2022 Stanley Cup playoffs — Answering the big questions heading into conference semifinals round

The 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs They are now down to their last four teams as the New York Rangers And Tampa Bay Lightning While the East may be the stronger, the East will remain the victorious. Colorado Avalanche And Edmonton Oilers Match up in the West — even if Game 1 is of That If series is an indication, we are in for wild series.

The first two rounds were fantastic, too. Some of the biggest stars in the game have shined their brightest, some pending agents have made some serious money, and there are new postseason heroes.

As the penultimate rounds of the tournament get rolling, we answer the most pressing questions — and look ahead to the Stanley Cup Finale as well as the offseason.

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2022 Stanley Cup playoffs -- Answering the big questions heading into conference semifinals round

Why is the Lightning so great in the playoffs Is it possible that they are just destined for three consecutive Cups?

If you can sweep the Presidents Trophy winner without any of your top players,Brayden Point(then you're definitely destined to be something special). Their past failures have been a major part of Lightning's success. They were the best regular season team in 2019 got swept out of the playoffs They were surprised by the team they didn't expect (Columbus Blue Jackets). They came up with a solution to make sure that this does not happen again.

Tampa Bay is just as well-constructed and well-coached as it is talented. The roster has a lot of big-time players that know how to make big plays in big games. Production is everywhere. Their goalie is the most important. Andrei VasilevskiyThis time of year, it is possible to get into a frighteningly-stingy groove.

With the Lightning having won and again won, they no longer have the core struggle that teams long for. The Lightning have had their internal battles. It's not unusual for Lightning players to shout at each other or the coaching staff in Tampa. This trust and confidence allows them to win over any opponent. Lightning's determination and will to win are evident. It's evident in the way their best players abandon their bodies for blocking shots, returning to the bench and always finding a way back to fight for one another.

It is Igor Shesterkin To be the guy who can take the Rangers on an almost daily basis?

The short answer: Yes. Short answer: Yes. Then he pointed to Vasilevskiy's mural celebrating the Stanley Cup, where he was accompanied by his teammates. Cooper replied, “But until that happens,” Cooper stated, “my guy's the best.”

Shesterkin's start in the postseason was not a good one. However, Shesterkin, who is a likely Vezina winner, has rebounded strongly, posting a.949 save percent against Carolina in this round. Shesterkin held the Rangers back from giving up too many quality chances, but they were unable to win.

Shesterkin's 26-year-old age and his high-level professional and high level experience are important. He was not the main starter for any of his KHL teams, nor the Russia national team. He has often had to share the net. Maybe the playoffs required mental adjustment.

Gerard Gallant, the Rangers' coach, is a thing I have always appreciated. Gallant, after winning the Carolina series, admitted that although he didn't mind asking about “experience” for his team against Pittsburgh in the first round, he was actually concerned about it. It's not a problem anymore.

Gallant also said that he pulled Shesterkin twice in straight games against Penguins because he wanted him to be confident and keep him mentally healthy. This decision paid off as Shesterkin is confident and competent entering the thrilling matchup with Vasilevskiy.

What are some of the on-ice trends that you saw in this postseason

Although we have seen some outstanding goaltending performances this season, it is all about offense. You'll see more of this in the Western Conference finals between Colorado Avalanche & Edmonton Oilers. Game 1 was clearly on-trend there.

The Battle of Alberta certainly helped to skew the numbers. It had been 34 year since there was a series of 45 goals that lasted five games.

Another trend is that no team can win unless they're winning. It is really Out of it is what the Rangers seem to believe, as they have gone 5-0 in eliminations games this spring. Nearly 40% (28 out of 73) of the games have seen a team come back from a loss to win.

How about officiating?

Everyone will complain about officiating. It's the NHL. It's the playoffs. One thing is clear: The refs aren't giving up. Recently, this trend has been evident. In 8 of the 10 seasons that have passed, power-play opportunities in playoffs games were greater than regular season. There are a lot of penalties being called in big games. Just in the first period, there were four penalties (two for each side) in Game 7, between the Hurricanes & Rangers on Monday.

High hits that don't directly target the head are one thing that has not been neglected. These situations have seen the most frequent hitter as “Alfredo,” Jacob Trouba. Rangers defenseman imposed hits against Sidney CrosbyThe Penguins captain was unable to play in Game 6 of the first round due to injury. Seth JarvisThe Canes rookie was knocked out in Game 7 by,

Both Crosby, Jarvis were both injured in the upper body. Sources inform ESPN that both players went through concussion protocol. ScoutingtheRefs is a website that tracks officials and has noticed one trend. Wes McCauley was the official referee for both those games as well as Trouba's big hit. Max Domi In Game 4. McCauley was considered to be one of the NHL's best referees. He did not call penalties for any of those plays. Trouba didn't receive any supplemental discipline for those hits.

Do you have any other hot topics to share?

The “kick-or-no kick” debate in the decisive game of Battle of Alberta is still a hot topic. In the days to come Blake ColemanThe disallowed goal was all that anyone wanted to talk about at the rink.

Many players and coaches I spoke to believed the goal should have been recorded, especially because Coleman never raised his skate from the ice with a “distinctkicking motion.” Some people disagreed with me, and some people even outside Edmonton agreed that it was the right call. It just shows how subjective it was. We might need to revisit that issue this offseason. This reminds me of the catch or no catch dilemma I experienced as a NFL beat writer. The centralized situation room of the NHL was the one who called the goal.

Goaltender interference is a topic that many coaches commented on to our broadcasting crew. They dislike the way the rules are laid out, with the responsibility on the coaches to call a challenge. This is especially true for something as subjective as goaltender interfere. Most coaches are not afraid of being penalized for calling offsides. That's clear-cut. However, it is wrong to go on a penalty killing because of differing opinions on a topic that is murky. This seems absurd.

How can you describe the things we have seen? Connor McDavid So far?

Brilliance. Dominance. Unreal.

McDavid has the most pure talent in the game, hands down. Every great player does something that no other can match. This is their hallmark aspect of dominance. McDavid's are making top skill plays with top speeds. This is unlike anything else.

Of course, production followed. Sometimes, I feel bad for Leon DraisaitlMcDavid's shadow, dazzling. They are truly one of the greatest duos in league history. McDavid & Draisaitl contributed 52 points to the team through the first two playoff round. Their efforts are both historic. After Wayne Gretzky and the Fifth and Sixth Players in League History to Record at least 26 Points in 12 Playoff Games, they were both historic. Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier Rick Middleton.

McDavid aside, what other players have “wowed” you?

Seth Jarvis was not expected to compete for a roster slot when he arrived at Hurricanes training camp. The team was faced with a dilemma when the teenager became so dominant that they couldn't believe their luck. He was too talented for juniors where he would dominate and not benefit from a developmental perspective. He was also not eligible for the AHL. He decided to join the NHL and has proven, especially in these playoffs that he is a good player. He's fearless, has an aggressive game that suits the Canes and is also a scorer. He is the leader among rookies with three goals, eight points and no other rookie has more.

The Stars are the best team for goalies. Jake Oettinger He was the first-round star (more details on him later). In the meantime Jordan Binnington The Blues added another chapter to his amazing story of perseverance and triumph. Binnington's life has been an uphill ride to this point. This unique preparation prepared him to step in at the end of the first round to close out the Wild series. Binnington played exceptionally well until he suffered a knee injury that forced him to withdraw from the Colorado series. Binnington is confident in himself regardless of the circumstances. I asked Binnington about his fear of losing his job, a few months before the playoffs. He replied, “No, never,” even though he was a young man at the time. Had He lost his job as a start-up. Ville Husso.

When you look at the remaining teams, there were times when people started questioning the Rangers' abilities in the first round against Pittsburgh and in the Carolina series. Mika ZibanejadZibanejad, who sometimes seemed a little too quiet at times. Zibanejad answered all of those questions with confidence and a clutch game. However, the Rangers player that has stood out to me the most, especially when I was watching him at ice-level, is Zibanejad. Ryan Lindgren. While he's clearly suffering from a lower body injury and is having trouble sleeping, he's still very competitive every shift. It's easy to see his determination.

The Lightning were very aggressive at the deadline for trades, and it seems that this has paid off. Nick Paul fits so well into the Tampa Bay mold. Corey PerryHe is 37 years old and still scores the goals when the Lightning need them.

And Nathan MacKinnon It's hard not to think about the Colorado forward's despair during last year's elimination news conference, when he lamented the fact that he was entering his ninth season in the league and had “not won s —.””. MacKinnon turned his frustration into a highly productive postseason. Teammate Cale Makar It seems to be a dazzling sight every night. We have seen Makar make something seem so easy so many times.

What pending free agents made some serious money this postseason?

Oettinger became a household word in just one night. This is what a 64-save Game 7 performance can do for you. Over the past offseasons, the Stars have been searching for a goaltending solution. They started this season with three NHL goalies which was essentially zero. They won't be faced with that question this season. They can afford Oettinger (23 years old) and be confident that he will be the long-term solution.

Dallas has quickly transitioned to a new core that includes Oettinger. Jason Robertson, Miro Heiskanen And Roope Hintz. The Stars should be competitive in the future if they can get rid of some of their veteran contracts.

Evander Kane will have an exciting free agency. Kane could have easily looked into a one-year, prove it deal for the veterans minimum, considering all his baggage. We know that the NHL is a performance-based league. Kane's 11 goals in 11 playoff games for the Oilers suggests that there will be a general manger willing to pay him more to his performance this summer. This contract should also include an additional year of assurance.

The Rangers are the best team to hit its pre-trade deadline. Andrew Copp, Tyler Motte, Frank Vatrano And Justin Braun They have been so important to New York that Gerard Gallant, our coach, said to me, “I don't know how we would have won the first 50 games without them.” Copp has the best chance of staying in New York and I believe he is the most lucrative contract out of all the players.

Which conference finals are your top picks?

We know that the Avalanche Oilers series will be a big offensive success. MacKinnon & McDavid will dominate the headlines but it will come down to the supporting cast of both teams. The Avs have a deeper roster, I believe. Both teams have experienced goaltenders, but I believe the Avs are deeper. Darcy Kuemper More than Mike Smith At this point.

Both the Lightning and Rangers have a rich history, particularly with so many players moving from New York to Tampa Bay over time. The Rangers are proud to have a former Lightning player as a member of their roster: the glue guy Barclay GoodrowThe miraculous recovery of a fractured bone in his ankle or foot by, will be available for Game 6 in the second round. The Rangers' children have arrived, but the Lightning's experience is going to win.

How about the Stanley Cup Final?

It is not wise to make a quick victory lap. But here we are. I was adamant that my prediction of Colorado beating Tampa Bay in the Final would be correct.

We've noticed a trend in recent Cup winners: They were great regular-season teams but had to endure some playoff heartbreak before they got over it. Washington was that. That was St. Louis. This was Tampa Bay, before the Lightning won back to back titles. Although I am not counting on the Lightning winning a third consecutive title, which would be considered a dynastic run in the salary cap era and especially considering that two seasons were affected by the pandemic making it even more difficult given the uncertainty, adversity, and the time difference, it feels like Colorado's.

The Avalanche have learned from their previous playoff exits. They're due. They're due.

What is the state of the coaching market?

Each year, there is a name that teams love to hate. Barry Trotz was the Islanders' surprise departure this year. I'm told that there is nothing criminal about the Trotz-Lou Lamoriello Divorce. It was a clashing of ideologies… and egos.

Trotz would be the most prominent name on most teams' rosters. You'll often see him in interviews or as a candidate to fill vacancies. However, several league members suggested to me that they wouldn't be surprised to see Trotz coach in Vegas under a side agreement. That's how the Golden Knights do business.

That would be a wise move by the Golden Knights. Their locker room morale needs serious repairs. The distrust that existed between the players was a major issue at the conclusion of last season. Robin Lehner Lehner was not happy with the treatment he received from the coaching staff and me. Lehner is making $5 million annually through the 2024-25 season. This investment has been made by the Golden Knights. Trotz was Lehner's Long Island coach and he had one of the best seasons. Trotz is the kind of coach that can inspire and bring out the best from his players. A lot of it through empathy.

Although most teams are still waiting for Trotz's dominoes, this is early in the coaching process. The scouting team in Buffalo is where most interviews and meetings take place.

Rick Tocchet, John Tortorella and John Tortorella are two coaches that everyone believes will be on the bench next season. Tocchet's preference is to be on the East Coast, so the fit has to make sense. Tocchet was very close to taking over Dallas in the middle of the season when management looked at Rick Bowness. I was informed that Tocchet and Stars were in advanced negotiations, but couldn't agree on terms.

Do you have any other names that you want to be on the radar?

There were quite a few. Now that the Blues have been eliminated, I don't think it would surprise me if an assistant coach was appointed. Jim Montgomery receives a few calls. Montgomery, whose time in Dallas ended because of “unprofessional conduct,” has gone to rehab and is in a much different place than he was 2½ years ago. While I am not certain if Montgomery will be offered a head coaching job, I think there will be some interest.

Kirk Mueller could also get some attention after Calgary's expulsion. Mike Vellucci has already proven that he is capable of winning as an OHL head coach and is beginning to generate buzz. Spencer Carbery, who was an assistant in Toronto last year, is another up-and coming name. It's clear that owners and general managers are now more open to including women and minorities in their hiring process. This is the Jim Rutherford effect.

Todd Woodcroft is it? Andrew Brunette Are you looking for a permanent job as a head-coach?

Connor McDavid making it to the conference finals for the first time in seven years. Woodcroft has been awarded a contract because of this. Woodcroft may have secured the job with his restructured defense of the Oilers — to have structure — and maximization of the talents around McDavid, Draisaitl. Woodcroft is the right choice for Edmonton, as he has done it all using subpar goaltending.

Brunette? Brunette deserves to be the permanent head coach in Florida. A disappointing second round exit from a Presidents’ Trophy-winning team is no surprise — especially considering that Florida's offense was the most prolific since the 1990s Penguins. Brunette assumed control in challenging circumstances. departure Joel Quenneville (future Hall of Famer) helped the team maintain its momentum and propel it to new heights.

Brunette's coaching style was well received by players, and I sensed that they respected him. Brunette and I are not sure how this will play out. Maybe the owners are looking to hire an experienced coach or petition the league for Quenneville's return. The time was right for Florida to go all in this past season, with extensions to Aleksander Barrkov and Carter Verhaeghe The new year is upon us. This summer will be a time for big decisions all around.

Let's look at some of the teams that were eliminated. What will happen to the Penguins this summer

The Penguins are my favorite story in the NHL right at the moment. Pittsburgh had tried to fight the storyline about this being its core “last dance” all spring. The truth is that I believe it was.

Kris Letang And Evgeni Malkin On July 13, they were granted free agency and the initial talks between both player camps and Penguins management felt strained. Both camps aren't aligned on terms or money and both could leave this summer. Sidney Crosby is still under contract for three years. This will have a ripple effect. Sources claim that Crosby doesn’t like the disrespect shown to his friends. This could have a ripple effect on his tenure in Pittsburgh.

The Penguins made an important decision, resigning Bryan Rust Both sides agreed to very friendly terms: six years with an average annual value $5.125 million. Rust could have had a higher cap hit on open market, but he clearly wanted Pittsburgh and the Penguins are happy keeping a hardworking player like him. Rust was a great Crosby linemate. Jake Guentzel.

The potential cap savings of Malkin and Letang could allow the Penguins to retool quickly. Mike Sullivan is a great coach and has cultivated a next man-up mentality among that group (which, should I mention, has endured many injuries in the past few seasons). But next season, the Penguins will be a different team.

The Leafs?

It was a surprise to many in hockey that the Leafs decided to retain their leadership after another round of playoff losses. They are currently 0-9 in elimination matches over the last five seasons and haven’t won a playoff Series since 2004. They are not ashamed of the loss in Game 7 in a difficult series against the Stanley Cup champions. It was why coach Kyle Dubas and GM Kyle Dubas announced it. Sheldon Keefe The team is back. There is very little room for error in next season's edition, but that is not the point.

So what's the difference between now and then? There must be change. One-third of the team are on expired contracts. Jason SpezzaA beloved veteran, who had a lasting impact on the locker room, has announced his retirement. He will now join the front office as an advisor. Ilya MikheyevThe Leafs have already inked a deal with the Leafs for Corey – who was able to score 21 goals in 53 games – and is likely out of Toronto. The Leafs have already signed Mark Giordano The most important UFA, however, is the one that can be extended at a reasonable price. Jack Campbell. The Leafs will need to decide whether they want to keep the 27 year-old goaltender. However, the bigger question is how much.

The Leafs are looking to fill some roster gaps with young players. This is both a smart move for long-term development and salarywise. This could also open the door to free agents. However, the salary cap is still in effect so there are still options. Can Toronto look into a trade market? William Nylander? Are the Leafs able to clear $3.5 Million by trading the uber-versatile Alexander Kerfoot? Is there a solution? Petr Mrazek conundrum?

Toronto is still uncertain of what it will do. However, the team cannot run it again with the same roster.

What about the Bruins?

Boston was one of the most perplexing season-end availabilities this year. The Bruins lost seven games to the Canes in the first round. It is hard to fault them. Boston played hard, but Carolina performed a bit better at the end. Cam Neely This seemed to indicate that Bruce Cassidy wasn't in a secure job, shocking many in hockey, who consider Cassidy one of the greatest coaches in the game.

Neely told reporters at his season-end session that “I think we need to look at making some changes in how we play and how we do some things.” Bruce is an amazing coach. This organization has seen a lot of success thanks to him. He's a great coach. We'll see how it goes. “But I think we have to make some changes.”

Some of these changes will be dictated only by necessity. Captain Patrice Bergeron He is yet to make a decision about his future, and could well retire. The Bruins will need to improve their center depth organizationally if Bergeron is forced to retire. Boston has been sacrificing draft picks to achieve short-term success in recent years. They don't have either a first or second rounder in 2022 or 2023.

Brad Marchand He had hip surgeries that left him unable to play for the rest of the season. Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk Underwent shoulder surgery which could have kept him out of the hospital until 2022-23. According to me, the Bruins had a positive exit meeting. Jake DeBruskHowever, the winger still has to decide if he wants to remain in Boston or whether to continue his request to be traded.

With slow departures from their Cup-winning core, the Bruins have been constantly retooling.Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Torey Krug, Tuukka Rask), but even more changes appear on the horizon.

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