NHL 2022 Conference Finals Preview
Finally, we’ve got the matchups set for the NHL Conference Finals. The reigning champs Tampa Bay will take on the scrappy Rangers in the ECF, while title favorites Colorado battle against the talented Oilers in the WCF.
NHL playoff news
- Rangers progress to ECF after thrashing Hurricanes in Game 7, 6-2
- Oilers cruise past Flames, 4-1, to reach WCF
- Tampa Bay wins the Battle of Florida by beating Panthers, 4-0
- Colorado too much for St. Louis as Avalanche wins series, 4-2
Western NHL Conference Finals: Colorado Avalanche vs. Edmonton Oilers
After the Avalanche dispatched the Blues pretty handily, 4-2, and the Oilers shocked everyone by defeating the Flames with ease, 4-1, we’re now on to the NHL’s WCF.
It’s been some time for either team, as Edmonton hasn’t reached the Stanley Cup Finals since back in 2006, nor won it since 1990. Colorado hasn’t been to the Finals since 2001, which was also the last time the team won the championship.
Safe to say, both teams are impatient for another chance to hoist the Stanley Cup and give their fans something new to cheer about. Which squad has the better chance at winning the Western Conference Finals? Let’s take a look at a few of the main talking points.
This will be an offense-heavy series
Guess which two teams are scoring the most goals in the 2022 NHL playoffs? That’s right, the Oilers and the Avalanche. Both squads are averaging roughly four goals per game in the post-season, which isn’t exactly shocking due to the massive offensive talent on the teams.
For one, the Oilers have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the roster, who both have seven goals and 19 assists in the 2022 NHL playoffs. Don’t forget about Evander Kane, either, as he has picked up 12 goals in the post-season, which is the most from any player in the league right now.
The Avalanche’s defense will be hard-pressed to keep these three dangerous players from getting any goal they want, but it’s not like Colorado doesn’t have its own offensive threats, too.
Nathan MacKinnon is arguably the Avalanche’s best offensive player this year, and has already picked up eight goals and five assists in the playoffs so far. Then there’s going to be many eyes on the likes of Cale Maker (with 13 points), Gabriel Landeskog (11), and Mikko Rantanen (11).
So, if you like goals… lots of goals, then this WCF is the series for you, which means a lot of entertainment for us!
This looks like a series win for the Avalanche
The Avalanche will have the home-ice advantage in this best-of-seven series that starts on Tuesday, May 31st.
As impressive as the Oilers have been during the playoffs, especially the routing of the Flames, they are still the underdogs against the might that is the Avalanche.
Colorado won’t underestimate Edmonton by any means, but they simply have all the right pieces to keep up with any attacks thrown at them. The Avalanche never back down from a tough contest and is incredibly good at coming back from the brink of defeat with an unlikely win.
The overall speed and talent of Edmonton, especially from McDavid, will mean that the Oilers will pick up at least one, maybe two, games against Colorado. However, the depth and team chemistry on the Avalanche will overrun Edmonton in the end and we’re going to see Colorado reach their first Stanley Cup Finals since 2001.
Eastern NHL Conference Finals: New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning have been relaxing for some time after they swept the Panthers, 4-0, in the Second Round. Conversely, we’ve only just seen which team they’ll be facing, as it was the New York Rangers defeating the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 of the Second Round.
Not many people expected the Rangers to make it this far, but the team delivered to its haters by taking care of the favored Hurricanes. The last time the Rangers won the Stanley Cup was way back in 1994, and the last Finals matchup was in 2014.
For Tampa Bay, it could be lightning striking three times in the same spot, as the team is aiming for their third championship in a row after winning in 2020 and 2021. The last time a team won three straight was the New York Islanders from 1981 to 1983.
The Lightning will take on the Rangers in Game 1 on Wednesday, June 1st, and the Rangers will have home-ice advantage. Here are the main points of discussion.
The Rangers just won’t quit
Behind the Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad (seven goals and 12 assists) and the immovable object that is the team’s goaltender, Igor Shesterkin (who made 36 incredible saves in the Game 7 win over the Hurricanes), New York certainly has a strong chance.
There’s something very likable about the fighting Rangers, as everyone loves a team that never gives up and laughs in the face of doubt. Forward Chris Kleider said it best in an interview with ESPN, “I’ve kind of referred to us as cockroaches. We just didn’t go away,” said Kreider. “That’s always been engrained in the culture of every good team I’ve been on here. We just don’t go away, regardless of the score and regardless of where the game is. We just keep on trying to find our game and playing for each other.”
However, the Rangers know full well that this series against Tampa Bay is not going to be a walk in Central Park by any means, as the championship experience and stellar 2022 play have the Lightning as firm favorites to meet the Avalanche in the NHL Finals.
Tampa Bay has also had a lot of rest before the matchup, which is something New York can’t afford after a long seven-game series against Carolina. Sports debates are always raging over the “rest vs. rust” factor in matchups, but there’s no substitute for weary muscles and mental fatigue than a good, long break.
The Lightning has a not-so-secret weapon in the form of Nikita Kucherov (four goals and 11 assists) to help them knock down any opponent in their way, but the Rangers also need to look for Steven Stamkos (four goals and four assists), who has been terrific against the Panthers in the series before.
As great as Shesterkin has been in front of goal for the Rangers, the goaltender of the series could also be Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Lightning, as he managed to stop 151 of 154 attempts by the Panthers in the Second Round. Think about it: That’s just three goals let in by Vasilevskiy, so not much gets by him unless it’s a very special shot.
New York vs. Tampa Bay may well come down to which goalie is feeling it on the day.
Injury worries for the Lightning, but nevertheless a victory on the horizon
There’s a bit of good news for the Rangers, as there’s still a lot of doubt regarding the Lightning’s talented center, Brayden Point, returning from injury in time for the ECF. As good as Tampa Bay has been so far, Point’s absence is going to be greatly missed if he can’t reach the rink in the series.
Minimizing the speed and skills of the Rangers’ Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Adam Fox would be much easier with Point in the lineup, but no confirmation has been said if he’ll be in or out against New York.
This series will be tough, but something tells us it’s going to be the Lightning taking on the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Finals after they beat the Rangers. Could the Lightning make it three championships in a row? It’s possible, but not before the Avalanche has something to say about that.
Author: Joe Garland