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

MVP favorite Connor McDavid and the Oilers have a tougher test against a more experienced Golden Knights roster that’s better coached than Los Angeles.

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 Kraken defense won’t have the same luxuries against Dallas they had against Colorado. The Stars’ scoring depth features a number of players such as Joel Kiviranta (25, black) who clogs passing lanes by the net and hinders a goaltender’s vision.

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


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