Why Each NHL Playoff Team Will Win the Stanley Cup
The puck drops on the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs on Monday. It marks the first time since 2019 that the 16 postseason competitors have completed a full 82-game schedule.
How that factor affects these clubs in the quest for the Cup remains to be seen. In the meantime, each of them will rely on their strengths in hope of persevering through four best-of-seven playoff rounds to claim hockey's ultimate prize.
Some teams will lean on their solid goaltending. Others play a strong defensive system, while there are those with a high-powered offense. Other intangibles, such as a healthy roster or a game-breaking superstar, could also tip the balance in their favor.
Here's our take on what each of the 16 playoff clubs has in order to claim the honor of becoming the 2022 Stanley Cup champion. We've broken it down by division and where each club finished in their respective divisional standings.
Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.
Winners of the Presidents' Trophy, the Florida Panthers were red-hot after acquiring Claude Giroux before the March 21 trade deadline, winning 16 of their final 20 regular-season games. Led by Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart, they led the league in goals per game (4.11). Sidelined defenseman Aaron Ekblad has resumed skating and could return for the opening round.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Thanks in part to 60-goal scorer Auston Matthews, the Toronto Maple Leafs boasted the league's best power-play percentage (27.3). They also led the league in faceoff win percentage (55.1), while their 3.80 goals per game sat second to the Panthers. The addition of Mark Giordano at the trade deadline bolstered their blue line. Their penalty-killing percentage (82.1) ranked eighth overall.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning still possess a talented core led by Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy. They also have a deep, experienced supporting cast featuring Brayden Point, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat and Mikhail Sergachev. They tied for seventh in goals per game (3.48), while their 29.8 shots against per game was the seventh-lowest.
The Boston Bruins have two solid scoring lines since moving Jake DeBrusk onto the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand and putting David Pastrnak alongside Taylor Hall and Erik Haula. The goalie tandem of Linus Ullmark and rookie Jeremy Swayman combined for a fourth-best 2.66 goals-against per game. Hampus Lindholm's return from injury provides a welcome boost to their defense corps.
Having dominated the Western Conference this season, the Colorado Avalanche sat fourth overall with a 3.76 goals-per-game average, while their 24.0 power-play percentage ranked seventh. Their potent offense is led by superstars Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar. Forwards Nazem Kadri and Mikko Rantanen recently returned from injury, and sidelined captain Gabriel Landeskog will be back for the postseason.
Thanks to leading scorers Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala, the Minnesota Wild's 3.72 goals per game ranked fifth. The tandem of Cam Talbot and trade-deadline acquisition Marc-Andre Fleury gives them considerable experience between the pipes. They also have experienced leadership in winger Mats Zuccarello and an underrated two-way center in Joel Eriksson Ek.
St. Louis Blues
The 2019 Stanley Cup champions are looking like genuine Cup contenders this season. Their power-play percentage (27.0) ranked second, while their goals per game (3.77) was third. Nine players, including Vladimir Tarasenko, Pavel Buchnevich, captain Ryan O'Reilly and rising stars Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas, each scored at least 20 goals this season.
Sophomore winger Jason Robertson tallied 41 goals, Joe Pavelski netted 81 points and Roope Hintz hit a career-high 72 points for the Dallas Stars. Rookie goaltender Jake Oettinger looks like a seasoned veteran. They also possess a solid top-four along the blue line in Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, Ryan Suter and John Klingberg. Their faceoff win percentage (54.8) was the league's second-best.
Career-best performances from leading scorers Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene propelled the Nashville Predators into the postseason. Winger Tanner Jeannot led all rookies with 24 goals. Goaltender Juuse Saros was among the league leaders with 38 wins and a .918 save percentage. Their power-play percentage (24.6) was tied for fifth.
Leading scorers Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov provide plenty of punch to the Carolina Hurricanes' offensive attack. Starting goaltender Frederik Andersen was among the league leaders with 35 wins, 2.17 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. The Hurricanes' 88.0 penalty-killing percentage was the league's best.
New York Rangers
New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin led the league in GAA (2.07) and save percentage (.935), making him the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy. Thanks to forwards Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and 52-goal scorer Chris Kreider, the Blueshirts' 25.2 power-play percentage was the league's fourth-best. Their defense corps is anchored by defending Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have experience playoff veterans in Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Jeff Carter, Jake Guentzel and captain Sidney Crosby. Trade-deadline acquisition Rickard Rakell has fit in well with 13 points in 19 games. They sat third with a penalty-killing percentage of 84.4, and their 2.71 goals-against per game was the fifth-best.
With another 50-goal performance by captain Alex Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals' 3.29 goals per game ranked 10th. Center Evgeny Kuznetsov enjoyed a bounce-back 78-point performance, while defenseman John Carlson reached 70 points for the third time in the last four years. Rugged winger Tom Wilson had a career year with 24 goals and 52 points.
Thriving in their first full season under head coach Darryl Sutter, the Calgary Flames' scoring leaders, Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm and Andrew Mangiapane, had career-best seasons. So did goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who led the league with nine shutouts. Under Sutter, the Flames have a well-balanced club that sat among the top teams statistically at both ends of the rink.
After early postseason exits over the past two years, the Edmonton Oilers will be motivated for better results this time. Captain Connor McDavid led the league with 123 points, while Leon Draisaitl sat fourth with 110 points. The Oilers won 26 of their last 38 regular-season games since Jay Woodcroft took over as interim head coach. Their power-play percentage (26.0) was the league's third-best.
Los Angeles Kings
Longtime Los Angeles Kings veterans Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick enjoyed healthy, productive seasons. Off-season acquisitions Philip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson were among their top five scorers. Winger Adrian Kempe blossomed into a 35-goal scorer, while rookies Sean Durzi, Arthur Kaliyev and Quinton Byfield became roster regulars. Their faceoff win percentage (52.2) was the league's fifth-best.