2022 Stanley Cup playoffs: Conference finals preview, matchups and predictions

The conference final round 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs It is here. Sixteen teams were invited to the postseason tournament. However, only four teams are still left in the bracket. New York Rangers The will assume the Tampa Bay Lightning In the East, and the Colorado Avalanche Will square off against the Edmonton Oilers In the West.

We're going to give you a quick overview to get you up-to-speed before Game 1 of West's matchup Tuesday night. This includes breaking down each team into five categories, and giving our predictions for which teams will make it to the Stanley Cup Final.

Note: Kristen Shilton viewed the Western Conference teams while Greg Wyshynski viewed the East clubs.

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2022 Stanley Cup playoffs: Conference finals preview, matchups and predictions2022 Stanley Cup playoffs: Conference finals preview, matchups and predictions

How did they get here? Defeated Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3, defeat Carolina Hurricanes 4-3.

Goalie confidence rating: 10

The Igor Shesterkin The Igor Shesterkin we saw in Round 1 was not the Igor Shesterkin the Lightning will see. He managed to get over his emotions during Pittsburgh's Rangers' first two games, where he was removed twice. He fought back. won a Game 7. Shesterkin allowed Carolina two goals or less in six of the seven series games. won another Game 7He's back on the road. He is their last line of defense as well as their catalyst. Rangers get a lot from his performances when their opponents tip the ice.

Defenseman Adam Fox He said that he is looking forward to the fight between Andrei Vasilevskiy Shesterkin. “Obviously Vasilevskiy has a track-record that speaks for itself. But I believe Shesty also has one. His achievements this year have been incredible. Two very good goalies collaborating. He said, “But I have a lot faith in Shesty.”

We've learned a lot about this team in the postseason

The Rangers were not without their moments of glory. Defenseman Jacob TroubaPenguins star was taken by's thunderous hits Sidney Crosby For two crucial games, and then Hurricanes forward Seth Jarvis Game 7. In Game 7. Tristan Jarry They did not see backup until Game 7, Casey DeSmith Five and a half minutes, followed by the third-stringer Louis Domingue Just six games. The Rangers did not have to face the Hurricanes starter Frederik AndersenThey saw instead of ignoring a lower-body injury that had prevented him from making the playoffs. Antti Raanta From his injury to the third-stringer, he played six games and half Game 7 before he was hurt. Pyotr Kochetkov.

Breaks are only breaks if you capitalize on them. The Rangers have demonstrated remarkable resilience. After falling behind 3-1 in their first-round series, the Rangers rallied to defeat the Penguins. They overcame a series deficit of 2-0 and 3-1 to beat the Hurricanes. “I used to refer to us as cockroaches. We didn't leave. This has been the core of every team I have been on. No matter how close the score or where the game is, we don't let it go. Forward stated that they just keep playing together and trying to find their game.” Chris Kreider.

While the Rangers may not be a formidable five-on-five team at this point, they still rely on Shesterkin to rescue them at even strength. Carolina saw the power play in action. They have great depth at forward and get excellent play from defensemen such as Fox and Trouba. Coach Gerard Gallant pushes the right buttons when it is time to choose line combinations.

Key players for the series

It is clear that the Rangers will go to as far as Shesterkin takes. Gallant, the players, and Gallant agreed that Game 7's win over the Hurricanes was an example of how a true effort by the Rangers is. They got points from 12 different players.

Mika Zibanejad The lead was held by Kreider with three points. Kreider scored two goals after scoring 52 in the regular season. They'll need Fox's continued offense, which had 18 points in 14 of their games. It will also require continued contributions from players such as Andrew Copp (12 points), Ryan Strome (9) Frank Vatrano (8). Additional damage caused by Rangers' “Kid Line”. Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil And Kaapo Kakko.

A player who is ready to take the next step

Artemi Panarin The Rangers quietly scored points in their last three games against Carolina. This included a great outlet pass that gave Strome the opportunity to score a crucial goal that made them win 3-0. The Rangers' star has had only two signature playoff games: a night of three points against the Penguins in Game 2 and an overtime power play goal in Game 7. They could use more from him, especially at 5-on-5.

How will Rangers manage? Nikita Kucherov?

No disrespect intended Sebastian AhoHowever, they didn't have the Rangers facing an elite offensive player like Kucherov during their series against Hurricanes. Crosby's line was ruthless in the first round. Crosby scored 10 points in six games — but a Trouba hit cost No. It cost 87 per game and a quarter. Kucherov scored 15 points in 11 games. This includes seven on the power play. The series will hinge on how they defend Kucherov's position.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs: Conference finals preview, matchups and predictions

How did they get here? Defeated Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3, defeat Florida Panthers 4-0.

Goalie confidence rating: 10

Andrei Vasilevskiy One of the best postseason goaltenders ever in NHL history. His.925 career playoff save rate tied him for third all-time (minimum of 60 games). Dominik HasekAmong others. He's currently 8-3 in postseason with a.932 save rate and 6.76 goals saved, which is the highest average among all goalies who are still playing in postseason. That was against the top two offensive teams of the regular season.

The Big Cat's performance in elimination games since 2020 has been legendary. He won 10-0 and six wins by shutout. He is an integral part of their success.

We've learned a lot about this team in the postseason

After back-to-back Stanley Cup titles, there was a lot we knew about the Lightning. From their ability to win in many ways to their efficiency during elimination games. However, the playoffs have provided some insight into certain aspects of this Lightning team.

We've found out that they have effectively rebuilt their bottom six following the exodus from their renowned checking line. Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman And Barclay Goodrow. Center Ross ColtonHe was the one who scored the goal against the Canadiens that won them the Cup. Brandon HagelThe Lightning acquired a player from Chicago, namely, at the trade deadline. They spent time with Nick Paul, who was formerly with the Lightning. Ottawa SenatorsBut it was a great experience with a veteran winger Corey Perry In the Florida series. Colton and Perry lead the Lightning with five goals each. Perry was acquired as an undrafted free agent this summer. Returning contributors Alex Killorn And Ondrej Palat You can change the order of the lineup to increase or decrease your effectiveness. Pierre-Edouard BellemareIn his first season with Lightning, he was a playoff hero. Pat Maroon Also, it will help to strengthen the bottom six.

We have learned that fatigue is not an issue for a team which has won in consecutive postseasons. Maybe because they followed short regular seasons. We have also learned that Tampa still has the desire to win another Stanley Cup and the killer instinct of closing out teams.

Key players for the series

Nikita Kucherov The Lightning leads with 15 points from 11 games. Kucherov is often cited as the NHL's greatest power-play performer, and he has surpassed that mark with seven points using the man advantage. The defenseman is their second-leading scorer. Victor HedmanVictor Hedman, who has 10 points from 11 games and skates at 25:03 per match.

Center Steven Stamkos (8 points) and defenseman Ryan McDonagh They were there for big moments. Center Anthony Cirelli He has only two points in 11 games, but has provided the Lightning with what they need in the middle Brayden Point‘s injury.

A player who is ready to take the next step

Lightning has a few players they would like to see produce more. However, their inability to produce is injury-related. The Lightning would love to see Point return on the ice. Coach Jon Cooper believes his standout centre, who was the team's top goal-scorer (30), over the two postseasons, is recovering from a lower-body injury that he suffered against the Maple Leafs in Game 7. He scored four goals in seven previous games.

Hagel slipped on a puck in Game 2 against Panthers. He was still present in Games 3 and 4. Although he hadn't been practicing, he is expected to play in the Eastern Conference finals. Hagel has been excellent in the various roles they've given him during playoffs. They would like to see more than one goal from Hagel, who scored 25 goals during the regular season.

What is the solution to this problem? Igor Shesterkin?

Rangers goalie, the best in their first two rounds, has provided three assists to go along with his outstanding goaltending. He's not invincible. Even though he's improved over the playoffs — even through the jitters of the first round, which included two games that he didn’t complete in Pittsburgh — he still hasn't pitched a shutout.

High-danger shots were where the Hurricanes excelled. The Hurricanes scored eight goals against the Rangers goaltender to make it their best win, the second most allowed in the second round. Some of these goals were scored on odd-man rushes and others on doorstep chances. Carolina caused chaos in Shesterkin’s crease at times, but couldn't find any rebounds. To beat “Shesty,” the Lightning will need to convert some of these.

As Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour According to him, their problem offensively was not having elite goalscorers. The Lightning have no such problem.

Prediction: Rangers will be in seven

Tampa Bay is better 5-on-5. Their power play will do some damage. If the Rangers keep the pace controlled, they won't let up. New York can trade chances with the Lightning if they want to do so against the Hurricanes at MSG. The Lightning have finishers who make them pay in a way that the Hurricanes couldn't. The Lightning have the ability to win those if New York wants this game to be a 1-0 goalie battle. They have an advantage with a healthy Brayden Point. They're clearly winning this series on paper.

The Rangers won the first round on paper. Yet, here we are. It's possible to say that the Rangers have not faced Vasilevskiy as a goalie, and it's true. However, it is also true that the Lightning have not faced Shesterkin, who is currently playing out of his gourd. The Rangers are spending house money. They're not the Maple Leafs nor the Panthers, weighed down by expectations and entitlement. They are finding ways to win, ways to survive, and I believe they will do it again here.

Stanley Cup playoffs is a place where teams challenge the numbers, have an undeniable belief and create postseason magic. We're almost there, Rangers.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs: Conference finals preview, matchups and predictions

How did they get here? Defeated Nashville Predators 4-0. St. Louis Blues 4-2.

Goalie confidence rating: 7.5/10

Darcy Kuemper He was solid, but not spectacular, in the playoffs. He posted a 6-2-0 record with a.904 save percentage, and 2.44 goals against average.

Granted, Nashville's Ryan Johansen It did, incidentally. injure Kuemper's eye The goalie was injured in the first round. Colorado won the match and beat the Predators. Kuemper returned in the second round against St. Louis. Kuemper was able to win that series, when the Avalanche needed him, but his game didn't have much rhythm.

Kuemper has not been faced with a lot of shots. Kuemper has seen only 218 pucks during the postseason's more than 500 minutes. This is the lowest number of pucks faced by any goalie in these playoffs. Colorado averaged 37 shots per game, while the Blues averaged 26 shots per match at Kuemper. Kuemper wasn't always sharp. St. Louis caught him in poor positioning and was a bit flat-footed a few times when he was tested. Does this indicate a problem in Kuemper's game or a weakness? Was it an indication of the Blues' inconsistency in attack?

Edmonton should have the answer right away. Calgary was peppered by the Oilers. Jacob Markstrom With over 34 shots per round in the second round, and their exceptional talent at the frontConnor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Evander Kane, etc.) You will see them all in full force. Kuemper's stellar regular season (37-12-4;.921SV%, 2.54 GAA), suggests that he is up to the challenge of what lies ahead, even though his playoff resume so far isn't as impressive.

We've learned a lot about this team in the postseason

We don't roll out the term “juggernaut” For anyone.

Colorado is as good and as talented as we believed it could be. It was not a premonition that the Avs' slump out of the regular-season (losing six of seven games) would lead to poor playoff performances. Colorado is multifaceted and capable of defeating its opponents in many ways. The Avalanche's postseason performance was a testament to their balanced depth.

Other than Nathan MacKinnon Going off in Game 5 against St. Louis Cale Makar Colorado's superstars are not required to be the best. They have been excellent at all levels. Seven Avs skaters scored at least three goals in playoffs. Five of them have double-digit points totals. Colorado has allowed the third-lowest number of goals against per game (2.70), and its power play is running at a crisp 34.5% (best performance throughout the playoffs).

The Avalanche are performing as they should. They score timely goals and play to their strengths. Colorado's goaltending (73.1%) and penalty kill (73.1%) have been underwhelming, which would make them vulnerable to Edmonton. We've seen Colorado perform at its best in the playoffs.

The series will depend on the contributions of key players

All eyes will be on Makar, MacKinnon.

The Avs' Norris Trophy finalist defenseman projects Edmonton to draw its toughest matchups. And as the Oilers demonstrated against Calgary, their top line is difficult to contain. The back end of Colorado — led by Makar — is performing admirably. Devon Toews And Bowen Byram — will be able to manage these assignments will go a long ways in determining the series.

MacKinnon, however, will be the leader of the charge. If his Game 5 hat trick against the Blues was any indication, “Playoff Nate” is ready to dance toe-to-toe with McDavid & Co. MacKinnon already has eight goals and 13 points in 10 games. Although offense can sometimes become less effective as we move into postseason play it doesn't mean that it won't be here. The Avs will benefit greatly from MacKinnon’s contributions.

A player who is ready to take the next step

We've already discussed Kuemper. Let's move on. Mikko Rantanen.

Colorado's big winger, Rantanen, has only one goal in these playoffs. He scored the empty net in Game 4, a 6-3 win over St. Louis. Rantanen still hasn't met his expectations in terms of production, despite having added 10 assists to the point total. Rantanen was Colorado's top scorer in the regular-season, with 36 goals. Rantanen has failed to make the postseason as a player who can shoot the puck well and drives play like he should.

Edmonton will be able to keep up with the Avalanche, but it will take all hands. Their stars kept improving and were crucial difference-makers during the last round. Rantanen is the perfect player for Colorado in this series.

How do the Avs slow down the McDavid-Draisaitl-Kane line?

Never allow them to have the puck. Like, ever.

It would be so simple!

Edmonton's top line has been running at an extremely high level for a long time. It's stacked, slippery, and it's also very slippery. Good neutral-zone play is key to keeping those three under control. This will limit their speed and force them to play from the outside. Calgary was unable to get the best looks for the unit, which led to series-defining errors. Colorado must make it hard for the Oilers' top skating skaters to find room or get into rhythm.

The Oilers' top three line will be confident going into the series. Colorado can send a message by staying on top and upholding that top line's speed in mid-ice.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs: Conference finals preview, matchups and predictions

How did they get here? Defeated Los Angeles Kings 4-3, defeat Calgary Flames 4-1.

Goalie confidence rating: 8/10

Legend of Mike Smith It has only grown this postseason.

His 40-year-old experience has seen him produce great numbers including an 8-3-0 record with.927SV% and 2.70 GAA. Smith's performance for the Oilers has been unquestioned, even if we ignore his three goals against Calgary in the first six minutes.

Unlike Darcy KuemperSmith, the playoff's last goaltender, has seen the least number of shots, but he has been the most frequent. Smith has flourished under pressure and clearly enjoys being involved in this manner. It bodes well for Edmonton, as Colorado happens to be an extremely high-volume shot team (39.8 per game); Smith will return to the spotlight early and often in next round.

We've learned a lot about this team in the postseason

Oilers are much more resilient than observers once thought. When Jonathan Quick Edmonton did not panic after being repeatedly shut out in the first round series. The Oilers believed in playing good defense and stuck to their plans. Quick was unable to stop them from breaking through. With a quick 3-0 Edmonton deficit in Game 1, and another 2-0 hole to begin Game 2, the second round against Calgary could not have been worse. The Oilers kept their cool and were able to regain their focus. This group has shown leadership at every moment when past Oilers' teams failed to step up.

We've also seen Edmonton show a genuine commitment to the defense side of the puck, even from its top players. There was no doubt in my mind that Edmonton had a strong defensive side. Connor McDavid And Leon Draisaitl Although they were able to score in the regular season's final round, it was difficult for them to keep up their offensive momentum in the playoffs. The strength of the defensive habits of this duo has made this postseason different. It begins in their own ends and is sustained down low. McDavid's increased physicality has been well documented. The forecheck has been given more attention.

When they are at the top of the lineup, all those little things add up. It fosters confidence, which is having a significant impact on the Oilers' success this postseason.



Barry Melrose reviews the Western Conference finals. He shares why he enjoys the Avalanche's chances of reaching the Stanley Cup finals.

Key player in the series

If Cale Makar The flashy rising star who leads Colorado's blue line Duncan Keith The veteran grandmaster is stabilizing Edmonton's backend.

Keith has played on every major stage of hockey. He knows when it is time to push and when it is time to back off. He relieves pressure at Edmonton's end, makes smart plays on the ice, is a natural leader, and few words are needed — but, it's clear that Keith has a “big voice”, according to his teammates. While Colorado will be trying to set the tone offensively, Keith will be seen as Edmonton's steadying hand between the whistles.

Keith was able to save the Oilers from a loss against Calgary by steering them out in Game 2 and taking on some of the responsibility for keeping them not-100% healthy. Darnell Nurse. Keith's greatest strength is his ability to bring consistency to Edmonton’s defensive efforts. They will need every bit of Keith's expertise and ability to slow down the Avalanche.

A player who is ready to take the next step

Nurse could be placed here and it would seem that he hasn’t made a significant difference for the Oilers (in the same way that top-pairing defenders do). However, Nurse is still playing more than 21 minutes per game despite having a core injury. It would be unfair to blame him too harshly for not performing at the highest level.

Jay Woodcroft, Oilers coach, has been focusing on the eight forwards at the front and limiting his use of fourth-liners. If there is any room for improvement, it's with the Oilers' second and third-line skaters. Warren Foegele, Ryan McLeod, Kailer Yamamoto And Jesse Puljujarvi. Each player had strong stretches in Calgary's series but they have only combined for five goals in the playoffs. In other series in the league, we've seen how important it is to score timely goals from sometimes unheralded and unexpected players. Oilers haven't had a lot of this; the majority of their key scores have been from the same four to five players.

The series against Colorado could see the top talent of each team cancelling each other. This is where depth comes into focus and the Oilers will want theirs to be on point.

Which powerhouse top line has an edge?

Are we focusing too heavily on the best players of this series? Yes. Do you blame us? You can't.

This Western Conference finals offer a hockey feast for your eyes: Colorado’s top line Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon And Valeri Nichushkin vs. Kane McDavid and Draisaitl. Oh, baby.

Edmonton's trio have combined for 26 goals, 67 points and 12 games. The big three from Colorado have combined for 17 goals and 31 points over 10 games. These two teams have just gone through two second-round series. They were very different. The Oilers had a wide-open, goal scoring bonanza in a five-game spread against Calgary, while the Avalanche played a six-game, more defensively-conscious affair against St. Louis. This series is expected to be more in line with Edmonton's recent experience, with greater momentum swings and the possibility to generate offense.

Who will be more benefited if this is the case? Colorado's second unit, anchored by a guy called “Alfred,” will allow them to produce less. Nazem KadriThe player, who just finished an 87 point regular season, is averaging a points per game in playoffs. MacKinnon, McDavid will be a show of their true brilliance here. In the run-up to Game 1, their head-to-head matchup is going to be a major talking point. Both were outstanding in the second round and gave their best performances (MacKinnon scoring a Game 5 hat trick, McDavid winning overtime in his Game 5). Both are firing on all cylinders.

Edmonton has the edge. McDavid may have been the best, but Draisaitl may be even better. Draisaitl's playmaking skills are unmatched and when he's on an offensive roll, it's hard for Colorado to contain his skill with the puck. Kane already had a pair hat trick in the playoffs. Not bad.

We know that we are the ones who watch the action unfold.

Prediction: Colorado in seven

Colorado has the deeper team. Its defense has been better than Edmonton's (giving out a playoff low 27 shots against per match compared to the Oilers' 37.5), and its depth of play is amazing. Although Mike Smith has been an excellent player for Edmonton, the playoffs have not seen the best of Kuemper. This series could be a turning point for the Avalanche if he emerges. I like Colorado, even though it will be close.

Another prediction I have for this series: Special teams will play an important role. The Avalanche are a strong power play team with 34.5 percent, but a weaker penalty kill of 73.1%. The Oilers have a more balanced team (28.1% for the power play, and 85.4% for the kill). Calgary's penalty kill was also a success. Edmonton made crucial stops that stopped the Flames' attack. Colorado's march towards the Cup finals could be severely impeded if Edmonton can do it again in conference finals.

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