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Playoff Predictions: Round 1, the conference finals, and Cup champs

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Heading into the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs, theScore's Kyle Cushman, Kayla Douglas, Mike Dickson, Josh Gold-Smith, John Matisz, Sean O'Leary, and Josh Wegman make their picks for the first round, conference finals, Stanley Cup Final, and Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

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The Panthers managed to squeak into the playoffs last season before going on a Stanley Cup Final run. This time, they enter as the top seed in the Atlantic looking to build from last year's success. Our editors expect Florida to get revenge on its in-state rivals after the Lightning swept the Panthers in the second round in 2022, with just one editor thinking Tampa Bay can find some of its former postseason magic.

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The Maple Leafs finally made it out of the first round for the first time in nearly two decades in 2023. Now they again meet a team that's caused them so much heartache. The Bruins won all four meetings between the two during the regular season, and the majority of our editors see that trend continuing in the playoffs. However, everyone expects this series to go long.

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The Capitals have a date with the Presidents' Trophy-winning Rangers after earning their postseason berth in their final game of the season with a little help from the Flyers. The 23-point differential between Washington and New York is the largest of any of the eight opening-round matchups. Our editors don't forsee the Rangers facing too much of a test.

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In a rematch of last season's first round that saw the Hurricanes oust the Islanders in six games, we don't predict much of a difference a year later. As with the other Metro Division series, our editors have made a unanimous selection.

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The Stars captured the top spot in the West with one of the best regular seasons in franchise history. For their reward, they get the defending champs as their opening opponent. These two met in last year's Western Conference Final, with Vegas emerging as the victor in six games on the way to its first Stanley Cup win. While our editors feel a close series is likely, the majority expects Dallas to take it this time.

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The 2022 Stanley Cup champions were disappointed with their first-round exit to the Kraken last year, but the Avalanche are back looking for their second title in three years. However, the Jets enter the series with home-ice advantage after the second-best regular season in franchise history. Despite a potential Game 7 in Winnipeg, our editors mostly expect an Avalanche victory in a lengthy series.

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While the Canucks got off to a blazing start in 2023-24, it's the Predators who come into the postseason red-hot after being written off at the trade deadline. Vancouver and Nashville present the most evenly split matchup of the first round, with four of our seven editors picking the Preds to take the series and everyone predicting it to go at least six games.

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The Kings and Oilers meet in the first round for the third consecutive season, and just like the last two years, our editors see Edmonton taking the series. With the history between these two, and the Oilers winning three of the four regular-season games, this series marks the third unanimous selection of the first round.

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Most of our editors have the Hurricanes making a return trip this season, with more than half predicting Carolina as the East's representative in the Stanley Cup. Five editors see the Canes' conference final opponent last year, the Panthers, also making it back. However, only two see Florida making it back to the Cup final.

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The Stars and Oilers appear to be the most popular picks to reach the West final, with all seven editors selecting Edmonton to emerge from the Pacific Division. Despite that, Dallas has the edge among our editors in actually making the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in five years.

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There's no true consensus among our editors on who'll lift Lord Stanley's mug this year, with the Oilers (three), Stars (two), and Hurricanes (two) all receiving multiple votes. A Dallas-Carolina matchup appears to be the favorite to be the Cup final, with each team picked four times to reach the final. However, is this finally the first time since 1993 that a Canadian team wins the Cup?

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McDavid and, in perhaps a bit of a surprise, Guentzel are the only two players to be selected by multiple editors to win playoff MVP. While the McDavid (or Draisaitl) selection is a pretty obvious pick if you think Edmonton will win the Cup for the first time since 1990, Guentzel has put up 25 points in 17 games since being dealt from Pittsburgh to Carolina. If the Hurricanes are to win it all, they'll need their deadline acquisition to have a big impact.

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