Nothing like the beginning of the NHL conference finale less than a day after a game 7 between two Western conference powers
The East Final – which on Friday night (8 pm ET, NBCSN) begins – includes a Washington Capitals team that never did It's so far in the Alex Ovechkin era and a Tampa Bay Lightning troupe three years from a Stanley Cup final. The extension Vegas Golden Knights – do we have to say more? – Takes the Winnipeg Jets in the West Finale on Saturday night (19.00, NBC)
Here's what the USA NATIONAL TODAY Sport NHL staff achieved when they reached the Stanley Cup Final:
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING VS. WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Kevin Allen : Lightning in seven. This is another Toss-Up series. Both teams score an average of 3.5 goals per game in the postseason, while the Lightning scores 2.5 goals per game and Washington charges 2.67. The capitals have Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Tampa Bay has Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. Braden Holtby vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy seems like a push. Take the flash more than anything else. Should be an extraordinary series  Jimmy Hascup : Lightning in six. The talent of Tampa Bay is just too big. The Lightning have star power and depth and can play a physical or a finesse game. Her top three on the defense – Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman – are the class of the East. The worry remains their penalty shootout, which continues to struggle in the postseason. The capitals have relied heavily on power play production.
More: The capitals finish the championship run of penguins, years of mourning. Is it your time?
More: Why the Tampa Bay Lightning Can Win the Stanley Cup
Mike Brehm : Lightning in seven. The Lightning have rolled through the playoffs and handled a very good Bruins team without getting a ton from their top line. Tampa Bay has more depth, especially when Nicklas Backstrom from Washington plays injured and Andrei Vasilevskiy Braden Holtby can certainly save. Also, many Lightning players were in the Stanley Cup final. You know what's needed to get past this round.
Jace Evans : Lightning in six. The Blitz crossed the first two rounds of the playoffs and is healthier than the Capitals, mainly because of an upper body injury has the star star Nicklas Backstrom in the "day-to-day" status.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHT VS. WINNIPEG JETS
Allen: Golden Knights in six. It feels as if the Jets are exploding aggressively against the Golden Knights, but how can one not believe in Vegas' stamina? They have resisted all conventional wisdom to get this far. The jets are dynamic and Golden Knights are destined.
More: Jets reach first conference finale in franchise history with Game 7 victory at Predators
More: Extension The Golden Knight Cinderella story continues with a journey to the conference finale
Hascup: Jets in six. It's a tough task for Marc-Andre Fleury to curb such an explosive offensive as the Jets in a playoff series and a defense that can not keep up with just one line. The jets are dangerous because they can turn games quickly through quality opportunities, rather than relying on the volume. Winnipeg is strengthened by his harsh serial victory against the Predators.
Brehm: Golden Knights in six. The jets will be the hardest test of the Golden Knights. They are fast, can score in bundles and have home advantage. But Vegas is also fast, playing a tough defensive style and getting a tie rating. In addition, Marc-Andre Fleury was the best goalkeeper of the playoffs.
Evans: Jets in seven. Marc-Andre Fleury has played the best hockey in his career, but the Jets showed against the Predators that they are a deep, resilient team – and one that is back home for the remainder of the playoffs.