NHL Playoff Bracket 2018: TV Schedule, Predictions for Conference Finals

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMay 14, 2018

WINNIPEG, MB - MAY 12:  Pierre-Edouard Bellemare #41 of the Vegas Golden Knights grabs the puck as Joel Armia #40 of the Winnipeg Jets defends in Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell MTS Place on May 12, 2018 in Winnipeg, Canada.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Both of the NHL conference finals are on the verge of being lopsided contests. 

After the Washington Capitals annihilated the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first two games of the Eastern Conference final, the Winnipeg Jets have an opportunity to open up a 2-0 series advantage over the Vegas Golden Knights Monday. 

If the Western Conference final follows the same pattern as its Eastern Conference counterpart, there could be a lack of drama in the third round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Although the Capitals and Jets appear to be on a collision course in the Stanley Cup final, there's still plenty of hockey left to be played, and there's a chance two quality teams like Tampa Bay and Vegas find a way to make their respective series competitive at some point.

       

Conference Finals TV Schedule

Monday, May 14

Game 2: Vegas at Winnipeg (8 p.m., NBCSN) 

      

Tuesday, May 15

Game 3: Tampa Bay at Washington (8 p.m., NBCSN) 

       

Wednesday, May 16 

Game 3: Winnipeg at Vegas (9 p.m., NBCSN) 

       

Thursday, May 17

Game 4: Tampa Bay at Washington (8 p.m., NBCSN) 

        

Friday, May 18

Game 4: Winnipeg at Vegas (8 p.m., NBCSN) 

     

Saturday, May 19

Game 5: Washington at Tampa Bay (7:15 p.m, NBC)*

      

Sunday, May 20

Game 5: Vegas at Winnipeg (3 p.m., NBC)*

      

Monday, May 21

Game 6: Tampa Bay at Washington (8 p.m., NBCSN)*

     

Tuesday, May 22

Game 6: Winnipeg at Vegas (9 p.m., NBCSN)*

      

Wednesday, May 23

Game 7: Washington at Tampa Bay (8 p.m., NBCSN)*

      

Thursday, May 24

Game 7: Vegas at Winnipeg (8 p.m., NBCSN) 

*If necessary

    

Predictions

Washington over Tampa Bay in 5 Games

Washington looked like a different team in Tampa Bay after it finally got past longtime nemesis Pittsburgh in the second round. 

While the win over the Penguins was understandably celebrated more than a regular second-round victory, the Capitals immediately put it behind them in order to prepare for the Lightning. 

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Over the first two games of the Eastern Conference final, the Capitals fit the requirements of a team capable of winning the Stanley Cup. 

The Alexander Ovechkin-led offense put up 10 goals at Amalie Arena to create a 2-0 advantage heading back to Capital One Arena for Tuesday's Game 3. 

After thumping the Lightning on the road, the Capitals know they can't let up on home ice, as Devante Smith-Pelly told Mike Vogel of the team's official website. 

"Going home, we've got to play the same way," Smith-Pelly said. "We can't change anything; we can't let our foot off the pedal. We've got to keep going and play exactly the way we played here at home."

Tampa Bay has a lot to figure about itself as it gets set to take the road. The Lightning won three of their four road games to start the postseason, but those wins were an extension of dominant play at Amalie Arena. 

Head coach Jon Cooper and his players haven't shied away from the criticism, as they've admitted things need to improve, as Cooper and Steven Stamkos noted, per the team's official Twitter account: 

Game 3 will decide the direction of the series, as a Washington victory gives it four chances to clinch the series, while a Lightning win makes the matchup a bit more competitive. 

At some point, Tampa Bay will figure things out and pull off a victory in Washington, D.C., but it will be too little, too late against a Washington team with a boatload of momentum.

        

Winnipeg over Vegas in 6 Games 

Although one game's been played in the Western Conference final, there's a possibility it could get as out of hand as the East if Winnipeg wins Game 2. 

Winnipeg's offense overpowered Vegas' defense, which is the best remaining in the postseason, in Game 1, and there's a chance more of the same could be seen Monday. 

The goals for the Jets in Game 2 are to keep the offensive pressure up and slow down Vegas' speedy attack, led by William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault. 

The defensive focus of the game plan is expected to be put into action by Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey among others. 

WINNIPEG, MB - MAY 12:  Pierre-Edouard Bellemare #41 of the Vegas Golden Knights and Adam Lowry #17 of the Winnipeg Jets fight for the puck in Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell MTS Place on May 12,
Elsa/Getty Images

Trouba admitted slowing down the Golden Knights is one of the top goals because of how quick the top line featuring Karlsson and Marchessault can strike, per Mitchell Clinton of the team's official website. 

"We know what kind of team they are. They're fast," Trouba said. "When they build speed, they're a very good team. That's something we talked about was trying to slow them down in a way. We want to keep them from getting to full speed. That's when they're a good team."

The Golden Knights would like to avoid the same fate as the Lightning in Game 2, but they do have something in play that Tampa Bay lost. 

If Vegas wins Game 2, it has an opportunity to take control through home-ice advantage. Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant has confidence in his team going into Monday despite a drop off in production in Game 1, per Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. 

"Nobody's happy with the way things went (in Game 1) but you move on," Gallant said. "We have to pick up our work ethic a little bit and we will be fine. Our systems are fine, the way they played is fine, we just didn’t compete hard enough."

While Vegas is expected to put up more of a fight in Game 2, there's no guarantee it will be enough to silence Winnipeg's high-flying offense led by Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. 

The Golden Knights are still in decent shape even if they lose Game 2, and they should bounce back with wins in Games 3 and 4 at home, but the Jets will jump back into the driver's seat in Game 5 and then close the series out on the road, just like they did against Nashville in the second round. 

       

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

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