The NHL Playoffs are here! The 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs will get underway on Saturday afternoon. It’ll kick off a long journey as 16 teams vie for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
This year is a bit different with four teams from each division making the playoffs. The teams only played their divisional opponents during the regular season, giving us a good read on the matchups. The winners of the divisional tournaments, so to speak, will advance to the final four.
Make sure to bookmark our NHL Picks page for picks for every game this postseason!
We started our NHL Playoffs previews with the East Division Preview on Thursday. Now, we’re going to move a bit west to take a look at the Central Division. Check out our West Division Preview as well!
As always, odds are via PointsBet.
NHL Playoffs Predictions: Central Division
#1 Carolina Hurricanes vs. #4 Nashville Predators
NHL Playoffs Series Schedule
Monday, May 17, 8 p.m.: Predators at Hurricanes | CNBC, SNE, TVAS, BSSO, BSSO
Wednesday, May 19, 8 p.m.: Predators at Hurricanes | CNBC, FX-CA, TVAS, BSSO, BSSO
Friday, May 21, 7 p.m.: Hurricanes at Predators | USA, FXX-CA, TVAS, BSSO, BSSO
Sunday, May 23, TBD: Hurricanes at Predators | TBD
*Tuesday, May 25, TBD: Predators at Hurricanes | TBD
*Thursday, May 27, TBD: Hurricanes at Predators | TBD
*Saturday, May 29, TBD: Predators at Hurricanes | TBD
Regular-Season Series Summary
The Hurricanes had a rather easy time with the Predators in the regular season. They went 6-2-0 in their eight meetings, with five of their six wins coming in regulation.
Carolina won the first six games this season before the Predators salvaged a pair in their final two games of the season. However, those two wins by Nashville should have an asterisk as the Hurricanes already clinched the No. 1 seed in the division the day prior.
So, in the six meaningful games, the Hurricanes went 6-0-0 and outscored the Predators 23-9. Carolina made it a respectable 24-17 goal differential with 3-1 and 5-0 wins to close out the season in meaningless games.
NHL Playoffs: Hurricanes vs. Predators Prediction
The Hurricanes were one of the best teams in the league this season. Period. They were one of three teams to have 80 or more points: Avalanche (82), Golden Knights (82), Hurricanes (80).
The Predators, on the other hand, snuck into the playoffs with a strong second half. They went 20-7-1 from March 15th onward to make the playoffs after an 11-16-1 start.
Carolina is a pretty big favorite at -250 in this series, and they’re even -130 on the -1.5 games spread. I think the Hurricanes get the job done here.
Hurricanes vs. Predators Bet: Carolina to advance -250
#2 Florida Panthers vs. #3 Tampa Bay Lightning
NHL Playoffs Series Schedule
Sunday, May 16, 7:30 p.m.: Lightning at Panthers | NBCSN, SN, TVAS, BSFL, BSSUN
Tuesday, May 18, 8 p.m.: Lightning at Panthers | CNBC, SNE, TVAS, BSFL, BSSUN
Thursday, May 20, 6:30 p.m.: Panthers at Lightning | USA, FX-CA, TVAS, BSSUN, BSFL
Saturday, May 22, 12:30 p.m.: Panthers at Lightning | CNBC, SN, TVAS, BSSUN, BSFL
*Monday, May 24, TBD: Lightning at Panthers | TBD
*Wednesday, May 26, TBD: Panthers at Lightning | TBD
*Friday, May 28, TBD: Lightning at Panthers | TBD
Regular-Season Series Summary:
The Panthers took it to their Florida brethren and reigning Stanley Cup Champions this season. Florida went 5-2-1 against Tampa Bay this season and outscored them 31-24.
Florida went 2-1-0 in their first three games from February 11th to 15th. They split the two games at home and won the one in Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay then won a one-off game at home on March 21st to even up the series. However, Florida took over in April.
After the trade deadline, the Panthers took the Lightning to overtime on April 15th then beat them 5-3 on April 15th, both times in Tampa Bay.
Then, in their final two games of the season, the Panthers proved they’re for real with 5-1 and 4-0 wins at home against the Lightning.
NHL Playoffs: Panthers vs. Lightning Prediction
However, this isn’t a video game where two high-rated players can just be plugged into the lineup and play at a top level. It may take some time for them to find their legs — and chemistry — again, and they won’t have that time against a team like the Panthers.
The Panthers have been slept on for the entirety of their existence, but that might end soon. They’re the higher seed, won five of eight meetings this season, and are still underdogs in the series.
underdogs undercats in this one.