The Tower’s 2023 NHL Playoff Picks


Sofia Nevala , Reporter

After an intense regular season, which saw many teams clinch playoff spots in their final games, the 2023 NHL regular season has come to a close. After a season that saw a record breaking year for the Bruins, another unbelievable year for Connor McDavid, and impressive rookie seasons for many guys, most notably Matty Beniers for the Kraken, the playoffs are finally here. For the second straight year we will see a matchup between the Maple Leafs and Lightning in the first round. The Kraken will make their first ever playoff appearance and the Bruins will attempt to continue their historic season. These are just some of the top stories heading into this year’s playoffs. Monday April 17th is the official start date meaning the time is finally here for the Tower’s 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Picks. 

Eastern Conference First Round

Boston Bruins vs Florida Panthers

The President’s Trophy winning Boston Bruins have the obvious upperhand in this matchup. As a result of the Panthers losing their final game of the season they dropped to second in the Wild Card giving them a first round matchup with the most dominant team of the year. The Bruins will begin the playoffs with one of the best goalie duos in the league. Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark give the Bruins a chance to win every game they play, while guys like David Pastranak and Patrice Bergeron have the Bruins offense at their prime every game. Despite the heavy underdog status anything can happen in the playoffs and the Panthers have the ability to prove that. 

Pick: Bruins in 5


Toronto Maple Leafs vs Tampa Bay Lightning

For the second straight year we will see a Leafs and Lightning matchup in the first round. The Leafs come in hoping to finally win their first playoff series since 2004. Despite making the playoffs, the Lightning are looking to bounce back from what would be considered a poor regular season for them. Although the Lightning have struggled this year and have an older team, this could come in handy in the playoffs. Their veteran knowledge and goaltending will most likely be the difference in this series. Along with that, it is hard to pick a Leafs team who has not proven to be able to win a playoff series. 

Pick: Lighting in 7


Carolina Hurricanes vs New York Islanders

Hurricanes versus Islanders could be the most underrated series of the first round. While the Isles barely snuck in winning their final game of the season to secure their spot, they are built for the playoffs. Despite injuries that proved to be setbacks, New York behind first year coach Lane Lambert, has a very fair chance at winning this series. With the news that Mat Barzal skated with the team last week, his addition could be just the thing they need to get past the steady and strong Hurricanes. Despite the first year head coach tag, Lambert has been with the Isles as an assistant coach in the Eastern Conference Finals twice. On the other side, the Hurricanes have been a consistently strong team in recent seasons, their only struggles coming in the playoffs where they have not been able to make a deep run. For the Hurricanes, their weakness is their goaltending. They will have to rely on their goal scoring and defense to keep them in this series. 

Pick: Islanders in 7


New Jersey Devils vs New York Rangers

For the first time in five years, the Devils are back in the playoffs and they take on the notoriously playoff strong Rangers. The Rangers, who added Patrick Kane midseason, finished third in the Metro right behind the Devils. Despite this, the Rangers have a solid chance based on the strong goaltending of Igor Shesterkin along with veteran players who have been in this position before, something the Devils lack. As a young team headlined by Jack Hughes and his newly signed brother, Luke,  their inexperience in the playoffs as a team could be their downfall. 

Pick: Rangers in 5


Western Conference First Round

Colorado Avalanche vs Seattle Kraken

As the Avs look to win their second straight Stanley Cup, the Kraken have arrived, making their first appearance in team history. Seattle will look to make more history by winning their first playoff series by taking out the defending champs. Notably, the last time a team made their first playoff appearance in 2018, that team, Las Vegas, made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. While the Kraken may not have the skill that Vegas did that season, the motivation is there. On the other side, the Avs will be without captain Gabe Landeskog. Despite Landeskog missing the entire regular season, the Avs were hopeful he would return for their playoff run. Unfortunately the Avs announced that that will not be the case. Colorado has survived without him and have shown that they can still be strong without one of their best players. It helps when you have arguably two of the best players in the league, Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar. 

Pick: Avalanche in 6


Dallas Stars vs Minnesota Wild

Stars versus Wild is another matchup that could come down to goaltending. Both sides have notable goalies in Jake Oettinger for the Stars and Marc-Andre Fleury for the Wild. Despite the well known names, Fleury has struggled this year while Oettinger has stayed consistent between the pipes for the Stars. Along with that, the Stars hold the series lead in the regular season only losing to the Wild in shootouts this season. 

Pick: Stars in 6


Las Vegas Golden Knights vs Winnipeg Jets

The Golden Knights return to the playoffs after missing them last season. Both teams have solid goaltending yet the advantage goes to Vegas as they have a solid two-man rotation while the Jets rely on Connor Hellebuyck. This could be the Jets downfall, as not only will he have to play every game but an injury would most likely end any chances of the Jets winning. Overall the series looks to be in favor of the Golden Knights based on regular season results that left the Jets winless against the Golden Knights. 

Pick: Golden Knights in 5


Edmonton Oilers vs LA Kings

The second repeat first round matchup features the Kings and Oilers. The Kings look for revenge after losing last year’s matchup. This will be a tough series for the Kings again as they have to face Connor McDavid and an Edmonton team that is expecting a deep run into the playoffs. Despite the strength and skill Edmonton has acquired and built the team around, they have been less than stellar in past playoffs. The Kings on the other hand are on the rebuild, trying to get back to the level of their Stanley Cup winning teams of the past. The Kings made some midseason moves that saw them trade away long-time goalie Jonathan Quick. While neither team has excellent goaltending, only one team has Connor McDavid. 

Pick: Edmonton in 6


Eastern Conference Champion

With the Boston Bruins historic season, it is almost impossible to argue that they won’t make a deep playoff run. Picking against them is tough to justify unless you are not a fan in which case picking against them is the only option. It is undeniable that the Bruins have a special team this year. After a questionable decision to let go of Bruce Cassidy, Jim Montegomery has come in and taken the team to a level not seen in Beantown. Simply, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are the Bruins to lose. They have guaranteed themselves home ice advantage as long as they advance. With a team of the B’s ability, they should make a deep run if not win it all. 


Western Conference Champion

While the West was close all year Las Vegas Golden Knights have one of the best chances to win the Western Conference. With new coach Bruce Cassidy, the Knights have returned to the success that was displayed in their first year. The addition of Jonathan Quick gives them a sturdy goalie behind them who knows what it takes to win a Stanley Cup having done it two times with the Kings. The Knights are built for a playoff run that could see their new coach meeting up with his old team in the Stanley Cup Final. 


Stanley Cup Champion

Although an expected pick, it is hard to argue that the Bruins don’t have the greatest chances to win the Cup this year. The only thing stopping them at this point is themselves. As long as they don’t face major injuries, the Bruins should have a long playoff run that ends with them holding the Stanley Cup. If they are to do so, they would be considered one of the most dominant teams of all time. Despite breaking records in the regular season, it all means nothing if they don’t bring the same skill and record-breaking play into the playoffs. 


Conn Smythe Trophy Winner

If the Bruins win the Stanley Cup the most likely Conn Smythe Trophy Winner would be David Pastrnak. A dominant player in the regular season, he will continue to play at a high level into the postseason and should play a critical part in the Bruins successful playoff run to be Stanley Cup champions.