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PHT’s 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs predictions

We’ve made it. After a unique summer playoffs hockey fans experience a different regular season. It was a 56-game, intra-divisional schedule that began in mid-January and ended in mid-May -- a week later than originally planned. Teams had to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic world, losing players for games and sometimes weeks.

But here we are with the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs upon us. Sixteen teams will be whittled down to two over the next two months, and then it will be only one who will have the right to hoist the Cup at center ice.

Who will play for the Cup in July, and how will they get there? Here’s how the Pro Hockey Talk team thinks this postseason will shake out.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 First Round schedule, TV info]


James: Penguins in 7
Adam: Penguins in 6
Marisa: Penguins in 7
Jake: Penguins in 6
Sean: Penguins in 6
Michael: Penguins in 6


James: Bruins in 6
Adam: Bruins in 6
Marisa: Bruins in 6
Jake: Bruins in 7
Sean: Bruins in 6
Michael: Bruins in 6


James: Maple Leafs in 6
Adam: Maple Leafs in 5
Marisa: Maple Leafs in 6
Jake: Maple Leafs in 6
Sean: Maple Leafs in 5
Michael: Maple Leafs in 5


James: Oilers in 6
Adam: Oilers in 6
Marisa: Oilers in 5
Jake: Oilers in 7
Sean: Oilers in 6
Michael: Jets in 6

Chicago Blackhawks v Carolina Hurricanes

RALEIGH, NC - MAY 4: Jordan Staal #11 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates for position during an NHL game against the Chicago Blackhawks on May 4, 2021 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images


James: Hurricanes in 5
Adam: Hurricanes in 6
Marisa: Hurricanes in 6
Jake: Hurricanes in 5
Sean: Hurricanes in 5
Michael: Hurricanes in 6


James: Lightning in 7
Adam: Lightning in 7
Marisa: Panthers in 7
Jake: Lightning in 7
Sean: Lightning in 7
Michael: Panthers in 7


James: Avalanche in 6
Adam: Avalanche in 5
Marisa: Avalanche in 5
Jake: Avalanche in 6
Sean: Avalanche in 6
Michael: Avalanche in 6


James: Golden Knights in 6
Adam: Golden Knights in 7
Marisa: Wild in 6
Jake: Wild in 7
Sean: Golden Knights in 6
Michael: Wild in 6

Anaheim Ducks v Colorado Avalanche

Getty Images

NHLI via Getty Images


James: Golden Knights over Bruins in 7 / Lightning over Maple Leafs in 6
Adam: Avalanche over Bruins in 6 / Lightning over Maple Leafs in 5
Marisa: Avalanche over Bruins in 6 / Hurricanes over Maple Leafs in 6
Jake: Avalanche over Bruins in 6 / Lightning over Maple Leafs in 5
Sean: Golden Knights over Maple Leafs in 6 / Hurricanes over Penguins in 7
Michael: Avalanche over Bruins in 5 / Maple Leafs over Panthers in 7

San Jose Sharks v Vegas Golden Knights

Getty Images

NHLI via Getty Images


James O’Brien, NHL writer: Golden Knights over Lightning in 6. Conn Smythe: Mark Stone. Looking back at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it was a coronation for Ryan O’Reilly as one of the NHL’s truly great two-way players. If the Golden Knights can win a Stanley Cup, expect Mark Stone to take that ROR-type leap (granted, maybe he already has -- but not when it comes to hardware). No doubt about it, the Avs alone pose an enormous threat -- at their absolute best, Colorado is unmatched -- but I’m sticking to my preseason predictions as much as possible. (Gulp.)

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Avalanche over Lightning in 7. Conn Smythe: Nathan MacKinnon. The Avalanche is the best team in the league. They have superstars at the top of the lineup, the depth and supporting cast around them is great, and their defense is the best in the league. As long as Philipp Grubauer stays healthy and plays at a reasonable level there is no weakness here. I think Colorado takes a highly entertaining series against a Tampa Bay team that gets a lift from the Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos returns. MacKinnon adds to his legacy with a huge playoff (and Cup Final) performance to win the Conn Smythe.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Hurricanes over Avalanche in 7. Conn Smythe: Sebastian Aho. The two most dominant teams in the league over the course of the season. Colorado has a path; they get the underwhelming Blues in the first round. I have the Wild moving on, objectively a better matchup for Colorado. For the Hurricanes, the Central has several tough matchups, but Carolina has handled most everyone there all season. They have more depth than anyone else. Also, this would be probably the most fun Cup matchup possible.


Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Avalanche over Lightning in 7. Conn Smythe: Mikko Rantanen. As long as the Avs can stay healthy, I’m riding them to the end. When they are firing on all cylinders, their opponents have a hard time touching the puck, no less keeping up on the scoreboard. Mikko Rantanen was the only player in the NHL not named McDavid or Draisaitl to post a season with 30+ goals and 30+ assists, and that all-around play will translate to the postseason.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Golden Knights over Hurricanes in 6. Conn Smythe: Mark Stone. The rise of Marc-Andre Fleury, almost a year after his future in Vegas was put in doubt, is one of the stories of the season. Owner Bill Foley once said his goals for the franchise were playoffs in three years, Stanley Cup in six. They’ve exceeded those expectations and former GM George McPhee and current GM Kelly McCrimmon has built a contender quickly, with strength from top to bottom. It’ll be a grind to get there, but Foley will see his dream accomplished two years earlier than planned.

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor:: Avalanche over Maple Leafs in 7. Conn Smythe: Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon will lead the scoring race with 32 points this season and his two-way play will be enough to garner the votes over his teammate Philipp Grubauer. MacKinnon is a top-three player in the NHL and will finally get his name inscribed on the Stanley Cup.