The NHL regular season has concluded and now the top eight teams in each conference will battle each other out to win the Stanley Cup and be dubbed the best hockey team in the world. With the playoffs starting tonight, here are predictions for this year's playoffs.

Penguins (3) upset Islanders (2)

The Penguins are no longer as dynamic as they used to be, but they still are a great team. Coming into the playoffs, they're considered the underdogs against a young Islanders team that surprised everyone as no one expected them to be playing in April, especially with the departure of their former star John Tavares.

The Penguins have a strong offense that's led by Sidney Crosby who tallied 100 points during the regular season and also features star players Kessel, Malkin, and Guentzel. They also have one of the best two-way defensemen in the league in Kris Letang and feature an elite goalie in Matt Murray. The Penguins have a ton of playoff experience within their roster including many players from their back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in 2016 and 2017.

Meanwhile, the Islanders are going back to the playoffs for the first time in two years and are led by youngster Mathew Barzal who's 21 years old and Anders Lee who's in his first season of being the leading scorer on a playoff team. With the Islanders lack of playoff experience, the series will go to the Penguins who have tons of playoff experience among their roster.

Bruins beat Leafs... again

The longtime bitter rivals, the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs meet in the playoffs again.

Last time this matchup occurred in the playoffs, they took the series to game seven where the Bruins moved on by beating the Leafs 7-4. The most memorable playoff matchup between these two teams comes from the 2013 playoffs where the Leafs were winning 4-1 with just over 10 minutes left in the third period until they blew it and lost in overtime.

This is the playoff series that leaves a sour taste in the mouths of Leafs fans.

The Leafs are much better equipped to take down the Bruins, but it can't be ignored how strong of a team the Bruins are. The Bruins have a lethal first line of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak that combined for 260 points and also have the likes of David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk who are strong offensive weapons outside the Bruins first line. The Bruins also have a better defense than the Leafs do and have much more reliable goaltending as even if Rask struggles, which he has at times during the season, the Bruins can turn to Halak who posted a 2.34 GAA, and a .922 save percentage.

The Leafs are also going to have a hard time facing tough personalities like Brad Marchand who's antics have been criticized in the past and the 6'7 Zdeno Chara. The Leafs haven't won a playoff series in 15 years, and that number will turn to 16.

Penguins and Capitals go to game seven in round two

The Penguins will beat the Islanders in the first round to get to the second and the reigning champs; the Washington Capitals will cruise by the Hurricanes which will set a historic second-round matchup between the Penguins and Capitals.

This matchup will be widely focused on Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin as before the likes of McDavid, Pastrnak, Tavares, Matthews, and others entered the league, deciding who the best player in the NHL was coming between Crosby and Ovechkin.

Both teams are fairly identical as each team has four-star offensive players, a superstar defenseman and a star goalie. The Penguins feature an offense of Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, and Guentzel while the Capitals have Ovechkin, Backstrom, Oshie and Kuznetsov. On the backend, the Penguins have Letang on the blue line and Murray in net while the Capitals have Carlson at the point and Holtby manning the pipes. With both teams featuring very similar attributes, the series will go all the way to the seventh game and that game will be decided by who plays the better game. In order to get to the seventh game though, the Capitals will have to have Tom Wilson stay out of the penalty box to prevent the Penguins from having powerplay opportunities.

Lightning and Predators reach finals

Back before the season started, I made predictions for the 2018-19 NHL season, and I had the Lightning and Predators reaching the finals. With both teams making the playoffs and both teams holding number one seeds, I'm still going with what I predicted before the season started. The Lightning are the most stacked and well rounded out team that the NHL has seen in a long time. It features three players who tallied 90+ points with Nikita Kucherov leading the NHL with 128 points. On the blue line, the Lightning have a star defenseman Victor Hedman who's when healthy, is one of the more dynamic defensemen in the league. The Lightning also have Ryan McDonagh on the blue line who came second in +/- rating with a rating of +38. In the net, the Lightning have arguably the best goalie today in Andrei Vasilevskiy who recorded 39 wins for the first place Lightning.

While not the best, the Predators feature Johansen, Forsberg, Arvidsson, and Granlund on the offensive front but what makes the Preds such a good team is their defense which is the best in the league. The Predators have four strong defensemen in Subban, Josi, Ellis, and Ekholm. They also have 2018 Vezina trophy nominee Pekka Rinne in net who had a strong 2018-19 season.

With the Lightning being the better and more rounded out team, they will be the ones hoisting the Stanley Cup and this Lightning team will arguably go down as one of the greatest teams formed in NHL history.

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