- Our original predictions have been reduced to rubble by another chaotic playoffs. Who's the favorite to win it all now? SI's experts defend their new picks for the conference finals and beyond.
We have reached the midway point of the Stanley Cup playoffs and so far it has gone exactly as no one expected. For the first time in playoffs history we saw all four wild cards in the second round, the Presidents’ Trophy team swept in the first round and some more chaos and carnage along the way.
Nineteen overtime periods, five Game 7s and a couple of unexpected sweeps later, we’ve granted ourselves a do-over, which was probably warranted after the opening round when none of our original picks managed to escape. Like so many out there, we were very, very wrong.
Now with the Sharks battling it out with the Blues in the west and the Bruins tasked with weathering the Hurricanes’ storm in the east, who do we think will emerge as the Stanley Cup champion? The SI staff makes its picks:
Dan Falkenheim: Boston Bruins
I don’t want this to be the case. I really don’t. But it’s the Bruins. Tuukka Rask is playing some of the best hockey of his career and there’s no better goalie left in the playoffs. General manager Don Sweeney made the right moves at the deadline and the additions of Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle have boosted Boston’s hard-to-find secondary scoring. The Bruins have had a staunch defense all season long and Brandon Carlo has thrived in his first postseason. This is all without Jake DeBrusk doing much of anything, yet. And, after all, they were the team best positioned to beat the Lightning before the craziness started, right? *Slowly walks away from prediction that the Flames would win the Cup*
Jeremy Fuchs: Boston Bruins
Rask is playing great. They are the most experienced team left. They have a great first line. Yes, they need more from some of their secondary stars, but they’ve shown enough depth in the forward lines thus far. Zdeno Charo is a cyborg, Charlie McAvoy is a stud, and having Brad Marchand to annoy people will help. If they can get even a little from DeBrusk or Danton Heinen, watch out. But the key, truly, is Rask. If he stays this hot, not sure there’s a goalie, on talent, that can match him.
Eric Single: San Jose Sharks
In a postseason where everyone has been wrong about everything, why not go with the team that has been whistling past the graveyard on a landmine-ridden sidewalk for four weeks? The Sharks’ seven-game triumphs over Vegas and Colorado have been far from convincing (and that’s an understatement), but all of a sudden Logan Couture is the playoffs’ leading point-getter, captain Joe Pavelski is back from injury and Martin Jones has kept pucks out of his net just when you thought he might be exposed as San Jose’s fatal flaw. With a battle-tested defense and a deep roster of offensive contributors, the Sharks are primed to finally break through.
Kristen Nelson: San Jose Sharks
San Jose and Boston are the only teams left that scored 100 points in the regular season. Logic tells me these experienced teams are the most likely to battle it out at the end, and logic also tells me it should be the Bruins who win, which is why I’m picking the Sharks. (It’s the 2019 playoffs and not much has made sense so stay with me here.) Jones seems to have gotten his playoff bubble guts settled and is becoming reliable in close games instead of waiting in his crease praying the Sharks generate enough offense to bail him out. Erik Karlsson didn’t have the most impressive start to the playoffs either—in fact he looked to be playing a smidge gingerly at first—but has noticeably stepped it up of late. The offense is clicking, the defense is coming up big and luck has noticeably been on their side when it matters.