2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals
Islanders in 7
Last season on the way to winning the Stanley Cup in the bubble, the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Islanders in the Conference Finals. Now they meet again, with a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals on the line. The Lightning coasted through much of the regular season but have turned it up in the playoffs. Nikita Kucherov leads all scorers in the postseason with 18 points. Tampa has five players with double-digits in points while playing just 11 games in the first two rounds. The Islanders, meanwhile, are stronger than they were a year ago. The additions of Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac have been huge. Palmieri leads the Islanders with seven goals as they have risen from the fourth seed to the NHL semifinals. Jean-Gabriel Pageau always seems to play better in the postseason, while they have gotten great goaltending from Semyon Varlamov. The Islanders have the look of those old Devils teams that Lou Lamoriello built to win three Stanley Cups. Look for the Islanders using Varlamov to edge Tampa and advance to the Finals for the first time since 1984.
Golden Knights in 5
The Montreal Canadiens were the worst team to make the playoffs. They had fewer points than the Rangers and Stars teams that did not even stiff the playoffs, as the North was the weakest division in the league. The Canadiens have won seven straight coming from down 3-1 against the Maple Leafs and sweeping the Jets to reach the semifinals. Riding the hot goalie, Carey Price, the Canadiens have fans dreaming about 1993, the last time they won the Stanley Cup. The Vegas Golden Knights are also riding a streak, winning four straight games after losing the first two to the Avalanche in a meeting of the two top teams in the regular season. The Canadiens have not played a team as strong as Vegas all season as the Canadian teams have been in a mini-bubble, as there have been strong COVID restrictions north of the border. The destruction of traveling to the United States will be another obstacle for Montreal. Price will have to stand on his head if the Canadiens are to have a shot. The Golden Knights are too strong overall and will win this series easily.