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NHL Conference Finals Predictions:

Eastern Conference:

Tampa Bay Lightning over New York Rangers 4-1

The Rangers have come from behind and stolen seven-game series from both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes, with the key being goalie Igor Shesterkin, as New York has been outplayed by its opponents for significant chunks in the first two rounds. Their reward is home ice advantage in the conference finals, but at the price of the matching up with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion, who have seemed to find their footing after an uneven regular season.

Shesterkin and his Lightning counterpart, Andrei Vasilevskiy, are a juicy goaltending matchup, and each are more than capable of stealing a series. That said, at this point, the Lightning are the more complete team.

Western Conference:

Colorado Avalanche over Edmonton Oilers 4-2

I admit I have the hindsight of knowing the result of the 8-6 shootout victory for the Avalanche in Game One. I predict more of the same high octane offense regardless of any counter measures each team will take to slow down the other. A interesting stat I read this morning stated that the Oilers have scored the most goals thus far in the postseason. Unfortunately, they have given up the most, as well. I expect more of the latter against Colorado.

NBA Conference Finals Predictions

Eastern Conference:

#2 Boston Celtics over #1 Miami Heat 4-2

The Miami Heat seem to always fly under the radar, don’t they? Even after cementing the top seed in the conference, the conversation seemed to revolve around the other contenders, such as the defending champion Bucks, or the 76ers, Nets, and this round’s opponent, the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics are certainly worthy of the attention, with their torrid pace from February on. Boston’s surge came on the back of its top ranked defense, a scheme that plays well in the postseason. Jayson Tatum is emerging as a superstar before our very eyes, while the C’s possess stars, Jaylon Brown, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford.

The Heat, meanwhile, possess one of the best players in the NBA in Jimmy Butler, who has gone through stretches of dominance in the playoffs before when he carried the Heat to the finals in 2020. Also on the roster are capable role players Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and the emerging Max Struss. Kyle Lowry is questionable to start the series due to his hamstring problems.

Expect games where both teams fail to reach triple digits, as both the Celtics and Heat have top notch defenses. Butler will once again carry the Heat, and may steal a game or two, however, Boston’s defense is one where they may be able to contain Butler enough to where Miami will need someone else to step up. Tatum, on the other hand, has a stronger supporting cast on his side and will lead the Celtics back to the finals.

Western Conference

#3 Golden State Warriors 4 #4 Dallas Mavericks 3

Well, the Dallas Mavericks have are attention now, don’t they? That was a dominant and statement win on the road in Game 7 over the 64-win Phoenix Suns. And here’s the kicker: the Mavs will be underdogs once again in this series.

Dallas, of course, has its one superstar in Luka Doncic. While it is preferred to have more than one scoring option, I have to wonder which of the Warriors will draw the assignment of guarding Doncic. If someone is able to give him fits (unlikely), it will be up to folks like Spencer Dinwiddie (30 points in Game 7 at Phoenix) or Jalen Brunson.

Golden State obviously has more scoring punch in Steph Curry, Kyle Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, and youngster Jordan Poole. Dallas’ wings must get out and distract the Warriors’ shooting outside to slow down the 3-point threat.

I’m having trouble picking against the Mavericks in this series, however, when I look at Golden State’s scoring options, I see no other choice but to pick the Warriors. Look for Doncic to be Superman, but fall just short of the finals.