The 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs are the postseason of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) 2022 season. They will begin on April 10 and end with a championship series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, which is scheduled for May 22.
The “when are the nhl playoffs 2021” is a question that many hockey fans ask. The Stanley Cup playoffs will be held in 2022.
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As the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs get began this week, the matchups and stories are established, with the last club remaining winning the coveted trophy sometime in late June.
Will it be the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are attempting to become the first club since the New York Islanders won four straight from 1980 to 1983 to win the Cup in three consecutive seasons? Could the Florida Panthers, who stormed to the Eastern Conference’s top seed, win their first Stanley Cup? Could the Colorado Avalanche, the Western Conference’s top seed and a playoff underachiever the last two years, finally break through? Will the Toronto Maple Leafs be able to overcome their adversity and win their first Stanley Cup since 1966-67?
We’ve covered all the bases to get you ready for the playoffs, as ESPN hockey reporters Greg Wyshynski and Kristen Shilton examine each of the 16 playoff teams, outlining the reasons each could win it all, as well as their (potentially) biggest flaws, players to watch, and a bold prediction for each contender.
Shilton wrote the profiles for the Atlantic and Central clubs, while Wyshynski studied the Metro and Pacific teams. It’s also worth noting that wild-card clubs have been assigned to bracketed divisions (so the Capitals are in the Atlantic, and so forth).
Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference, and Evolving Hockey are some of the sites where statistics may be found.
Division of the Atlantic
58-18-6 is the team’s record (122 points)
The Panthers’ performances this season make a strong case for a Stanley Cup run. They’ve been consistently terrific offensively since Game 1 and are the NHL’s top-scoring club for a reason. Florida boasts three players with 30-plus goals, six players with 50 points, and Jonathan Huberdeau, a Hart Trophy candidate who can go toe-to-toe with any offensive threat in the league. Florida has also generated strong special-teams stats, which is unsurprising (including with its top-10 power play). The Panthers’ depth of electrifying scoring talent, along with Sergei Bobrovsky’s superb goaltending, has the potential to push this club well into the spring.
Defense and goaltending are the two biggest flaws. We all witnessed what happened to Bobrovsky last season in the playoffs (when he was replaced by rookie Spencer Knight halfway through the first round), and the veteran has struggled this season down the stretch (with a save percentage below .900 in three of four recent appearances). Those aren’t exactly promising numbers.
The NHL playoffs begin on Monday, with all four games broadcast on ESPN. Bruins-Canes (7 p.m. ET, ESPN), Lightning-Leafs (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2), Blues-Wild (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), and Kings-Oilers (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) are the first games (10 ET, ESPN2). • NHL on ESPN • Complete playoff coverage
It doesn’t help that the Cardiac Cats grew a touch too comfortable in front of Bobrovsky late in the season. The Panthers consistently found themselves in multiple-goal deficits that they were able to overcome because, well, see above. In most cases, that formula does not work in the playoffs. There’s a reason for the clichés: there’s no room out there anymore, no time to make moves, dangle, or flaunt. While Florida’s offensive talent is its strongest weapon, if the Panthers’ overall defense can’t hold up (particularly if Aaron Ekblad can’t return to form due to his knee injury), the team’s run might be cut short.
Claude Giroux is a player to keep an eye on. Why? Because he chose this particular chance. At the trade deadline, the only place he wanted to be was in Florida. After years of disappointment in Philadelphia, the former captain of the Flyers is determined to win it all. What will he bring to the table to assist in the process?
Prediction: Like Tampa Bay in 2019, the Panthers’ apparently unstoppable season ends with a perplexing first-round elimination.
54-21-7 is the score (115 points)
Toronto has quality in all three parts of the game, which bodes well for a Stanley Cup run. One of the most explosive attacking duos in the NHL is Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Mark Giordano has helped to stabilize the blue line, and the Leafs now have decent depth on the blue line for the first time in their history. Following a midseason slump and rib injury, Jack Campbell seems to be back on track in net. Toronto is no longer a one-note wonder capable of putting pucks in the goal but unable to keep them out. Because the squad’s best players demonstrate that approach, team defense has become a component of the equation (including Matthews). There’s also the Leafs’ outstanding special teams, which include the greatest power play in the NHL and a dynamic penalty kill that is almost as likely to score shorthanded as it is to be scored on.
Confidence is the biggest weakness. Toronto can’t get away from its dreadful playoff history. Nobody will ever forget what occurred to the Leafs versus Boston (twice) or Montreal. This Toronto squad is capable of competing against any team it will meet in the playoffs, but only if the Leafs are at their best. That has been the gap in the past, and those demons will not be vanquished until Toronto succeeds when it counts most.
Marner is a player to keep an eye on. The winger is enjoying an incredible regular season, but he hasn’t scored a playoff goal since 2017-18 and only has eight assists in 12 playoffs games in the last two years. There’s a huge monkey on Marner’s back, and how he handles it in the playoffs this year will determine how successful the Leafs can be.
Toronto surprises the world by winning many rounds of the playoffs.
51-23-8 is the team’s record (110 points)
Tampa Bay understands how to win, which bodes well for a Stanley Cup run. The Lightning have done it twice in the last two seasons, and both times under less-than-ideal pandemic-related conditions. The Lightning maintain a cool demeanor even in the face of adversity, believing in their capacity to weather any storm. When every team wants to dethrone the champs, having that attitude is crucial. Then there’s the matter of people. Tampa’s MVP has been and continues to be goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. Is it true that he skied towards the conclusion of the season? Yes, but it doesn’t rule out the possibility of his flipping the switch when the time comes. The Lightning have terrific depth in the center of the ice with Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, and Anthony Cirelli, as well as Nikita Kucherov’s electrifying scoring potential and Victor Hedman’s superb defensive leadership. Tampa Bay’s lineup is still as fearsome as any in the league.
Fatigue is the most serious defect. Short offseasons follow long playoff campaigns. Since the NHL’s bubble tournament two years ago, Tampa hasn’t had much leisure. Winning feels fantastic at the moment, but it takes time to recover. The Lightning have had some rough patches in the second part of the season, with defeats piling up. Is this an indication that Tampa is losing its footing?
Vasilevskiy is a player to keep an eye on. Given how desperate the Leafs are to erase their chequered playoff history, the first round may be the most difficult for Tampa. To push Tampa over the hump and back into playoff cruise control, the Lightning goaltender will have to be better than his best.
Brandon Hagel, I think, will finally come to life. The former Blackhawks winger hasn’t produced since being acquired at the trade deadline. In the Lightning’s second season, expect that to alter.
44-26-12 is the team’s record (100 points)
The Capitals had a 100-point season for the sixth consecutive 82-game season, thanks to the sharpest parity the Eastern Conference has seen in a long time. Granted, there were 12 overtime defeats, a mediocre even-strength attack, and several goaltender concerns. But it was also a season in which Alex Ovechkin scored 50 goals and carried the club for long periods. Evgeny Kuznetsov, John Carlson, and Tom Wilson were among the Capitals who assisted him, as were Conor Sheary and Anthony Mantha. However, during seasons marred by injury and sickness, forwards Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie saw their offensive production plummet. That is, however, the regular season. This is the second round of the playoffs. The Capitals have an experienced lineup that can play hard hockey and play solid 5-on-5 defense. They can be in any series with a healthy Ovechkin. There is one issue…
Biggest flaw(s): After seeming to hurt his shoulder in an April 24 game, Ovechkin missed the Capitals’ last three games. The Russian Machine is who he is. It would not be surprising to see him play in the first round, however coach Peter Laviolette said that Ovechkin would not have been able to play if the playoffs had begun last week. The franchise star’s performance, particularly on the power play, determines whether Washington lives or dies. If he’s hurt, so are the Caps’ prospects of winning the Stanley Cup. The Capitals’ goaltending, on the other hand, is similarly frightening. Ilya Samsonov has performed at a sub-replacement level this season, while Vitek Vanecek has been extremely unreliable.
Player to watch: Tom Wilson, to his credit, avoided being banned throughout the regular season. He topped all Capitals forwards in goals scored above average with 23 goals and 28 assists. In the playoffs, the physicality ramps up, and Wilson has proved in the past that one huge detrimental hit can flip a series. He’s the kind of player you want to keep your eyes on.
Evgeny Kuznetsov leads the Capitals in scoring, but the team’s playoff run will be limited to one round.
Division of the Metropolitan
54-20-8 is the current record (116 points)
Case for a Stanley Cup run: What if a team had its best regular season in franchise history and no one noticed? That must be what the Hurricanes felt like in 2021-22, as they set a new standard for points in a season, won the Division of the Metropolitan for the first time and led the league in goals-against average. Yet Carolina is not mentioned in the same breath as other Stanley Cup contenders. That could change in a hurry in the postseason, as the Canes flex their impressive depth, stingy penalty kill and offensive flourish led by Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov. The team gets contributions from steady veterans (Jordan Staal), stellar young talents (Martin Necas) and other teams’ castaways (the divisive but effective Tony DeAngelo). Orchestrating all of it is coach Rod Brind’Amour, for whom the players would skate through a wall.
52-24-6 is the current record (110 points)
Starting with the greatest goalkeeper in the world, make a case for a Stanley Cup run. Igor Shesterkin led the NHL in save % and goals saved above average during the first two-thirds of the season, when the Rangers were towards the bottom of the league in even-strength statistics. However, the Rangers’ performance began to improve after the trade deadline and continued to improve until the last month of the season under first-year coach Gerard Gallant. However, the team is more than simply a strong goaltender. Chris Kreider became the Rangers’ fourth player to reach the 50-goal mark. Artemi Panarin had a 1.28 point per game average. Last year’s Norris winner, Adam Fox, returned with a solid performance. The squad has been strengthened by the role players introduced by GM Chris Drury along the road, such as forwards Barclay Goodrow and Andrew Copp.
The worst flaw(s): In the Stanley Cup playoffs, power plays aren’t always easy to come by. That’s bad news for a Rangers club whose power play (fourth in the NHL) has well outstripped their even-strength production (18th). Only the Sabres, Kraken, Coyotes, and Blackhawks had a worse anticipated goals-for per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 than the Rangers this season. It’s not the finest offensive company to hang out with.
Mika Zibanejad, who spent the most of his time alongside Kreider and assisted on 24 of his goals, was back to being a point-per-game center this season. He’s a potent offensive player who has 11 points in the playoffs in the last 15 games.
Shesterkin will throw two shutouts in the first round, and the Rangers will advance.
46-25-11 is the record (103 points)
The Penguins finished the season as a playoff club, which bodes well for a Stanley Cup run. That wasn’t a given before the season, and it wasn’t a given when the Steelers dealt with their apparently yearly slew of injuries. But now that the Penguins are in, with a team littered with recognizable faces boasting Stanley Cup rings, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Jeff Carter, Bryan Rust, and Jake Guentzel make the greatest case for a championship run. Strong seasons from a supporting cast of forwards Evan Rodrigues and Danton Heinen, as well as defender Mike Matheson, who had a career-defining season, have complemented that core. With Malkin, Letang, and Rust among the team’s upcoming free agents, they’ll help fuel what may be this aging core’s last Cup bid. “I think you try to appreciate it as much as you can and soak it all in because you know it’s not going to continue forever,” Crosby stated recently.
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The playoffs could not have come at a more inconvenient moment for Pittsburgh. Tristan Jarry, who had a fantastic regular season, has been sidelined with a fractured foot and is now recovering. After faltering against the Islanders in their 2021 series, Jarry will have to prove his postseason brilliance if he makes it back. It’s Casey DeSmith’s crease until he does. The Penguins’ offense is also in trouble, with an ice-cold power play and slumping stars like Rust. Due to injuries, forward Jason Zucker, who may aid, is unable to remain in the lineup. At the buzzer, things aren’t looking good for Pittsburgh.
Crosby recorded 84 points this season, which was his highest points-per-60-minutes average since 2009-10 in a season with at least 68 games played. Unfortunately, Alex Ovechkin has a monopoly on “he can still do that at his age, wow!” remarks, thus Crosby’s outstanding season has gone unnoticed. Sid’s performance in the last three postseasons has been less than stellar, with six points in 14 games. In the Penguins’ six-game series defeat to the Islanders last playoffs, he only had two points. But, since he’s Sidney Crosby, and he knows this may be the group’s last voyage, he’s the guy to keep an eye on for Pittsburgh.
The Penguins will be eliminated in the first round, but not because of their goalie. Unless it’s because to the goaltending of their opponents.
51-26-5 is the team’s record (107 points)
The case for a Stanley Cup run: Boston may be a difficult opponent. The Bruins are one of the league’s most stingy teams, allowing 2.69 goals per game on average, and excel at minimizing shots against (28.7 per game, third fewest in the NHL) and high-danger opportunities (first overall). The Bruins should be feared by any opponent if defense wins championships (and history says it does). The addition of Hampus Lindholm to the back end has significantly reinforced the Bruins’ blue line, allowing them to mix and match combinations as required during the playoffs. Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, the Bruins’ goaltending duo, deserve praise as well, as they have consistently outstanding performances that have allayed concerns about the team’s ability to move on from Tuukka Rask.
Then there’s Boston’s downtown area. Patrice Bergeron, Patrice Bergeron, Patrice Bergeron, Patrice Bergeron, Patrice Bergeron, Patrice Berg Brad Marchand is in the same boat. Boston has a winning heritage that begins with its leadership and extends to players like David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall, Charlie McAvoy, and others.
Consistency and resilience are the two biggest flaws. Can the Bruins endure and push back when things don’t go their way — when they can’t score a goal or give up a nasty one? Boston’s deadly instinct has been a trademark of their performance in the past, but it hasn’t always been there recently. The same may be said about its general consistency. The Bruins seem impregnable on some nights and stumble in their own end on others. Boston is a hard-hitting, back-breaking team to play against when it is at its best. Maintaining that kind of energy throughout the playoffs will be a challenge in and of itself.
McAvoy is a player to keep an eye on. This season, the Bruins’ top blueliner hasn’t gotten the same amount of attention as some of the league’s flashiest defenders, but he’s been outstanding in his own way. And it will be McAvoy leading the way if Boston wants to transform its defensive advantages into a long playoff run. He takes care of the tiny details, is powerful on both ends of the rink, and can contribute in any situation. Expect more outstanding performances from him in the future.
Boston will employ its shut-down powers to knock off a high-octane offensive opponent in the first round, according to a bold prediction.
56-19-7 is the current record (119 points)
Colorado is a force to be reckoned with in the Stanley Cup race. Period. The Avalanche are third in league scoring, sixth in goals against, have a top-five power play, and have great depth at forward and on defense to compliment Darcy Kuemper, who has had a strong second half in net.
Colorado has shown that it can win any game, whether it’s a big-time blowout or a close game. It’s not only the Avs’ big stars, like Nazem Kadri, Nathan MacKinnon, and Cale Makar, who are making an impact. Colorado is lucky to have explosive middle-six scorers like Valeri Nichushkin and quiet players like Artturi Lehkonen who can sneak up on opponents and surprise them with their scoring. While having top-end talent like Colorado has is ideal, it’s generally the unsung guys that pick up the postseason slack. And it’s possible that this will have a significant impact on the Avalanche in spring.
The penalty kill and defensive synergy are the two biggest flaws. Despite all of their impressive accomplishments this season, the Avs are just average on the kill (79 percent), which might be a problem in the playoffs, when scoring is more difficult and every advantage that goes the other way has the potential to be a game-winner. Coach Jared Bednar will have to figure out the best defensive combinations. Where do the rest of Colorado’s defenders fit behind Makar and Devon Toews? How much faith should he have in Samuel Girard or Jack Johnson? The Avalanche recall how easily Vegas sliced through them in the playoffs last season. That’s not going to happen again.
Kadri is a player to keep an eye on. What kind of playoff magic can Kadri conjure to top off a stellar year? The deadline for free agency approaches, and all eyes will be on Kadri as he pursues that elusive title.
Bold prediction: The Avalanche reverse the season’s script, failing to score early in the playoffs and relying on team defense to propel them forward.
53-22-7 is the current record (113 points)
What does (nearly) every lengthy playoff push contain in the case for a Stanley Cup run? Outstanding goaltending. The Wild have a lot of it. Since coming at the trade deadline from Chicago, Marc-Andre Fleury has been on fire. Cam Talbot, who has been consistent all season, has been even better while riding shotgun with the newcomer. Minnesota’s run will be set against this background. From Kirill Kaprizov to Kevin Fiala to Mats Zuccarello, the Wild have seen offensive talents emerge throughout the season. Minnesota has been on a tear since mid-March, going 19-2-3 in that time and approaching the playoffs with a well-earned confidence.
Biggest flaw(s): Minnesota’s special teams aren’t very impressive. The Wild’s penalty kill is in the bottom ten in the league, while its power play is in the middle. Failing to capitalize on man-advantage opportunities, as well as failing to keep pucks out on the kill, nearly always comes back to bother teams in the playoffs. In the playoffs, those 5-on-5 chances might be restricted, and they nearly always are. Special teams can make or break a game, and the Wild have struggled in that department.
Jonas Brodin is a player to keep an eye on. It’s easy to focus on Minnesota’s goaltending and offensive brilliance, but Brodin has been instrumental in facilitating all of that with his tenacious defense (and he’s no slouch with the puck, either, with a career-high in points this season). Brodin is a natural leader on the ice, anchoring the Wild in a manner that is essential to their success. Keep a watch out for the tiny things Brodin can do to help Minnesota win.
Coach Dean Evason defies precedent by not choosing a starter in goal for the playoffs, instead preferring to rotate between Fleury and Talbot.
49-22-11 is the record (109 points)
The case for a Stanley Cup run is as follows: History has a strange way of repeating itself. Fortunately for the Blues, the déjà vu high they’re on right now is a pleasant one.
St. Louis went from struggling to flourishing towards the close of the regular season in 2019, and rode a hot run all the way to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup triumph. In a similar vein, this season is shaping up. After a rocky start in February and most of March, the Blues exploded in April and haven’t looked back since. Ville Husso’s goaltending has been outstanding, while Jordan Binnington has finally recovered to become a more trustworthy backup. St. Louis’ power play, which has been in the top three in the NHL since late March, is also on a run. The Blues are playing with a lot of confidence, and we’ve seen where that can take them in the past.
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The team’s biggest flaw(s) has been their defense all season. Husso’s ability to cover for all kinds of faults in the Blues’ own end is part of what has made him so useful. This, along with the fact that St. Louis is one of the poorest teams in the NHL in terms of 5-on-5 possession totals, puts a lot of pressure on Husso, a rookie playing in his first playoffs, at the most difficult time of the year. The Blues have scoring potential, such as Jordan Kyrou and Vladimir Tarasenko, but with fewer opportunities in tight-checking playoff games, St. Louis will have to concentrate on the defensive details to prevent a disappointment.
Tarasenko is a player to keep an eye on. This is a player that wanted a trade away from St. Louis but has succeeded there this season. He’s the team’s highest scorer, averaging over a point per game, and he plays a significant amount of minutes. During the Blues’ 2019 season, Tarasenko has 11 goals and 17 points. Whether he’ll be looking for a trade out of town again this summer or not, Tarasenko should use every opportunity to shine in the coming weeks.
Binnington returns to the starter’s net and leads St. Louis well into the playoffs, according to a bold prediction.
45-30-7 is the score (97 points)
Nashville is a fantastic underdog, so back the Predators into a corner and watch them play their finest hockey. So it’s in Nashville’s benefit to not only enter the postseason as a wild-card club, but also to know that it’ll have to fight hard to reach the playoffs last. Consider how Nashville began the season, winning just one of its first five games before erupting to the best record in the NHL (23-7-2) from mid-October to early January. The Predators’ fortunes began to crumble after that, and they didn’t fare as well at the top of the rankings.
The chip on its shoulder, the desire to prove the team’s doubters wrong, is what makes Nashville dangerous (apart from Roman Josi, Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg, and Juuse Saros, of course). In the unknown season ahead, intangibles like these are tough to define.
The Predators’ biggest flaw(s): Can they keep it together on their own end? That is the query. We all know Josi is a Norris Trophy-caliber defender, but the rest of Nashville’s blue line isn’t quite as reliable. With a lower-body injury, Saros missed the last two games of the regular season, and his availability moving into the playoffs is unknown. The Predators have the ability to score, but how effectively they execute team defense and keep the puck out of their own goal will be the deciding factor.
Forsberg is a player to keep an eye on. A game-changing player who is also on the market for a new deal (from Nashville or someone else). That is a fantastic combo. In the coming weeks, Forsberg can and will test any defense the Predators face. Forsberg, who leads Nashville in game-winning goals, has the ability to produce some compelling drama.
Nashville goes from wild-card entrant to Western Conference finalist, which is a bold prediction.
Pacific Division is a division of the United States Army
50-21-11 is the score (111 points)
The Calgary Flames are one of the few teams that are designed specifically for a Stanley Cup run. At 5-on-5 this season, they were third in anticipated goals against and fourth in expected goals for per 60 minutes. They had three players with 40 goals each: Johnny Gaudreau (115 points), Matthew Tkachuk, and Elias Lindholm, with Andrew Mangiapane (35 goals) not far behind. Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman are two outstanding two-way forwards in their lineup. Tyler Toffoli is still a dangerous offensive player in the playoffs, despite his recent cooling off. Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, as well as Chris Tanev and Oliver Kylington, have been superb on defense. Jacob Markstrom, a Vezina Trophy candidate, is seeing it all from the crease. This club, under the direction of Darryl Sutter, is poised to bring the Cup back to Canada for the first time since 1993.
The worst flaw(s): Being a top-heavy offensive squad is a nice issue to have when your top line is full of guys with more than 35 goals. The Flames, on the other hand, don’t receive nearly as much help from their bottom six as some other clubs. A critique of Calgary this season is like to looking through one of those eyepieces to find a fault in a perfectly cut diamond. In the playoffs, though, teams win with depth, and the Flames’ depth has dwindled.
Player to keep an eye on: Tkachuk’s finest offensive season came as he approached restricted free agency this summer, which came as no surprise to anybody. The 24-year-old attacker finished the season with 103 points and a plus-58 (!) rating, while also racking up 68 penalty minutes. The one-of-a-kind NHL player who can agitate you with words, actions, and the scoreboard. If the Flames win the Stanley Cup, he’ll almost certainly earn the Conn Smythe Trophy.
The Flames will progress to the Western Conference finals, featuring a victory against the Oilers in the Battle of Alberta.
49-27-6 is the team’s record (104 points)
The case for a Stanley Cup run is as follows: This is Version 2.0 of the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers were 13th in the NHL in projected goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 under coach Dave Tippett, but they moved to fourth under interim coach Jay Woodcroft, who took over on Feb. 10. Under Tippett, they were 27th in goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5; under Woodcroft, they were ninth. Under Woodcroft, Edmonton improved throughout the board, including in the most crucial area: the standings, as the Oilers finished second in the Pacific Division. McDavid scored 123 points and Draisaitl had 110, so it was once again Connor and Leon’s show. Zach Hyman, the next highest scorer, with 54 points. The Oilers will have a chance to win any series as long as their stars shine so brilliantly.
The Oilers’ biggest problem is that, apart from McDavid and Draisaitl, they lack the depth in their forward group and on the blue line that other Western Conference contenders have. If the Oilers have a fault, it’s once again in the crease. Mike Smith, who has a.948 even-strength save % in nine games this month, has been on a roll. However, we do not believe this is sustainable, and Mikko Koskinen remains the only viable option.
Player to keep an eye on: With 43 points in 81 games, 22-year-old defenceman Evan Bouchard may have been a Calder Trophy candidate under other circumstances. He is, however, ineligible since he has appeared in more than six games in each of his first two NHL seasons. Bouchard will have to make do with 19:46 of average ice time and being a member of a good tandem with Duncan Keith, something Edmonton fans would not have anticipated before the season.
Prediction: The Oilers win their first playoff series since 2017, before falling to Calgary in the second round.
44-27-11 is the score (99 points)
The Kings, who have one of the richest prospect pools in the NHL, have been waiting for their next generation of players to develop for a few years. The established veterans, not the youth, were the driving force behind their first playoff spot since 2018. Anze Kopitar was the team’s leading scorer.
Viktor Arvidsson and Phillip Danault, two important offseason acquisitions by GM Rob Blake, were among the top four scorers. Trevor Moore, Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe, and Alex Edler all had good seasons, as did Jonathan Quick, who had a resurgence season, and Drew Doughty, who had a tremendous season before going down with a wrist injury. The kids, on the other hand, were fine: Defensemen Mikey Anderson and Sean Durzi, as well as forwards Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari, and Quinton Byfield, all contributed.
The NHL playoffs begin on Monday, with all four games broadcast on ESPN. Bruins-Canes (7 p.m. ET, ESPN), Lightning-Leafs (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2), Blues-Wild (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), and Kings-Oilers (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) are the first games (10 ET, ESPN2). • NHL on ESPN • Complete playoff coverage
Under coach Todd McLellan, the Kings have had solid underlying metrics this season, ranking seventh in anticipated goals per 60 minutes and fifth in % of shot attempts at 5-on-5. The nicest thing you can say about the Kings is that they found a way to win: as their divisional opponents struggled to make the playoffs, Los Angeles won four consecutive crucial games in regulation down the line.
The fact that the Kings were able to reach the playoffs without Doughty is a credit to how good they played before to his injury. When Doughty was released on March 7, the Los Angeles Lakers were 32-19-7. After that, they went 12-8-3. It’s difficult to picture the Kings achieving anything meaningful in the playoffs without Doughty, a proven playoff player who scored 31 points in 39 games this season while averaging 25:44 minutes per night. Without him, they’re fairly average on the back end.
Player to keep an eye on: Jonathan Quick was once regarded one of the top big-game goaltenders in the NHL. That was not long ago. He led the Kings to Stanley Cup victories in 2012 and 2014, with a.946 save percentage in the first of those two years. He hasn’t been that man in a long time, and at 36, he may never again. But, ten years after winning the Conn Smythe Trophy, this was his finest season since 2017-18, and there were enough instances of “classic Jonathan Quick” to make one question whether he still has a little postseason magic left in him.
Bold prediction: Kopitar and Danault do all they can to stop Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but the loss of Doughty is too much for the Kings, and they lose in six games to the Oilers.
46-30-6 is the record (98 points)
The Stars were able to make the playoffs in large part due to their top line. Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz, and Jason Robertson may be underappreciated in the NHL, but they helped Dallas climb the standings despite detractors dismissing the Stars’ playoff hopes. That squad is also showing no signs of slowing down, which should give Dallas some confidence heading into the first round.
Everyone knows that once the playoffs begin, anything can happen. Year every year, unlikely challengers emerge. Why not Dallas, for example? What does it matter if the Stars lose? Being the underdog has many advantages, such as the ability to just play your game without regard for the outcome. The Stars’ first line may be their superpower, but this group can provide a lot more. Jake Oettinger has been excellent in goal, and Dallas’ defense has been more cohesive in recent weeks. Dallas should be motivated to give each game its all after seeing its hard work pay off in the form of a playoff berth.
The Stars’ biggest fault has been their lack of depth scoring. Dallas’ offense has been hit or miss since Pavelski, Hintz, and Robertson (all of whom scored 70 points or more). Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have struggled for most of the season, and the Stars’ defenders don’t provide much scoring support (John Klingberg leads Dallas blueliners with six goals). While Dallas has every cause to be pleased with its top scorers, secondary scoring typically pushes teams ahead in close playoff games. More than a one-line marvel is required of the Stars.
Miro Heiskanen is a player to keep an eye on. Goals are expected to be few for the Stars, so expect the team’s best defense to play a key role in keeping pucks out of their end — and out of their goal. Heiskanen was unable to play this season due to sickness, but he is an important part of Dallas’ overall success. Heiskanen has the ability to set the tone for the whole team’s defensive strategy. This is the time for him to shine.
The Stars will take a tough first-round opponent to seven games, according to a bold prediction.
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