Predictions for Round 1 of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

Andrew Bradjan
4 min readMay 15, 2021

Round 1 of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs starts later today, Saturday, May 15th at 4:15 PM PST with the №2 Washington Capitals facing off against the №3 Boston Bruins. I am going to give my predictions for the first round of the playoffs.

Basic criteria for my selections: I analyzed the Pythagorean Theorem for predicting a team’s winning percentage and used whether team’s predicted winning percentage was higher or lower than their actual winning percentage. I also used advanced analytics from sites like MoneyPuck.com and Natural Stat Trick to compare teams — in particular, their expected goals for/goals against. I also used some other indicators like regular season series records, how hot a team is, and their playoff experience for each team to come to some conclusions. Below are my predictions.

East

№1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. №4 New York Islanders

Expected Goals For (Penguins | Islanders): 102.34 | 106.18

Expected Goals Against (Penguins | Islanders): 105.42| 91.72

Regular Season Record: 4–2–2 Penguins

I think that this one is going to be closer than what it might seem at first, but I ultimately think the №1 seeded Penguins will move on. Penguins beat the Islanders in 6 or 7 games.

№2 Washington Capitals vs. №3 Boston Bruins

Expected Goals For (Capitals| Bruins): 104.35 | 103.25

Expected Goals Against (Capitals| Bruins): 98.43 | 94.85

Regular Season Record: 4–2–2 Bruins

I think that the Bruins are going to pull off an upset here and move on to face the Penguins in the second round. Bruins beat the Caps in 6 or 7 games.

Central

№1 Carolina Hurricanes vs. №4 Nashville Predators

Expected Goals For (Hurricanes | Predators): 118.8 | 103.02

Expected Goals Against (Hurricanes | Predators): 101.17 | 104.09

Regular Season Record: 6–2 Hurricanes

I think that the Canes are gonna move on and defeat the Predators pretty handedly. Canes beat the Preds in 5 or 6 games.

№2 Florida Panthers vs. №3 Tampa Bay Lightning

Expected Goals For (Panthers | Lightning): 110.77 | 105.73

Expected Goals Against (Panthers | Lightning): 95.3 | 97.25

Regular Season Record: 5–3 Panthers

Battle of Florida. This one was incredibly difficult to choose because I can see it going either way, and I think this will be a fantastic series to watch. The Panthers beat the Lightning 5–3 in their regular season matchups, and the only reason I am predicting an upset? (if it can even be called that when it’s against the defending champs) is because it is against the defending champs, who will have Nikita Kucherov back in their lineup. Tampa Bay was an absolute powerhouse in the playoffs last year, and with most of that lineup still, they should be able to handle Coach Q’s Panthers. Should be incredibly interesting to watch what happens though. Lightning in 7 games.

North

№1 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. №4 Montreal Canadiens

Expected Goals For (Maple Leafs | Canadiens): 131.26 | 114.28

Expected Goals Against (Maple Leafs | Canadiens): 104.65 | 101.17

Regular Season Record: 7–3 Leafs

Shocking to pick the Maple Leafs to actually make it past the first round, but I think that this is the year they make a big run at the Cup and they beat the Canadiens in the first round to move on. Leafs beat the Habs in 6 games.

№2 Edmonton Oilers vs. №3 Winnipeg Jets

Expected Goals For (Oilers | Jets): 110.13 | 101.63

Expected Goals Against (Oilers | Jets): 112.41| 118.05

Regular Season Record: 7–2 Oilers

No upsets in the North. I did predict earlier in the year that because the Jets had been one of the luckiest teams in the NHL, their time would come to an end soon and they would be exposed for not being as good as their record had said. And that’s exactly what happened. Oilers in 5 or 6.

West

№1 Colorado Avalanche vs. №4 St. Louis Blues

Expected Goals For (Avalanche | Blues): 119.37 | 87.78

Expected Goals Against (Avalanche | Blues): 79.01 | 104.86

Regular Season Record: 5–3 Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche have been favorites to win the Stanley Cup since the start of the season, and there’s no reason to think they won’t handle one of the worst playoff teams this year in the Blues. Avs in 5 games.

№2 Vegas Golden Knights vs. №3 Minnesota Wild

Expected Goals For (Knights | Wild): 124.93 | 106.63

Expected Goals Against (Knights | Wild): 108.92 | 97.69

Regular Season Record: 5–1–2 Wild

This is going to be another series that will be one to watch like the Battle of Florida because the Wild have been very good against the Knights this year, but I ultimately think the Knights will beat the Wild in 6 or 7 games.

Let me know what you think of my predictions and what your predictions are! Of course they are just that — predictions, and they could (and probably will) end up very wrong. Guess we’ll have to see!

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