Predictions for Round 3 of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

Andrew Bradjan
3 min readJun 14, 2021

Round 3 of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs started earlier today with the №2 Tampa Bay Lightning facing off against the №3 New York Islanders. I am going to give my predictions for the third 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 how hot a team is and their playoff experience for each team to come to some conclusions. Below are my predictions.

№1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. №4 Montreal Canadiens

Expected Goals For/60 (Knights | Canadiens): 2.78 | 2.32

Expected Goals Against/60 (Knights | Canadiens): 2.37 | 2.06

Wow. Both of these matchups are not ones many (if any) were predicting would happen. Certainly not me. But that’s what makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs incredible to follow!

The Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Colorado Avalanche in the previous series after losing the first and responding by winning the next four. They made the Stanley Cup favorites look bad. The Montreal Canadiens swept the Winnipeg Jets after beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games.

Both teams here have experienced dominant play from their goaltenders — with Marc-Andre Fleury and Carey Price both putting up career numbers, even as they both near the end of their careers, which has been absolutely incredible to watch. Price has arguably been better than Fleury, with a higher GA, GSAx, and GSAA.

In terms of their skaters, the Knights have been more efficient offensively and defensively against arguably more difficult teams than the Canadiens. I think this comes down to Price versus the star power of the Golden Knights. If Price can have another excellent series, the Canadiens have a real shot. If not, the Canadiens will be out quickly.

The Golden Knights make their second Stanley Cup Finals in five years after beating the Canadiens in 6 games.

№2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. №3 New York Islanders

Expected Goals For/60 (Lightning | Islanders): 2.33 | 2.39

Expected Goals Against/60 (Lightning | Islanders): 2.05 | 2.03

We’ve seen this picture before. Last year in fact! The Tampa Bay Lightning will be going up against the New York Islanders once again in the semifinals, with a visit to the Stanley Cup Finals on the line.

The Lightning defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in the last round in a gentlemen’s sweep (4–1), easily dispatching their opponents in the first and second rounds to become the Central Division Champion. The Islanders defeated the Boston Bruins in the last round 4–2 after beating the Penguins in the first round also 4–2.

Like the round mentioned above, both of these teams have also experienced dominant play from their goaltenders. The Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevsky has arguably been the most dominant player in the playoffs so far, with being second in GSAx, GSAA, and third in GSA. Yet, the Islanders’s tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin have both won their own series and been incredible in their own rights.

I think this round will come down to the star power and playoff experience of the Lightning versus the Islanders — and it coming down to this makes it a pretty easy choice for winner. The Islanders will certainly have their elite coaching and veteran players, but the Lightning beat two of the best teams in the league to get to where they are, and they did it easily.

The Lightning return to the Stanley Cup Finals after beating the Islanders in six 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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