team has the best chance of winning not just another championship, but raising a banner on a notable and memorable NBA season.

#2 Boston Celtics v. #3 Golden State Warriors

The Warriors’ Stephen Curry won the first ever western conference finals MVP award. He anchors Golden State on their first finals run without Kevin Durant since 2016.

There’s a lot to love about Golden State this year. The trio of Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green came back at full health entering the playoffs. Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole played lights-out all three rounds. Additional depth play from Kevon Looney, Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. solidify a top defensive unit and high scoring juggernaut.

The Celtics took advantage of every mismatch and outplayed every top opponent in the east. They bullied stars in every series. Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford are a fabulous four player set who take on and shut down any center or guard. Robert Williams, Daniel Theis and Payton Pritchard helped slow down forwards and offensive threats when playing major minutes. While Boston was pushed to the max their last two series, they stepped up and played their best basketball.

Verdict: This is a toss-up series. Both teams have every box checked and can convince any casual to hardcore basketball fan they can win. Yet the Warriors have some advantages Boston does not. Golden State is more seasoned, more experienced, and have more depth and offensive firepower the Celtics have yet to face in a full series. Ime Udoka hasn’t coached a team to the finals like Steve Kerr has. While the series will be fun, it won’t be surprising if the Warriors smother Boston the longer the series goes.

Prediction: Warriors win series and the NBA’s Larry O’Brien Trophy 4-1

2022 NBA Playoff Picks Record: 10-4

2022 NHL Eastern Conference Finals Prediction

We’re here at last. The best two teams in the east made it to the conference finals. On one side, the well designed, balanced and surprising New York Rangers. Led by coach Gerard Gallant, Vezina candidate Igor Shesterkin and veteran Chris Kreider, the Rangers rallied from multiple two game deficits to win both full seven game series in thrilling fashion. On the other side, back-to-back and current champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Captain Steven Stamkos and last year’s Conn Smythe winner Andrei Vasilevskiy have played some of their best hockey this playoffs. Both teams 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 not just win the eastern conference, but possibly the Stanley Cup.

#4 Tampa Bay Lightning v. #3 New York Rangers

Two of the postseason’s most pivotal players have been New York’s Mika Zibanejad and Tampa Bays Steven Stamkos. Without their scoring prowess and high IQ plays, both teams aren’t in the conference finals.

New York and Tampa Bay have excellent coaches, Vezina and Conn Smythe caliber goaltenders, important scorers and elite playmakers. The Rangers won all three of the regular season matchups against Tampa, two by two goals or more. Center Brayden Point may play the series starting game three thanks to the Lightning’s quick sweep of the Florida Panthers. Tampa’s had at least nine days of rest while New York will again play every other day in a seven game series (minus a two day break if they can force a game seven). The Rangers defense got better the more they played a series, and gradually took over previous rounds against Pittsburgh and Carolina.

Series deciding matchup: The Kid Line of Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil and Alexis Lafreniere has to beat Tampa’s third line of Nick Paul, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare/Corey Perry and Brandon Hagel. Most of the third line contributors are young and haven’t played past four seasons in the NHL. All of them will be tasked with major minutes and contributing not just in scoring but in momentum swings, blocked shots and physical defensive play.

Verdict: New York seems to play better when they have a series deficit versus their opponents. However they’ll be playing against the most qualified opponent who’s proven to win critical games both on the road and at home. The Lightning’s hungry new additions of Perry, Paul, Bellemare and of course Andre Vasilevskiy’s elite play after a loss or in a game seven doesn’t give the Rangers many options to string consecutive wins together. Tampa doesn’t like to dither with teams when they lead two games in a series.

Prediction: Lightning win series 4-2

Eastern conference playoff predictions after two rounds: 5-1