2022 NHL Playoffs: Burning questions for each of the Stanley Cup contenders

The 2021-22 NHL routine season is formally in the books and probably the most interesting postseason in sports is set to get underway on May 2. 

The Florida Panthers came away with the Presidents’ Trophy after leading the league in standings points in the routine season. Florida will be the front runner in the Eastern Conference while the Colorado Avalanche made the front runner in the Western Conference. 

The NHL postseason field has many groups that can making deep go to the Stanley Cup Final. However, with such a deep field, there are a lot of concerns that will require to be addressed in order for these groups to accomplish playoff magnificence. 

Let’s dive into the greatest burning concerns as the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs start.

Can the Maple Leafs advance past the opening round?

This appears to be the million dollar concern that everybody is asking. It’s been clear that the opening round of the postseason hasn’t been the Maple Leafs’ specialty in the last few years. In truth, Toronto has actually been gotten rid of in the opening round in each of the last 5 postseasons in spite of tape-recording a minimum of 95 points in the routine season in 3 of those years. A prominent lineup hasn’t constantly related to being an effective group on the ice once the weather condition heats up. 

However, this is among the most skilled groups that the Maple Leafs have actually had in rather a long time. Star center Auston Matthews is coming off a routine season in which he signed up 106 points. He likewise ended up being the NHL’s very first 60-goal scorer considering that the 2011-12 season when Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos scored 60 objectives on the nose. Matthews has actually looked downright unstoppable since late with 10 objectives throughout the month of April. While Matthews has actually been spectacular, he’s refraining from doing it by himself. The Maple Leafs have have 3 other gamers that have actually scored a minimum of 27 objectives in Mitchell Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares and typical 3.8 goals-per-game (fourth-best in the league). If anywhere near to this Toronto offense appears, it would be a shock to see the Maple Leafs bail out in the preliminary yet once again.

Can the Panthers get rid of the Presidents’ Trophy jinx?

The Florida Panthers won their very first Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history after collecting 122 points this season. While the Panthers have had an extraordinary season, winning the Presidents’ Trophy hasn’t implied postseason success with most of its previous winners. In truth, the league’s leading regular-season group has actually just won the Stanley Cup two times considering that the 2004-05 NHL Lockout. The Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup 2008 after winning the Presidents’ Trophy and the Chicago Blackhawks won all of it in 2013. In addition, no Presidents’ Trophy winner has actually advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals considering that the Blackhawks raised the Cup in 2013.

If any group can do the job, it would definitely be the Panthers. Florida ended up the routine season with 4 gamers topping the 30-goal mark and 3 gamers topping the 80 points. Winger Jonathan Huberdeau blazed a trail with a team-high 115 points (30 objectives and 85 helps) and ended up connected for 2nd in the NHL in points. The additions of winger Claude Giroux and defenseman Ben Chiarot at the trade due date show to be big upgrades. It will not be simple with groups like the Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs creating chaos in the East, however the Panthers have the inmost lineup. Now it’ll all boil down to execution.

Does Sidney Crosby have any postseason magic left?

Since the Pittsburgh Penguins picked Sidney Crosby with the No. 1 choice in the 2005 NHL Draft, the requirements have actually been extremely high. That’s what takes place when a franchise wins 3 Stanley Cups with a gamer of Crosby’s caliber blazing a trail. While Crosby may not be as explosive as he as soon as was, the Penguins star is still efficient in some really unique minutes. Crosby tape-recorded 84 points (31 objectives and 53 helps) in the routine season, which was his acme overall considering that the 2018-19 project when he signed up 100 points.

Crosby has actually signed up 191 postseason points throughout his NHL profession and been the straw that stirs the beverage for the Penguins’ offense. However, Pittsburgh hasn’t made it out of the opening round in 3 of the previous 4 seasons following their Stanley Cup win in 2017. If the Penguins wish to make a deep playoff run, they’re going to require the Crosby of old to enforce his will in each and every series.

Will the Lightning end up being a dynasty and win their 3rd successive Stanley Cup?

The Tampa Bay Lightning  remain in pursuit of a three-peat after winning the Stanley Cup each of the previous 2 seasons. Obviously, a good deal has actually been made about the Panthers and Hurricanes when it pertains to the Eastern Conference. However, the Lightning weren’t too far behind in the standings with 108 points.

If Tampa Bay has the ability to three-peat, this group would remain in really choose business. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs (1947-49, 1962-64), Montreal Canadiens (1956-60, 1976-79), and New York Islanders (1980-83) have actually won a minimum of 3 successive Stanley Cup champions considering that the NHL took control of the Cup in 1927. 

Tampa Bay generally is returning the exact same group from last season’s Stanley Cup-winning team, however did include winger Brandon Hagel from the Blackhawks at the trade due date. In addition, they’re likewise going to have a healthy Steven Stamkos, which they have not had the high-end of in the playoffs the previous 2 seasons. Depending on who the Lightning attract each round, they have a possibility to make history.

The Calgary Flames shocked the hockey world by being among the leading groups in the West this season. One of the greatest factors for that was the play of star winger Johnny Gaudreau, who had a profession year in which he signed up 115 points (40 objectives and 75 helps). 

This is the the 5th time that “Johnny Hockey” will be postseason bound. In 30 profession championship game, Gaudreau has actually collected 19 points (8 objectives and 11 helps), which is isn’t bad by any methods. While the Flames do have outstanding goaltending in Jacob Markstrom, Gaudreau is going to require to produce in a huge method if Calgary wishes to make a run at the Stanley Cup. Gaudreau is coming off a month in which he scored 9 objectives and dispensed 15 helps down the stretch. If that level of production can continue, it’ll go a long method towards the Flames possibly advancing a couple of rounds in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Can the Wild exercise their postseason satanic forces?

The Minnesota Wild have not had a lots of postseason success in their 22-year history. In truth, the Wild have actually just made it out of the preliminary on 3 celebrations, that include a look in the Western Conference Finals throughout the 2002-03 season (lost 4-0 to the Anaheim Ducks). 

One of the greatest strengths might be lastly having a supporting force in between the pipelines. The group headed out and gotten veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury at the trade due date in what seemed like an extremely essential relocation. Cam Talbot revealed flashes sometimes, however was eventually really irregular throughout most of the season prior to the relocation. While Fleury’s numbers weren’t eye-popping with the Blackhawks, it’s likewise worth keeping in mind that the Blackhawks were a screen defensively in front of Fleury and he was put in some tight spots. 

Fleury’s play has actually been up-and-down sometimes, however his postseason numbers promote themselves. During his profession, the 37-year old has a 90-70 record with a 2.53 goals-against-average and a .912 conserve portion. Over his previous 2 playoff looks as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights, he’s gone 12-8 in addition to a 2.16 goals-against-average, consisting of rattling off 9 wins throughout the 2020-21 postseason. Now it is going to be a hard test versus the St. Louis Blues in the opening round, who do typical 3.8 goals-per-game. Still, If the Wild get the Fleury that we have actually grown familiar with seeing in current playoff years, the Wild can win a series or more.

Can the Avalanche win their very first Stanley Cup in over twenty years?

The Colorado Avalanche fought tooth-and-nail with the Panthers for the Presidents’ Trophy throughout the routine season. Much like the 2021 season, the Avalanche go into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as one of the most powerful groups in the field. Colorado was among the leading offenses in the league as they balanced 3.8 goals-per-game, which just routed the Panthers because department. This is probably the inmost lineup that the Avalanche have actually had considering that they won the Stanley Cup in 2001. 

Colorado has no scarcity of offending efficient with 4 gamers signing up a minimum of 86 points this season. The greatest enigma for the Avalanche is going to be getting consistency from goaltender Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper has actually had a strong season with a 37-12-4 record and a 2.54 goals-against-average, however he’s had a hard time in current weeks leading up to the postseason. The veteran netminder had a 3.28 goals-against-average in April and gave up a minimum of 4 objectives in 5 of his 10 starts. In addition, Kuemper just yielded 2 or less objectives in 2 of those starts. Goal scoring will never ever remain in concern when it pertains to the Avalanche, however a deep run towards the Stanley Cup will likely depend upon what they receive from Kuemper in internet.

Since appearing in the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, the Edmonton Oilers have actually just made the playoffs 4 times throughout that stretch while just leaving the opening round as soon as. Over the course of his seven-year NHL profession, star forward Connor McDavid just has actually been to the postseason 3 times and has actually tape-recorded 22 playoff points (11 objectives and 11 helps) in 21 video games. 

McDavid has actually developed himself as maybe the leading gamer in the sport and even led the league with 123 points this season. However, in each of his last 2 postseason looks, McDavid has actually just led the Oilers to one win. The Oilers star is going to require to reveal why he is among the very best gamers worldwide if Edmonton wishes to advance out of the preliminary and past the Los Angeles Kings.

Can Igor Shesterkin take pleasure in postseason success in spite of lack of experience?

After missing out on the playoffs 3 of the previous 4 seasons, the New York Rangers had their finest project in 7 seasons. Goaltender Igor Shesterkin is definitely among the main factors for that level of success. Shesterkin kipped down a sensational season in which he went 36-13-4 while leading the NHL with a 2.07 goals-against-average and .935 save portion. 

The just genuine unpredictability surrounding the Rangers is that Shesterkin does not have a lots of postseason experience. The Vezina Trophy preferred has just one profession playoff start under his belt, which came versus the Carolina Hurricanes throughout the 2019-20 postseason. Shesterkin gave up 3 objectives while stopping 30 of the 33 shots he dealt with throughout Game 3 of that specific series. 

While having really little postseason experience isn’t perfect, Shesterkin did simply conclude a spectacular routine season. The Rangers netminder likewise had a remarkable quantity of success versus his preliminary challengers in the Penguins. In 4 starts versus Pittsburgh, Shesterkin just quit 3 overall objectives and won 3 of those 4 starts. Shesterkin’s just loss was a 1-0 defeat in late February. If Shesterkin channels the exact same level of self-confidence from these routine season conferences, the Rangers might discover themselves carrying on.

Will Frederik Andersen be healthy adequate to bring the Hurricanes?

Goalie Frederik Andersen invested the previous 5 seasons with the Maple Leafs prior to signing with the Carolina Hurricanes this previous offseason. It wound up being a great finalizing for the Hurricanes as Andersen had the very best season of his nine-year NHL profession. Andersen had the second-best goals-against-average (2.17) and the fourth-best save portion (.922) in the league this year.

Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, Andersen is handling a lower-body injury that he suffered versus the Avalanche back on April 16. Since that efficiency in which he yielded 7 objectives, the 32-year old has actually run out the lineup and his status for the Hurricanes’ preliminary series versus the Boston Bruins is up in the air. Prior to Game 1 versus Boston, Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour revealed that Andersen would be getting the start. It appears that there might be hope that Andersen plays in the series, however that’s an unidentified at this moment. Even with the quantity of skill that the Hurricanes have offensively, they’re going to need to wish to get Andersen back at some time in this series since the Bruins are an extremely harmful group.

Player rankings as Mikael Uhre and Randall Leal inagurate Geodis Park

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