2022 Stanley Cup playoffs – Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

The matchups and storylines are set because the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs get underway this week, with the final crew standing hoisting the cherished chalice someday in late June.

Will that be the Tampa Bay Lightning, who need to turn out to be the primary crew to win the Cup in three consecutive seasons because the New York Islanders gained 4 straight from 1980 to 1983? May the Florida Panthers, who raced to the highest seed within the Japanese Convention, win their first Cup? Would possibly the Colorado Avalanche, the highest seed within the West and an underachiever the previous two postseasons, break via? Or will the Toronto Maple Leafs shake off their demons and declare their first Cup since 1966-67?

We have all of the angles coated to get you prepared for the playoffs as ESPN hockey reporters Greg Wyshynski and Kristen Shilton check out every of the 16 postseason groups, providing the explanations every crew might win all of it, together with their (probably) greatest flaws, gamers to observe and a daring prediction for each contender.

Notice: Profiles for the Atlantic and Central groups have been written by Shilton, whereas Wyshynski analyzed the Metro and Pacific groups. Additionally be aware that wild-card groups have been moved into their bracketed divisions (so the Capitals are within the Atlantic, and so forth).

Stats are collected from websites akin to Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference and Evolving Hockey.

Soar to a crew:
Atlantic: FLA | TOR
Metro: CAR | NYR
Central: COL | MIN
Pacific: CGY | EDM

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Atlantic Division

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Document: 58-18-6 (122 factors)

Case for a Stanley Cup run: It is exhausting to argue with the Panthers' outcomes this season. They're the NHL's top-scoring crew for a motive, having been constantly excellent offensively since Sport 1. Florida has three 30-plus purpose scorers, six gamers with 50-plus factors and a Hart Trophy contender in Jonathan Huberdeau, who can go toe-to-toe with any offensive menace within the league. Unsurprisingly, Florida has additionally produced wonderful special-teams numbers (together with with its top-10 energy play). The Panthers' depth of electrical scoring means, coupled with strong goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky, has the potential to hold this crew a good distance into spring.

Largest flaw(s): Protection, and goaltending. All of us noticed what occurred to Bobrovsky in final season's playoffs (when he was changed halfway via the primary spherical by rookie Spencer Knight) and the veteran has struggled down the stretch this season (with a save proportion under .900 in three of 4 latest appearances). These aren't encouraging totals.

It would not assist that in entrance of Bobrovsky, Florida received a bit of too snug late within the season because the Cardiac Cats. The Panthers repeatedly fell into multiple-goal deficits they have been capable of erase as a result of, properly, see above. That method would not typically work within the postseason. The clichés exist for a motive: There isn't any area on the market anymore, no time to make performs or dangle or exhibit. Whereas Florida's offensive expertise is its greatest asset, if the general crew protection cannot maintain up (particularly if Aaron Ekblad is not capable of return to type as a consequence of his knee harm), it might make for a shorter run than the Panthers are aiming for.

Participant to observe: Claude Giroux. Why? As a result of he picked this chance. Florida is the one place he needed to land on the commerce deadline. After years of falling quick in Philadelphia, the Flyers' former captain desires to win all of it. What is going to he convey to the desk to assist make it occur?

Daring prediction: As occurred to Tampa Bay in 2019, the seemingly unstoppable Panthers fall quick with a baffling first-round exit.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Document: 54-21-7 (115 factors)

Case for a Stanley Cup run: Toronto has received the expertise, in all three phases of the sport. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are one of many NHL's most dynamic offensive duos. Mark Giordano has helped solidify the blue line, and the Leafs even have good depth there, for as soon as. In internet, Jack Campbell seems again on his recreation following a midseason downturn and rib harm. Toronto is not the one-note marvel of its previous, able to placing pucks within the internet however incapable of retaining them out. Group protection has turn out to be part of the equation as a result of that mentality is exhibited by the crew's prime gamers (together with Matthews). And there is the Leafs' wonderful particular groups, together with the NHL's greatest energy play and a dynamic penalty kill that's almost as prone to rating short-handed as to get scored on.

Largest flaw(s): Confidence. Toronto cannot disguise from its ugly postseason previous. Nobody will let the Leafs neglect what occurred in opposition to Boston (twice) or Montreal. This model of Toronto can take care of any crew it is going to face within the playoffs — however provided that the Leafs really present up as their greatest selves. That is been the disconnect earlier than, and people demons will not be overcome till Toronto has success when it issues most.

Participant to observe: Marner. The winger is having an unbelievable common season however hasn't scored a playoff purpose since 2017-18 and has solely eight assists in 12 postseason video games the previous two years. There is a huge monkey on Marner's again, and seeing how he responds to that within the postseason this 12 months goes to go a good distance in figuring out simply how good the Leafs may be.

Daring prediction: Toronto shocks the world and wins a number of playoff rounds.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Document: 51-23-8 (110 factors)

Case for a Stanley Cup run: Tampa is aware of learn how to win. The Lightning have performed it the previous two seasons, beneath less-than-ideal pandemic-related circumstances in addition. There's an actual calmness that the Lightning have within the hardest moments, a relentless perception of their means to climate any storm. That mindset is crucial when each crew out there may be seeking to unseat the champions. Then in fact there's the personnel. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy has been, and continues to be, Tampa's MVP. Did he skid on the finish of this season? Sure, however that does not imply he cannot flip the change when it is time. The Lightning have nice depth down the center of the ice with Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos and Anthony Cirelli, electrical scoring potential in Nikita Kucherov and a very good defenseman who leads by instance in Victor Hedman. Tampa's lineup stays as intimidating as any within the league.

Largest flaw(s): Fatigue. Lengthy playoff runs equal quick offseasons. Tampa hasn't had a lot downtime because the NHL's bubble event two years in the past. All that successful is nice on the time, however it cuts into restoration. The Lightning have had some bumpier stretches within the season's second half, the place the losses piled up. Is {that a} signal that Tampa is shedding its legs?

Participant to observe: Vasilevskiy. The primary spherical would possibly really be the toughest for Tampa, realizing how hungry the Leafs are to beat their checkered playoff previous. The Lightning goalie should be higher than his greatest to get Tampa over the hump and again into postseason cruise management.

Daring prediction: Brandon Hagel comes alive finally. Since being acquired on the commerce deadline, the previous Blackhawks winger hasn't produced. Search for that to alter within the Lightning's second season.



John Buccigross examines the historic run the Tampa Bay Lightning have had over the previous two seasons.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Document: 44-26-12 (100 factors)

Case for a Stanley Cup run: Due to the steepest parity the Japanese Convention has seen in a while, the Capitals had a 100-point season for the sixth straight 82-game marketing campaign. Granted, that included 12 additional time losses, a middling even-strength offense and goaltending points galore. Nevertheless it was additionally a marketing campaign that noticed Alex Ovechkin rating 50 targets and carry the crew for stretches this season. He obtained assist from acquainted Capitals names akin to Evgeny Kuznetsov, John Carlson and Tom Wilson, whereas Conor Sheary and Anthony Mantha chipped in. However forwards Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie noticed their offensive output drop throughout seasons impacted by accidents and sickness. However that is the common season. These are the playoffs. The Capitals have a veteran group that may play bodily hockey and defend properly at 5-on-5. With a wholesome Ovechkin, they are often in any collection. One downside …

Largest flaw(s): Ovechkin missed the Capitals' closing three video games after showing to injure his shoulder in an April 24 recreation. He's the Russian Machine. Seeing him play within the first spherical wouldn't be a shock, though coach Peter Laviolette mentioned that Ovechkin wouldn't have been capable of play had the playoffs began final week. Washington lives and dies on the efficiency of its franchise star, particularly on the facility play. If he is diminished, so are the Caps' Cup probabilities — considerably. However equally as ominous is the Capitals' goaltending. Vitek Vanecek has been wildly inconsistent, whereas Ilya Samsonov has performed to a sub-replacement degree this season.

Participant to observe: Tom Wilson managed to not get suspended in the course of the common season, to his credit score. He had 23 targets and 28 assists and led all Capitals forwards in targets scored above common. Physicality will get ratcheted up within the playoffs, and Wilson has proven the flexibility up to now to show a collection with one massive injurious hit. He is the sort of participant to observe along with your head on a swivel.

Daring prediction: Evgeny Kuznetsov leads the Capitals in scoring, however their keep within the playoffs is restricted to 1 spherical.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Metropolitan Division

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Document: 54-20-8 (116 factors)

Case for a Stanley Cup run: What if a crew had its greatest common season in franchise historical past and nobody seen? That have to be what the Hurricanes felt like in 2021-22, as they set a brand new normal for factors in a season, gained the Metropolitan Division for the primary time and led the league in goals-against common. But Carolina is just not talked about in the identical breath as different Stanley Cup contenders. That might change in a rush within the postseason, because the Canes flex their spectacular depth, stingy penalty kill and offensive flourish led by Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov. The crew will get contributions from regular veterans (Jordan Staal), stellar younger abilities (Martin Necas) and different groups' castaways (the divisive however efficient Tony DeAngelo). Orchestrating all of it's coach Rod Brind'Amour, for whom the gamers would skate via a wall.

Largest flaw(s): Effectively, let's go together with probably greatest. Goalie Frederik Andersen had a dominant common season, ending third in targets saved above common (38.7). However he is anticipated to overlook a couple of video games within the first spherical as a consequence of a lower-body harm. Past that, he hasn't gained a playoff collection since 2015. His playoff struggles are a bit overblown — his numbers aren't that dangerous total — however the doubts linger. If Andersen cannot go, netminder duties will fall to backup Antti Raanta and rookie Pyotr Kochetkov.

Participant to observe: Rookie ahead Seth Jarvis has been completely excellent for the Hurricanes. The thirteenth total decide in 2020, Jarvis had 11 factors in a nine-game stretch close to the tip of the season, operating shotgun with Aho for lots of it. He was fourth on the crew in targets scored above common. Jarvis won't have the purpose whole to make noise within the Calder Trophy race, however you will know his identify after this postseason.

Daring prediction: The Hurricanes get previous the Bruins within the first spherical, however it's a grinding seven-game collection.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Document: 52-24-6 (110 factors)

Case for a Stanley Cup run: Let's begin with one of the best goalie on the planet. Igor Shesterkin led the NHL in save proportion and targets saved above common, carrying the Rangers for the primary two-thirds of the season as New York was close to the underside of the league in even-strength analytics. However proper across the commerce deadline, the Rangers' play began to choose up and continued to development upward via the ultimate month of the season beneath first-year coach Gerard Gallant. There's extra to the crew than only a dominant goalie, nonetheless. Chris Kreider grew to become simply the fourth participant in Rangers historical past to prime 50 targets. Artemi Panarin averaged 1.28 factors per recreation. Adam Fox, final 12 months's Norris winner, had a robust encore. The function gamers GM Chris Drury added alongside the way in which — akin to forwards Barclay Goodrow and Andrew Copp — have bolstered the crew.

Largest flaw(s): Energy performs do not at all times come simple within the Stanley Cup playoffs. That is not nice information for a Rangers crew whose power-play prowess (fourth within the NHL) far outpaced its even-strength offense (18th). Solely 4 groups had a decrease anticipated goals-for per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 than the Rangers this season: the Sabres, Kraken, Coyotes and Blackhawks. Not precisely one of the best offensive firm to maintain.

Participant to observe: Mika Zibanejad was again to being a point-per-game heart this season, taking part in the vast majority of his time with Kreider and aiding on 24 of his targets. He is a dynamic offensive expertise who has 11 factors in his previous 15 playoff video games.

Daring prediction: Shesterkin pitches two shutouts within the opening spherical because the Rangers advance.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Document: 46-25-11 (103 factors)

Case for a Stanley Cup run: The Penguins crossed the end line as a playoff crew. That wasn't a given earlier than the season and definitely wasn't whereas Pittsburgh performed via its seemingly annual spate of accidents. However now that the Penguins are in, with a lineup dotted with acquainted names sporting Stanley Cup rings, one of the best case for a championship run is made by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Jeff Carter, Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel. That core has been augmented by robust seasons from a supporting forged of forwards Evan Rodrigues and Danton Heinen, and particularly defenseman Mike Matheson, who had a career-redefining marketing campaign. They will assist energy what might be a final try at a Cup for this getting older core, with Malkin, Letang and Rust among the many crew's pending free brokers. As Crosby mentioned just lately: “I feel you attempt to take pleasure in it as a lot as you possibly can and attempt to take all of it in as a result of you understand that it is not going to final without end.”

Largest flaw(s): The playoffs could not arrive at a worse time for Pittsburgh. Goalie Tristan Jarry, who had an excellent common season, has been sidelined with a damaged foot that he is within the means of rehabbing. If he makes it again, Jarry nonetheless has to reveal his postseason prowess after flopping in opposition to the Islanders of their 2021 collection. Till he does, it is Casey DeSmith‘s crease. The Penguins' offense can be struggling, with an ice-cold energy play and gamers akin to Rust mired in slumps. Ahead Jason Zucker, who might assist, cannot keep within the lineup as a consequence of accidents. Issues aren't trending properly for Pittsburgh on the buzzer.

Participant to observe: Crosby had 84 factors this season, which was his greatest points-per-60 minutes common for a season with no less than 68 video games performed since 2009-10. Sadly, Alex Ovechkin cornered the market on “he can nonetheless do this at his age, wow!” reactions, leaving Crosby's unimaginable season a bit underappreciated. The previous three postseasons have not been the best for Sid, with six factors in 14 video games. He had simply two factors within the Pens' six-game collection loss to the Islanders final playoffs. However being that he is Sidney Crosby and he is aware of this might be the final experience for members of this group, he is completely the participant to observe for Pittsburgh.

Daring prediction: The Penguins exit within the first spherical, however goaltending is not the rationale. Effectively, except it is due to their opponents' goaltending.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Document: 51-26-5 (107 factors)

Case for a Stanley Cup run: Boston is usually a powerful crew to play in opposition to. The Bruins are one of many league's stingiest groups (averaging 2.69 targets in opposition to) and excel at limiting pictures in opposition to (28.7 per recreation, third fewest within the NHL) and high-danger probabilities (first total). If protection wins championships (and historical past suggests it is a massive issue), the Bruins ought to be feared by any opponent. The addition of Hampus Lindholm on the again finish has actually strengthened the B's blue line and provides them extra choices to combine and match pairings all through the playoffs as wanted. The Bruins' goalie tandem of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman deserves credit score on this space too, offering constantly good performances which have greater than assuaged fears about how the crew would transfer on from Tuukka Rask.

And naturally, there's Boston's core. Patrice Bergeron continues to be Patrice Bergeron. Ditto Brad Marchand. There's a successful pedigree in Boston that begins with its management, and spreads to David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall, Charlie McAvoy, and on down the checklist.

Largest flaw(s): Consistency and resiliency. When issues aren't going Boston's manner — when the Bruins wrestle to attain a purpose or hand over a foul one — can they persevere and push again? That killer intuition has been a trademark of Boston's play up to now and hasn't at all times been on the forefront of late. Identical with its total consistency. Some nights, the Bruins look impenetrable; the subsequent, they're floundering in their very own finish. When Boston is at its greatest, it's a hard-hitting, back-breaking group to go up in opposition to. Sustaining that depth every evening within the playoffs can be a activity in itself.

Participant to observe: McAvoy. The Bruins' prime blueliner hasn't garnered the identical consideration as among the league's flashiest defenders this season, however he has been wonderful in his personal proper. And if Boston goes to show its defensive benefits right into a prolonged playoff run, it is going to be McAvoy main the way in which. He does all of the little issues, is robust at each ends of the ice and might contribute nearly anyplace. Anticipate extra nice performances from him.

Daring prediction: Boston makes use of its shutdown capabilities to bounce a high-octane offensive opponent within the first spherical.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Central Division



It has been 21 years because the Colorado Avalanche reached the Stanley Cup Remaining, however as one of many main contenders heading into the NHL playoffs they hope to finish that drought.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Document: 56-19-7 (119 factors)

Case for a Stanley Cup run: Colorado is a beast. Interval. The Avalanche are prime three in league scoring, prime six in targets in opposition to, have a top-five energy play and boast enviable depth at ahead and on the again finish to enhance Darcy Kuemper, who has had a resurgent second half in internet. Colorado has proven it may well win all forms of video games, whether or not big-time blowouts or tightly contested grinders. And it is not simply the Avs' marquee names — Nazem Kadri, Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar to call a couple of — who're having an influence. Colorado is lucky to have dynamic middle-six scorers akin to Valeri Nichushkin and quiet contributors akin to Artturi Lehkonen who can sneak up and burn opponents unexpectedly. Whereas it is fascinating to have the top-end expertise Colorado does, it is usually the unheralded gamers who decide up the playoff slack. And that would make an enormous distinction for the Avalanche this spring.

Largest flaw(s): Defensive chemistry, and the penalty kill. For all the nice stats the Avs have produced this season, they're common on the kill (79%), which might be a difficulty within the postseason, when it is more durable to attain and each benefit that goes the opposite manner has the potential to be a backbreaker. Finding out the optimum defensive pairings can be a activity for coach Jared Bednar. After Makar and Devon Toews, the place do the remainder of Colorado's defensemen match? How a lot belief ought to he place in Jack Johnson or Samuel Girard? The Avalanche bear in mind properly how Vegas reduce via them like butter within the playoffs final 12 months. That may't occur once more.

Participant to observe: Kadri. What kind of postseason magic can Kadri create to cap this profession season? Free company is looming, and all eyes can be on Kadri as he chases that elusive championship.

Daring prediction: The Avalanche flip the season script, struggling to attain within the early going of the playoffs and counting on crew protection to step up and transfer them alongside.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Document: 53-22-7 (113 factors)

Case for a Stanley Cup run: What does (nearly) each lengthy playoff push embody? Wonderful goaltending. The Wild have that, big-time. Marc-Andre Fleury has been lights out since arriving on the commerce deadline from Chicago. Cam Talbot, strong all season, has improved even additional driving shotgun with the newcomer. That presents an ideal backdrop for Minnesota's run. The Wild have had offensive stars rising all through the season, from Kirill Kaprizov to Kevin Fiala to Mats Zuccarello. Minnesota has been scorching sizzling since mid-March, going 19-2-3 since March 16, coming into the playoffs with a hard-earned swagger.

Largest flaw(s): Minnesota's particular groups are lower than awe-inspiring. The Wild's penalty kill is backside 10 within the league, and their energy play sits someplace within the center. Failing to capitalize on man-advantage probabilities nearly at all times comes again to chew groups within the postseason; ditto with struggling to maintain pucks out on the kill. These 5-on-5 alternatives may be — and nearly at all times are — restricted within the playoffs. The sport-changing swings can come all the way down to particular groups, and that is not the place the Wild have thrived.

Participant to observe: Jonas Brodin. It is simple to speak about Minnesota's goaltending and offensive prowess, however Brodin has been serving to facilitate all that with locked-in defensive play (and he is no slouch with the puck both, registering a profession excessive in factors this season). Brodin is a frontrunner on the ice and anchors the Wild in a manner that's essential to their success. Regulate these little issues Brodin can do to place Minnesota excessive.

Daring prediction: Coach Dean Evason bucks custom by not naming a playoff starter in internet, opting to alternate between Fleury and Talbot as an alternative.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Document: 49-22-11 (109 factors)

Case for a Stanley Cup run: Historical past has a humorous behavior of repeating itself. Fortunately for the Blues, that deja vu excessive they're presently driving is an efficient one. Again in 2019, St. Louis went from flailing to thriving on the finish of the common season and carried a sizzling streak all the way in which previous Boston for the franchise's first Cup title. This season is shaping up in related vogue. After a bumpy street via February and most of March, the Blues caught hearth into April and have been unstoppable of late. The goaltending from Ville Husso has been distinctive, and Jordan Binnington is lastly rebounding to turn out to be a extra dependable backup. Additionally on a roll: St. Louis' energy play, which has been prime three within the NHL since late March. The Blues are rightly taking part in with unimaginable confidence, and we all know from previous expertise the place that may lead them.

Largest flaw(s): St. Louis has had defensive points all season. It is a part of what has made Husso so invaluable; he covers for all method of ills within the Blues' personal finish. That, mixed with St. Louis being one of many NHL's worst groups in 5-on-5 possession totals, places much more stress on Husso — a rookie showing in his first postseason — on the hardest time of 12 months. The Blues do have scoring abilities, together with Jordan Kyrou and Vladimir Tarasenko, however with extra restricted probabilities in tight-checking postseason video games, St. Louis should actually deal with the defensive particulars to keep away from a letdown.

Participant to observe: Tarasenko. Here is a participant who requested a commerce out of St. Louis and as an alternative has thrived there this season. He is the membership's main scorer, averaging greater than some extent a recreation, and eats essential minutes. Tarasenko had 11 targets and 17 factors in the course of the Blues' 2019 run. Whether or not or not he'll once more be eyeing a commerce out of city this offseason, Tarasenko ought to take each probability to shine within the coming weeks.

Daring prediction: Binnington finally ends up again within the starter's internet, and carries St. Louis deep into the postseason.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Document: 45-30-7 (97 factors)

Case for a Stanley Cup run: Nashville is a superb underdog — again the Predators right into a nook and wait to see a few of their greatest hockey. So it really works in Nashville's favor to not simply go into the postseason as a wild-card crew, however to know there's an uphill battle forward to make its time within the playoffs final. Look again at how Nashville began the season, successful simply one among its first 5 video games however then exploding to earn the NHL's greatest file (23-7-2) from mid-October to early January. From there, issues began falling aside for the Predators; they did not carry out as properly on the prime of the standings. What makes Nashville harmful (apart from Roman Josi, Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg and Juuse Saros, in fact) is the chip on its shoulder, the starvation to show the crew's critics improper. These forms of intangibles are unimaginable to quantify within the unknowable season forward.

Largest flaw(s): Can the Predators hold it collectively in their very own finish? That is the query. We all know Josi is a Norris Trophy-caliber defender, however the remainder of Nashville's blue line would not exhibit almost the identical consistency. Saros missed the last two games of the season with a lower-body injury, and his standing is unsure heading into the postseason. The Predators can rating properly sufficient, however how properly they will execute crew protection and hold the puck out of their very own internet would be the key.

Participant to observe: Forsberg. A game-changing expertise who is also taking part in for his subsequent contract (from Nashville or another person). That is a killer mixture. Forsberg can, and can, problem any protection the Predators see in coming weeks. And, as Nashville's chief in game-winning targets, Forsberg additionally has the potential to create some must-see drama.

Daring prediction: Nashville shocks the hockey world by going from wild-card entrant to Western Convention finalist.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Pacific Division

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Document: 50-21-11 (111 factors)

Case for a Stanley Cup run: Few groups are constructed higher for a run on the Cup than the Calgary Flames. They have been third in anticipated targets in opposition to and fourth in anticipated targets for per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 this season. That they had three 40-goal forwards in Johnny Gaudreau, who posted a exceptional UPDATE? 115-point season, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm, with Andrew Mangiapane (35 targets) not far off the tempo. Their lineup options strong two-way forwards in Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman. Whereas he has cooled off a bit of, Tyler Toffoli stays a harmful offensive participant within the postseason. Their prime defensive pairings of Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson together with Chris Tanev and Oliver Kylington have been excellent. Watching all of it from the crease is Vezina contender Jacob Markstrom. Coach Darryl Sutter has this crew primed to convey the Cup again to Canada for the primary time since 1993.

Largest flaw(s): Being a top-heavy offensive crew is an efficient downside to have when the highest of 1's lineup is stuffed with gamers who've greater than 35 targets. However the Flames do not get fairly as a lot contribution as some groups from their backside six. Once more, a criticism of Calgary this season is like utilizing a kind of eyepieces to seek for a flaw on a gorgeously reduce diamond. However groups win with depth within the playoffs, and there is been some falloff right here for the Flames.

Participant to observe: Tkachuk's greatest offensive season arrived, to nobody's shock, as he is headed into restricted free company this summer season. The 24-year-old ahead had 103 factors and was a plus-58 (!) on the season, UPDATE?? whereas nonetheless discovering time to amass 68 penalty minutes. The uncommon NHL expertise who can agitate you with phrases, deeds and on the scoreboard. If the Flames win the Cup, it would not be exhausting to see him taking dwelling a Conn Smythe.

Daring prediction: The Flames advance to the Western Convention finals, together with a Battle of Alberta win over the Oilers.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Document: 49-27-6 (104 factors)

Case for a Stanley Cup run: That is Edmonton Oilers Model 2.0. Underneath coach Dave Tippett, the Oilers have been thirteenth within the NHL in anticipated targets per 60 minutes at 5-on-5; beneath interim coach Jay Woodcroft, who took over Feb. 10, the Oilers jumped to fourth in that class. They have been twenty seventh in goals-against per 60 at 5-on-5 beneath Tippett; beneath Woodcroft, they have been ninth. Edmonton trended up throughout the board beneath Woodcroft, together with in a very powerful space: the standings, the place the Oilers completed second within the Pacific. It was as soon as once more the Connor and Leon present, as McDavid had 123 factors and Draisaitl had 110. The subsequent highest scorer, Zach Hyman, had 54 factors. So long as the Oilers' stars are shining that brightly, they're going to have an opportunity to win any collection.

Largest flaw(s): Past McDavid and Draisaitl, the Oilers do not essentially have the depth that different contenders within the Western Convention can boast of their ahead group or on the blue line. But when there is a true flaw with the Oilers, it is as soon as once more discovered within the crease. Sure, Mike Smith has been in a groove throughout April, with a .948 even-strength save proportion in 9 video games. However we doubt that is sustainable, and the choice stays Mikko Koskinen.

Participant to observe: Underneath totally different circumstances, 22-year-old defenseman Evan Bouchard may need been a Calder Trophy finalist together with his 43 factors in 81 video games. Alas, he is ineligible, having performed greater than six video games in his first two NHL seasons. The Oilers should accept Bouchard logging 19:46 in common ice time and being a part of a profitable pairing with Duncan Keith, which isn't one thing Edmonton followers would have predicted earlier than the season.

Daring prediction: The Oilers win their first playoff collection since 2017 earlier than bowing out to Calgary.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Document: 44-27-11 (99 factors)

Case for a Stanley Cup run: The Kings, who flaunt one of many deepest prospect swimming pools within the NHL, had been ready a couple of years for his or her subsequent technology of stars to mature. However the catalyst for his or her first playoff berth since 2018 wasn't the youngsters, however reasonably the established veterans. Anze Kopitar led the crew in scoring.

Forwards Viktor Arvidsson and Phillip Danault, GM Rob Blake‘s key offseason pickups, have been within the prime 4 in scoring. The crew additionally had robust seasons from veterans Trevor Moore, Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe and Alex Edler, a resurgent marketing campaign from Jonathan Quick and an excellent season from Drew Doughty earlier than he went out with a wrist harm. However the children have been all proper too: Forwards Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari and Quinton Byfield, in addition to defensemen Mikey Anderson and Sean Durzi, additionally contributed.

The Kings have had robust underlying numbers beneath coach Todd McLellan all season, together with inserting fifth in anticipated targets per 60 minutes and fifth in proportion of shot makes an attempt at 5-on-5. The very best that may be mentioned of them is that the Kings discovered methods to win: Whereas their divisional rivals flailed about making an attempt to qualify for the postseason, Los Angeles gained 4 straight crucial video games in regulation down the stretch.

Largest flaw(s): The truth that the Kings nonetheless managed to make the playoffs with out Doughty is a testomony to how properly they performed earlier than his harm. Los Angeles was 32-19-7 when Doughty went out on March 7. They went 12-8-3 after that. It is exhausting to think about the Kings doing something of consequence within the postseason with out Doughty, an achieved playoff performer who had 31 factors in 39 video games this season, averaging 25:44 per evening. They're very bizarre on the again finish with out him.

Participant to observe: There was a time, not too way back, when Jonathan Fast was thought-about among the best big-game goaltenders within the NHL. He backstopped the Kings to the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014, posting an unimaginable .946 save proportion to win that preliminary championship. He hasn't been that man for some time, and at 36, he would possibly by no means be that man once more. However this was his greatest season since 2017-18, and there have been sufficient moments of “classic Jonathan Fast” to make one marvel if there is not just a bit extra playoff magic left in him, 10 years after successful the Conn Smythe.

Daring prediction: Kopitar and Danault do what they will in opposition to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, however the lack of Doughty proves an excessive amount of and the Kings fall to the Oilers in six video games.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Breaking down all 16 groups within the NHL postseason

Document: 46-30-6 (98 factors)

Case for a Stanley Cup run: The Stars made the playoffs largely due to their prime line. The trio of Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson would possibly nonetheless be underrated across the NHL, however they carried Dallas up the standings regardless of critics having panned the Stars' postseason probabilities. That unit exhibits no indicators of slowing, both, and that ought to give Dallas a confidence enhance going into the primary spherical. Everybody is aware of something can occur as soon as the playoffs start. Unlikely contenders emerge 12 months after 12 months. Why not Dallas? What do the Stars need to lose? There's energy in being an underdog, a freedom to easily play your recreation with out expectation. The Stars' first line could be its superpower, however this lineup can supply much more than that. Jake Oettinger has performed properly in internet, and Dallas' protection has seemed extra cohesive these days. Seeing its dedication repay with a playoff alternative ought to be all of the motivation Dallas wants to present every recreation its greatest.

Largest flaw(s): Depth scoring has been a difficulty for the Stars. After Pavelski, Hintz and Robertson (who all tallied 70 or extra factors), Dallas' offense has been streaky. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have underperformed a lot of the season, and the Stars do not get a lot scoring assist from their defensemen (John Klingberg leads Dallas blueliners with six targets). Whereas Dallas has each motive to be ok with its prime point-getters, in a decent playoff collection the secondary scoring usually places groups excessive. The Stars have to be greater than only a one-line marvel.

Participant to observe: Miro Heiskanen. Targets challenge to be at a premium for Dallas, so search for the crew's prime defender to step up in retaining pucks out of the Stars' finish — and out of their internet. Heiskanen missed time this season with sickness however is a useful asset to Dallas' total success. Heiskanen can set a tone for the way your entire crew approaches its defensive technique. That is when he ought to shine.

Daring prediction: The Stars take a powerhouse first-round opponent to seven video games.

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