The first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is officially in the books. It was an exciting round of playoff hockey in which five of the eight series needed to go all the way to game seven. The second round should offer even more exciting series as teams fight to make it to the conference finals. Here are predictions for the four series taking place in the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
(1) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (2) New York Rangers
This matchup features the top two teams from the Metropolitan division who are both coming off of seven game series. The Hurricanes went back and forth with the Bruins while the Rangers came back from 3-1 down to win their first round series against the Penguins.
The Hurricanes won the regular season series 3-1, but the Rangers proved that they will not go down easily this postseason. The trio of Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad along with their deadly power play all help make the Rangers such a strong offensive team. That being said, this series does favor the Hurricanes for a variety of reasons. For one, Rangers will not have home ice for this series. This is mainly worth mentioning because Igor Shesterkin had some struggles on the road. He let up four goals in one period in game three and allowed six goals in two periods in game four. Additionally, the Hurricanes have been dominant at home throughout the regular season and postseason. They had the fifth best regular season home record in the NHL and went 4-0 at home against the Bruins in the first round.
This Rangers team is talented as they are resilient, and that will make every game in this series close. However, the Hurricanes should ultimately come away with the series win. Their defensive play makes them a tough matchup for a Rangers team that fell behind in several games against the Penguins. It won’t be as easy for them to come back if they allow the Hurricanes to jump ahead early in games.
Prediction: Hurricanes in 6
(1) Florida Panthers vs. (2) Tampa Bay Lightning
This series features a rematch of last year’s very exciting first round matchup. The Lightning won that series 4-2, but this year’s Panthers have much improved over last year’s team. They compiled the best record in the NHL and have a myriad of new, impactful players in comparison to their 2021 team. On the other side, the Lightning are without a number of players from last year’s roster, but showed against the Maple Leafs that they’re still a menacing postseason presence.
The Panthers beat the Capitals round one, but it wasn’t entirely convincing. They fell down in the series early and got brought to overtime twice. It showed that, for as good as they are, they’re far from perfect and are not immune from being upset. And with a team like the Lightning that has great postseason experience and goaltending, they could be a problem again for the Panthers.
Brayden Point’s injury might stifle the Lightning early on, but assuming they get him back by the time the series goes to Tampa Bay they could realistically upset the Panthers. This definitely has the feel of a long, seven game series with the talent on both sides. But with the Lightning’s streak of winning clinching games over the last several postseasons, they’ll pull off the big upset against the Panthers.
Prediction: Lightning in 7
(1) Colorado Avalanche vs. (3) Saint Louis Blues
The Avalanche come into this series as the only team to sweep their first round matchup. The Blues won a hotly contested series against the Minnesota Wild in six games. These teams met in the postseason last year, where the Avalanche swept the Blues. However, this year’s Blues team will not be as easy to take down.
They scored five goals in three straight games against the Wild after falling down two games to one early on. Jordan Binnington was fantastic in these final three games after replacing Ville Husso. They also boasted a strong power play, scoring eight power play goals with a 30.77 percentage. All in all, the Blues have a lot more fight across the board and are almost guaranteed to not be swept again. But will it be enough to upset the best team in the West?
The Avalanche were as advertised in the first round, scoring goals in bunches in their sweep of the Predators. Their power play hit at 43.75%, the best amongst the playoff field and they only played four games. They also held the Predators to under three goals in all but one of the four games. With the extended period of rest as well, it’s hard to believe that the Avalanche won’t beat the Blues again. The Blues will be hungry for revenge and force a longer series, but this Avalanche team has what it takes to weather the storm and make it to the conference finals.
Prediction: Avalanche in 6
(1) Calgary Flames vs. (2) Edmonton Oilers
The infamous “Battle of Alberta” will take place in the postseason for the first time since 1991. This bitter rivalry will make for some great hockey with both teams coming off of game seven victories in the first round. The Oilers had their struggles against the Kings, but a dominant defensive performance in game seven clinched them their first second round appearance since 2017. The Stars very nearly upset the Flames after Jake Oettinger made 64 saves to carry the Stars into overtime in game seven. However, Johnny Gaudreau’s overtime winner ensured that the Flames would not get by the Stars in consecutive postseasons.
When it comes to this series, it has the potential of being another seven game set for both sides. Both Mike Smith and Jacob Markstrom had solid performances throughout round one. Similarly, both teams are highlighted by their high powered offense. The Oilers have the always dangerous Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl while the Flames boast Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. The edge in this series will have to go to the Flames. They play a more complete defensive game on top of the fact that Markstrom is far more consistent in net than Smith. The only way the Oilers can take this series is if they get the quality goaltending that almost got the Stars past the Flames. Smith has been playing well to his credit, but the Flames offense may prove to be too much for him to replicate the kind of performance Oettinger had.
Prediction: Flames in 7
Featured image courtesy of NHL Public Relations
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