The 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Have Arrived!
It’s not just the NBA playoffs that are taking over the sports headlines at the moment, as ice hockey fans will be eager to know that the battle for the 2022 Stanley Cup has begun! The NHL playoffs started on Monday and a few games in the series have already happened, but we thought we would provide a quick summary of the season, plus a preview of the playoff matchups.
The NHL playoffs are split into four rounds that are a best-of-seven series. The best team from each conference will compete in the championship round and only one will hoist the Stanley Cup at the end of it all. Will your team be in it? Let’s find out.
Recap of the NHL 2021-2022 season
Here’s a rapid summary of the regular season to get you up to speed.
- Best in the Atlantic Division: Florida Panthers (58-18)
- Best in the Metropolitan Division: Carolina Hurricanes (54-20)
- Best in the Central Division: Colorado Avalanche (56-19)
- Best in the Pacific Division: Calgary Flames (50-21)
- Assists leader: Jonathan Huberdeau – Panthers (85)
- Points leader: Connor McDavid – Oilers (123)
- Goals leader: Auston Matthews – Maple Leafs (60)
- Three outdoor games were held during the season
- Alex Ovechkin became the third-leading goal scorer in NHL history
Which teams have made the NHL playoffs?
Here is a breakdown of the matchups for the 2022 NHL playoffs.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Nashville Predators
The Avalanche performed brilliantly all season and clinched the top of the Central Division, but more than that, many believe that this is the team to win the Stanley Cup.
The Predators never really had a big chance against the Avalanche, but even less so with the news that star goalie Juuse Saros picked up a bad ankle injury that ruled him out of the series. On the Colorado side, Cale Maker, Mikko Rantanen, and Nathan MacKinnon will give the Predators a matchup nightmare, and goalie Darcy Kuemper is up there with the best in the league right now.
Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues
The Wild easily had one of the best seasons on the offensive end in the history of the franchise, with 47 goals coming from winger Kirill Kaprizov. Still, the Blues didn’t sleepwalk their way through the season, either, as winger Vladimir Tarasenko picked up 82 points and was a standout on the team. This was especially interesting, as Tarasenko demanded a trade last season but things clearly worked out.
Calgary Flames vs. Dallas Stars
The Flames are, as you might expect, on fire right now. If not the Avalanche, then Calgary is certainly a favorite for the championship trophy in these playoffs. The team had not one, but three hugely talented goal scorers reach at least 40, including Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, and Johnny Gaudreau.
The Stars have a rising talent in the form of Jason Robertson (41 goals), but it’s hard to see the team having enough skill to topple the Flames when they’re so much in form now.
Edmonton Oilers vs. Los Angeles Kings
Everyone knows how great Connor McDavid has become, as the NHL’s leading point scorer this season can score at will and set up teammates with ease. The Oilers also had a lot of success with new coach, Jay Woodcroft, and have played with a new tempo that is hard to match.
Let’s not completely rule out the Kings, though, who made the playoffs for the first time since 2018. Centers Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault can cause some trouble if not guarded well, but the bad news is that defenseman Drew Doughty won’t be playing due to a wrist injury. They needed him badly to stop McDavid from getting any goal he wants.
As McDavid can cut across defenders like a hot knife through butter, there’s every reason to believe he will keep up the outstanding form that helped him pick up 123 points for the Oilers during the regular season. Although L.A. did get a nice Super Bowl win with the Rams, it looks like the Kings will join the Lakers on the sidelines of the playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Can the Lighting make it three Stanley Cup wins in a row? No team has completed this achievement since the Islanders in 1982. The 2020 and 2021 champions are still looking as great as ever, with much of the core lineup still suiting up, including Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Brayden Point, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, have not been victorious in a playoff series since 2004, but they do have one of the best players in the league with Auston Matthews. The defense and goaltending are an issue, but there is still a lot of talent on the ice.
This is many fans’ most anticipated matchup in the first round, even if you don’t support Tampa Bay or Toronto. Really, you could flip a coin here to predict the outcome, as both teams picked up a gear just before the playoffs started and will almost certainly continue this into the post-season.
Winner: Lightning (but it’s very close)
Florida Panthers vs. Washington Capitals
The Panthers love to play with a lot of pace and energy, which is great to watch for fans, but it also means they are prone to unforced errors. Still, it’s an offense to be excited about and Panthers fans will be eager to check the health of superstar Capitals winger, Alex Ovechkin, who damaged his shoulder at the end of the regular season. Ovechkin should play at some point in the series, but he might not be as dynamic as normal.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Boston Bruins
It’s hard not to like the Hurricanes this season, with an offense that was balanced but also a defense that kept things tight. It sucks to lose goalie Frederik Andersen to injury, who will most likely sit out the whole series.
For the Bruins, the team may no longer have big names like Tuukka Rask and David Krejci, but there’s still a lot to be excited about, including
Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Charlie McAvoy. Plus, the Bruins seem to have the Hurricanes’ number when it comes to the playoffs.
New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
While not all credit for the Rangers’ fantastic regular season can go to standout goalie, Igor Shesterkin, most of the success does land on his shoulders. Adam Fox, Artemi Panarin, and Mika Zibanejad will all help the Rangers keep succeeding in the post-season.
The Penguins have looked a bit shaky at times, but there’s nevertheless hope in the form of Sidney Crosby to give the team one last chance at the Cup. It’s a shame goalie Tristan Jarry broke his foot before the start of the playoffs, as he was defending amazingly well and could have been the X-factor in this series.
Who will win the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup?
It’s got to be the Colorado Avalanche. Despite the Lightning attempting to go for three in a row, the Avalanche have controlled the NHL all season-long and have fixed roster mistakes at the trade deadline. The last time the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup was 2001, so it’s about time that the team picked up another title.
There is somewhat of a rush to get a championship for Colorado this season, as the they have nine unrestricted free agents next season, including the team’s leading goal scorer, Nazem Kadri, as well as two equally-good goalies, Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz.
Superstar center Nathan MacKinnon is in the penultimate year of his $44.1 million contract, but you just know his next contract will be far bigger, so the Avalanche have a bit of a “win now” thought process for this 2022 playoff run.
Author: Joe Garland