Conference Final predictions for Oilers vs. Stars and Panthers vs. Rangers

With the NHL playoffs now down to four teams, we break down the two Conference Final matchups and predict who will advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
Edmonton Oilers v Dallas Stars
Edmonton Oilers v Dallas Stars / Sam Hodde/GettyImages
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Eastern Conference

Panthers vs. Rangers

How did Florida end up winning that goaltending battle with Boston? Crazy. Sergei Bobrovsky looks like he may have redeemed himself, as his save percentage has now increased back above .900, to .902. If he's getting hot at the right time, this bodes well for Florida.

You know what else bodes well for the Panthers? The Rangers have had the easiest trip through the playoffs so far, drawing the most anemic playoff opponent in round one they possibly could with the Washington Capitals, who they predictably swept. Then they faced the perennial chokers in the Carolina Hurricanes, who they beat in six games. That easy ride is effectively over against the Panthers, a high achieving team whose goalie appears to be getting his game back and who just went to the Stanley Cup Final last year and, in my opinion, they appear poised to get back there again.

Making things even more complicated for the Rangers is that literally NONE of their puck moving blueliners - who on paper are one of if not the best in the league - are producing this postseason. Adam Fox, who had 73 points and a +21 in the regular season, has only mustered 0-4-4 and a +1 in 10 playoff games so far - and again this is against some of the weakest playoff competition the league can muster. K'Andre Miller has 1-2-3 in 10 games, after 30 points in the regular season. His partner Jacob Trouba isn't much better, going 1-3-4 in 10 games.

To put this in perspective, Bouchard has put up 20 points in 13 playoff games, while the Stars' Miro Heiskanen has 13 in 13. They've both produced more individually than all three of those Rangers COMBINED. You're not going to win when you're getting that kind of production from the blueline, and having all three of them implode at the same time hurts.

Like the Oilers, the Rangers aren't getting much offence from their bottom six forwards as they have only two players - Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey - who have more than two points in the postseason. Another strike against the Rangers? Out of all the teams left in the playoffs, the Rangers are last in the league in postseason hits with 308. The Panthers meanwhile, lead all remaining teams, with 521 hits. The Rangers may have been able to coast past two anemic teams without hitting a lot, but against the Panthers it won't work.

The good news for the Rangers is they have an edge in three key areas - blocked shots, where they're currently second only to Dallas out of the teams left with 209, plus goaltending and top six scoring. The Rangers have only one top six scorer who doesn't have double digit points in the 10 playoff games they've played, not to mention Igor Shesterkin is one of the best goalies in the league, so that's a huge advantage.

However, both of the latter two items come with caveats - first of all, your forwards SHOULD put up points when they're playing against weak competition. And second, if Florida can solve Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark in Boston, they should be able to solve Shesterkin as well.

Last but not least, it's worth noting Florida is 100 percent healthy. Meanwhile for the Rangers, Blake Wheeler and Filip Chytl are both out day-to-day, although Chytl is listed as a game day decision so he may draw back in.

My winner - Panthers win 4-2

My Stanley Cup Final prediction - Oilers vs. Panthers

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