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Picks, predictions for Panthers vs. Hurricanes in Eastern Conference Final of 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs

We give our predictions for Panthers vs. Hurricanes in the East Final of the 2023 NHL playoffs.

Jordan Martinook #48 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates with the puck against the Florida Panthers at the FLA Live Arena on April 13, 2023 in Sunrise, Florida. Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

The Eastern Conference Final will pit a cinderella against a playoff staple in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Florida Panthers will try and continue their improbable run through the playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes in the East Final, beginning on Thursday, May 18, at 8 p.m. ET from PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. Here we’ll go over predictions for the series.

2023 NHL Playoffs: Panthers vs. Hurricanes prediction

This is a tough series to predict (as most have been this postseason). The Panthers are super hot and have knocked off arguably the two top teams in the entire NHL these playoffs in the Bruins and Maple Leafs. The final four games against Toronto were all decided by one goal. The Hurricanes basically dismantled the New Jersey Devils with their relentless forecheck in their second-round series. Outside of Game 3’s egg, Carolina dominated up to an OT win in Game 5 to advance.

With home ice and a bit more experience, the Hurricanes have the slight edge at -135 on DraftKings Sportsbook to win the series. Carolina was actually an underdog against New Jersey at the beginning of the second round. The Hurricanes are 5-1 at home this postseason and won every game at home last year in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Panthers have been great on the road, winning three at Boston and three at Toronto. So something’s gotta give in this series.

Florida has been rolling since shifting to Sergei Bobrovsky in net. He’s got a 2.82 GAA and .918 SV% at 7-2 in 10 games this postseason. Bob has plenty of playoff experience, which should come in handy this series in what should be a physical, up-and-down tempo. Frederik Andersen for the Canes hasn’t suffered a loss in the 2023 playoffs. He’s 5-0 with a 1.80 GAA and .931 SV% since taking over for Antti Raanta in the first round. His only blemish was being yanked in Game 3 vs. the Devils, an 8-4 loss.

The key matchup will be the Matthew Tkachuk line vs. the Jordan Staal line. Carolina employed Staal’s line to shut down Jack Hughes in the second round. We could see a similar situation, though Staal could match up vs. Aleksander Barkov, Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair. Even the Panthers’ third line is pretty formidable with Sam Reinhart, Anton Lundell and Eetu Luostarinen.

On defense, the Hurricanes have more depth with Brent Burns, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce. Those three have combined for 20 points through two rounds. Florida has gotten great play from Brandon Montour and has some more size and grit with Aaron Ekblad and Radko Gudas. Carolina’s speed could be an issue for the Panthers’ blue line.

I think the Hurricanes will be a tough matchup for the Panthers. The Bruins were dealing with injuries and the Maple Leafs are the Maple Leafs. Toronto wasn’t as cohesive of a unit and were riding the high of reaching the second round for the first time in almost 20 years. Not to say Florida hasn’t earned it. You just look at how the Hurricanes ate up New Jersey’s stars and I can see a scenario where Florida lets a few games get away from it. The Panthers-Maple Leafs series was very tight. I trust Andersen more in net than Bobrovsky. Carolina should win the special teams matchup and Florida likely has to muddy games up. As long as the Hurricanes don’t implode on themselves, they should get through to the Cup.

Prediction: Hurricanes in 6