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

Depth players Jaccob Slavin (left) and Sam Bennett (right) will clog the middle of the ice, shot-block and assist on hard fought goals at the front of the net.

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


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