Pittsburgh Penguins: Ten Predictions for the NHL Postseason

PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 18: A view of the ice painted Stanley Cup prior to the start of a playoff game between the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Wachovia Center on April 18, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 18: A view of the ice painted Stanley Cup prior to the start of a playoff game between the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Wachovia Center on April 18, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Penguins playoff run starts tonight!

I looked into my crystal ball and came away with these ten predictions for the Pittsburgh Penguins and the NHL Playoffs:

  1. Guentzel and Kessel will be tied for the lead in goals in the NHL after the first round.

Jake Guentzel is at his best in the playoffs. In 25 games last postseason, Guentzel scored 13 goals alongside Crosby and Sheary on the top line. Phil Kessel put up 34 goals during the regular season this year. I predict that Guentzel will take advantage of teams over-loading on defending Crosby.  At the same time, I’m predicting that the matchup nightmare that will be created for the Flyers with Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel on separate lines will open up Kessel to scoring chances galore.

  1. Riley Sheahan will play a bigger role in the first round than Derick Brassard.

PITTSBURGH, PA – MARCH 31: Riley Sheahan
PITTSBURGH, PA – MARCH 31: Riley Sheahan /

Depending on where Sheahan plays in the lineup on Brassard’s return to the lineup, he could see some serious ice time against weaker opponents. If Sheahan stays on the third with Kessel and Sheary, he’ll get the favorable matchups against defenses and would benefit from Kessel’s play. Even if Sheahan is demoted to the fourth line, he’ll have the opportunity to partner with Kuhnhackl and Zach Aston-Reese to provide some offense when the Flyers are trying to match the top three lines.

  1. The Penguins will beat the Flyers in 6 games.

I predict the Penguins will win the first two games and split the away games in Philly, taking a 3-1 lead in the series back to Pittsburgh. Philadelphia will win the must-win game in Pittsburgh, but the Penguins will come out on top in an overtime game in Philadelphia.  The Flyers have a good team, but the Penguins can create matchup nightmares for days for them. Goaltending will be a wash and it will come down to whether the Flyers are defensively strong enough to hold off the Penguins firepower. Spoiler, they’re not.

  1. Matt Murray will outplay Brian Elliott, barely.

Both goaltenders are not having their best years in net.

  • Elliott: 43 GP, 23 W, 11 L, 7 OTL, SV% .909, 2.66 GAA
  • Murray: 49 GP, 27 W, 16 L, 3 OTL, SV% .906, 2.92 GAA
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 20: Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Islanders at Barclays Center on March 20, 2018 in New York City. New York Islanders defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 20: Matt Murray /

With similar statistics on the year, both teams are going to need their goaltenders to be steady, but likely not spectacular. The Penguins and Flyers will need Murray and Elliott, respectively, to not give up goals at the wrong time. I expect this to be a high-scoring series, so the expectations for goaltending in this series should be tempered. I predict Murray will continue to show why he’s a true playoff performer for the Penguins and make the big saves when counted on.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins /

Pittsburgh Penguins

  1. The Penguins will lose to the Washington Capitals in the second round.

Statistically speaking, it seems like this has got to be inevitable at some point. Last year, the series between the two was as close to a toss-up it can get. I expect this series to go a full seven games and the series will be won on a game seven double overtime goal.

  1. The Tampa Bay Lightning will win the Eastern Conference Finals.

I’m not sure there’s a deeper team in the Eastern Conference. If Andrei Vasilevskiy is on his game and not overtaken by exhaustion, I expect the Lightning to make a good run this year. I believe they’ll have a tough series against the Leafs, then the Bruins.  In the conference finals, I expect them to be ready to beat the Capitals to move on to the Stanley Cup finals.

  1. The Vegas Golden Knights will not make it past the first round.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 31: Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) guards the goal during the first period of a regular season game between the San Jose Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by: Marc Sanchez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 31: Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) guards the goal during the first period of a regular season game between the San Jose Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by: Marc Sanchez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

This year’s Cinderella story will end well before midnight. The Kings, and their newfound firepower, will propel them past the upstart Golden Knights in the first round. Despite what will be great goaltending from Marc Andre-Fleury, the Golden Knights just won’t have an answer for Kopitar. The series might go six or seven, but either way, Los Angeles will be moving on to the second round.

  1. The Nashville Predators will win the Western Conference Finals.

After a disappointing finish to last season, the Predators look ready to avenge their Stanley Cup finals loss. After what should be an easy series against the Avalanche, the Predators will have to likely beat the Jets and in my prediction the Sharks to make it to the finals.

  1. The Nashville Predators will win their first franchise Stanley Cup.

WINNIPEG, MB – MARCH 25: Filip Forsberg
WINNIPEG, MB – MARCH 25: Filip Forsberg /

Facing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Predators will finally figure out a way to come away champions. The Predators high-powered offense, led by Forsberg, strong defense led by Subban, and Rinne’s goaltending will prove too much for the Lightning.

My full Stanley Cup Playoffs Predictions:

1st Round:

  • WAS over CBJ (6)
  • PIT over PHI (6)
  • TBL over NJD (5)
  • BOS over TOR (7)
  • NSH over COL (4)
  • WPG over MIN (6)
  • LAK over VGK (7)
  • SAN over ANA (6)

2nd Round:

  • WAS over PIT (7)
  • TBL over BOS (6)
  • NSH over WPG (6)
  • SJS over LAK (7)

Conference Finals:

  • TBL over WAS (5)
  • NSH over SJS (6)

Stanley Cup Finals:

  • NSH over TBL (6)
  1. Filip Forsberg will win the Conn Smythe.

Second on the Predators in goals this season, only to Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg will have a breakout playoffs. I expect him to lead the Predators in scoring and the entire league in playoff goals when the Finals are finished. A hat trick in the Finals against the Lightning will seal the deal for his Conn Smythe credentials.