Double Bubble: Previewing the Conference Finals

It seems like just yesterday we were watching four games a day.

Here we are.

The NHL’s COVID playoff plan worked great. No positive tests, great games and series, and incredible performances.

Now we’re at the Conference Finals.

The Dallas Stars take on the Vegas Golden Knights, while the New York Islanders face the Tampa Bay Lightning.

I’m going to be honest in saying that I missed the mark on who I thought would be in these four spots. I had Vegas making it this far, but that was a pretty obvious pick, so I don’t give myself any credit there.

As for the Islanders, Lightning and Stars, well I was way off. This is what my bracket looked like.

For a lack of better terms, this was a rough one, even by my standards.

Usually I mess up one thing really badly, like picking the Lightning last year to sweep Columbus (yikes). This year, basically all my picks were misses.

Anyways, enough self-pity, let’s do a quick preview of the Conference Finals.

Dallas vs Vegas

I love a lot of things about Dallas. I love Denis Gurianov finally being given some ice time. I love the Game 7 heroics of Joel Kiviranta. I love watching Miro Heiskanen dogwalk the opposition almost every shift.

But this is Vegas.

They are quite literally, built for this type of series.

All the way down the roster, I don’t know if I give Dallas an edge anywhere, even for as good as they are. Vegas just looks like the better team on paper.

Robin Lehner beats out whoever Dallas starts. Vegas’ second-line might be better than Dallas’ first, and Vegas’ first might be the best in the NHL. Heiskanen is the best player for either team on defence, but after him Dallas’ starts looking real thin.

It’s been fun watching Dallas, but I just think Vegas is the type of team that is going to use their talent to win. If that doesn’t work, they’ll will their way through, as we saw them do against Thatcher Demko the Vancouver Canucks.

Prediction: Vegas in 6

New York vs Tampa Bay

For as good as the Islanders have been this postseason, they still have an uphill battle, even against the Steven Stamkos-less Lightning.

The Islanders deserve a lot of credit for the way they’ve played. Head coach Barry Trotz clearly has brought the best out of this roster.

If any team is going to beat Tampa this year, the Islanders are the ones to do it. They play such a suffocating style. All throughout these playoffs, they’ve made good teams look bad, and even worse, they’ve made fun teams look boring. That’s a dangerous skill to have as a team.

And if any team was going to manage to break this cycle, it’s Tampa. Brayden Point could very well win himself a Conn Smythe if Tampa goes to the finals. Victor Hedman continues his domination on the blueline, and the role players are all contributing.

The Lightning excel when they can lean on their skill. Unlike last year though, they can also play a more grinding style if they need to. The additions of Pat Maroon, Barclay Goodrow and Zach Bogosian have all ended up being solid. A team that can win puck battles low, dangle you in the slot, and control the puck? It’s a tall ask for any squad to prep against.

Get ready for one of the most interesting stylistic battles in recent memory.

Prediction: Tampa Bay in 7

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Listen, I know it’s cliche to pick the two best teams in the league to face off in the Stanley Cup Finals, but that’s just the way I think this cookie is gonna crumble.

And listen even closer, I accept no responsibility for any of these picks when they eventually go sideways and New York sweeps the Lightning and Vegas implodes and become the Ducks. I shed myself of any responsibility here and now.

Follow me on Twitter for more bad takes @Matthew_Coyte