Why your team will (and will not) win the Stanley Cup

The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Monday as 16 teams begin their quest to win the Stanley Cup.

As we have seen in recent years when an expansion Vegas team or a surprising Montreal team went on stunning Stanley Cup Final runs anything is possible at this time of year. A hot goalie (or a cold goalie) can change anything, while a team could get healthy and have everything click at the exact right time to make some unexpected noise.

Every team’s fanbase probably has some sort of reason for optimism and pessimism right now.

So we are going to take a look at why every playoff team in the NHL will (and will not) win the Stanley Cup this season.

Boston Bruins

Why they will win: The Bruins are one of, if not the best, defensive teams in the league and have some game-changing top-tier forwards in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Taylor Hall that can change games.

Why they will not win: Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark have been very good this season, but are they good enough to take the team on a deep playoff run? Are they deep enough at forward to contend with the other top teams in the NHL?

Calgary Flames

Why they will win: Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau are the best top-line duo in the league this season, while they added some much needed scoring depth in Tyler Toffoli and Calle Jarnkrok. They also have an outstanding defensive structure, a great goalie, and are playing in a very winnable divisional bracket where they should be favorites in each of the first two rounds.

Why they will not win: While Toffoli and Jarnkrok have been strong additions, they are still not quite as deep at forward as, say, a team like Colorado or some of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Carolina Hurricanes

Why they will win: Simply put, they have one of the most complete rosters in the NHL from top-to-bottom with few weaknesses as long as everybody is healthy. They are young, fast, skilled, and won the Jennings Trophy by allowing the fewest goals in the NHL this season.

Why they will not win: The health of their goalies late in the season, especially Frederik Andersen, is a definite concern. If Andersen is not healthy or has his play impacted in anyway that could be a game-changer.

Colorado Avalanche

Why they will win: They have superstars at forward, the best defense in the NHL, and a strong goalie in Darcy Kuemper that is not going to lose them many games. On paper it is probably the best team in the league.

Why they will not win: The Central Division bracket is definitely the tougher of the two in the Western Conference, and assuming they take care of business against Nashville are going to get a really tough second round matchup in either Minnesota or St. Louis. Their penalty kill (15th in the NHL) is also a potential weakness that could be exploited.

Dallas Stars

Why they will win: Strong top-end defenders and a dominant top line led by Jason Robertson that could carry them if it gets rolling. It would not be the first time they came into the playoffs with low expectations, got hot at the right time, and went on a run.

Why they will not win: Just not enough scoring depth beyond their top-four forwards. You need balanced scoring to win in the playoffs and the Stars really do not have that. That has played a big role in some of their inconsistency this season.

Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Edmonton Oilers

Why they will win: They have the two best offensive players in the world in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and have looked like a completely different team since Jay Woodcroft replaced Dave Tippett behind the bench.

Why they will not win: Still do not trust their depth, defense, or goaltending. Mike Smith has been great down the stretch, but what if that is just a mirage and a hot streak instead of a meaningful long-term change?

Florida Panthers

Why they will win: Have you seen that offense? It is ridiculous. The best offense in 30 years and just absolutely loaded from top to bottom. Every line can score goals and the team as a whole can embarrass any opponent on any given night.

Why they will not win: The playoff style of play is designed to suck the fun out of teams like this, so what happens if the offense does not score at the same pace it did in the regular season? The elephant in the room is also the goalie situation. Sergei Bobrovsky has a .900 save percentage since February 1 and his playoff resume is brutal. Among the 32 goalies with at least 25 playoff appearances since the start of the 2010 playoffs, Bobrovsky’s .899 save percentage ranks 32nd out of that group. He was brutal in the playoffs a year ago. High scoring teams with suspect goaltending sometimes have a bad time in the playoffs.

Los Angeles Kings

Why they will win: They have some really good center depth with Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault, and a lot of their underlying and defensive numbers are very, very strong. Right on par with some of the best teams in the league. This is a sneaky good team.

Why they will not win: Injuries on defense are a concern (no Drew Doughty) and the goaltending is not exactly great. Also just do not stack up with a lot of the contenders in terms of talent on paper.

Minnesota Wild

Why they will win: They have two dominant scoring lines and a very solid defense. After adding Marc-Andre Fleury they also have an outstanding goaltending duo with him and Cam Talbot that gives them options and security. They have been one of the best teams in the league from the start.

Why they will not win: They would have to beat St. Louis and (most likely) Colorado just to reach the Western Conference Final. That is an absolute gauntlet. And while Fleury and Talbot have been great together so far, they can also be a little volatile in a short series.

Nashville Predators

Why they will win: Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, and Matt Duchene have had outstanding seasons, and if they can stay in it long enough to get Juuse Saros back they would have an upper-level goalie that can carry them.

Why they will not win: If Saros is not able to play against Colorado — or play at full health — that makes an already long-shot team even more of an underdog. If can not go winning a game might be a struggle.

New York Rangers

Why they will win: Igor Shesterkin should be the league MVP and has helped carry them all year, while they have elite players at forward (Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider) and defense (Adam Fox). They also made some fantastic trade deadline additions (Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano) that really changed their season. Elite goaltending and impact players can take a team a long way.

Why they will not win: As good as the top part of the lineup is, their bottom six still leaves a lot to be desired. They really need Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière to make an impact.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Why they will win: As long as they have Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang, and Evgeni Malkin they have a shot. They are a top-five team in goals against this season and have a deeper forward lineup than they get credit for having.

Why they will not win: Goaltending is a big question, especially at the start with Tristan Jarry sidelined. How much do you trust Casey DeSmith to get them through a series (or even the first part of a series) against Igor Shesterkin? They have also not looked great for the past month, pretty much backing into the playoffs.

St. Louis Blues

Why they will win: They have transformed from a shutdown defensive team into one of the league’s best offensive juggernauts. Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou have broken out, Vladimir Tarasenko stayed and returned to being an elite player, Pavel Buchnevich turned out to be a steal, and they can score goals with anybody in the NHL as a team.

Why they will not win: Defense is a little bit of a question mark, as is goalie. Ville Husso has been significantly better than Jordan Binnington, but he has very little NHL track record. They also have to run that Central Division bracket that is not going to be easy.

Tampa Bay Lighting

Why they will win: They are the back-to-back champions and until somebody actually beats them you should never write them off. Incredible talent at forward, a future Hall of Famer (Victor Hedman) on defense, and the best goalie in the world as the last line of defense behind all of that.

Why they will not win: There is a reason only two teams have won three consecutive Stanley Cups in the post Original-Six era, and none over the past 40 years. It is difficult, almost impossible even, to have everything go right at the exact same time three years in a row. Tampa Bay (and especially Andrei Vasilevskiy) has played a lot of hockey the past three years and eventually that takes its toll. Also reason to question if their depth is as strong as it was a year ago.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Why they will win: You can make all of the playoff jokes you want (I do!), but this is a legitimately good team. An excellent team. An outstanding team. The offense is one of the best in the league, the defense is better than it gets credit for being, and they have done a really good job building some depth around their big money stars. They are capable of winning. Yes, we actually have to see them win a round, but the ability is there.

Why they will not win: Goaltending is a major question mark and potential problem. Jack Campbell has been all over the place this season and they really do not have a Plan B here if things go south for him. That can ruin a postseason really quickly.

Washington Capitals

Why they will win: When healthy this team still has a lot of talent that has won before. They have not been consistently healthy this season (Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and Anthony Mantha all missed half of the season) and they still comfortably made the playoffs with over 100 points. They are perfectly capable of beating Sergei Bobrovsky in the First Round and making some real noise.

Why they will not win: The goaltending situation might be one of the worst among any teams in the playoffs, while neither Ilya Samsonov or Vitek Vanecek has done anything to inspire confidence.

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    Ovechkin, and Ovi Jr., take the ice at All-Star skills night

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — When you’ve got the second-most goals in NHL history, you’re evidently permitted to bring a guest onto the ice for the All-Star Skills competition.

    That’s why there were two No. 8 Washington jerseys out there Friday night.

    Capitals star Alex Ovechkin took the ice with his Metropolitan Division teammates – and his oldest child, 4-year-old Sergei.

    Sergei, named for Ovechkin’s late brother, was wearing an Ovi Jr. jersey. The kid has built a bit of a following in recent weeks, after scoring a goal at a Caps practice in December and playing a role in helping the Washington crowd celebrate his dad’s 800th goal.

    It was Ovi Jr.’s first chance at being part of an All-Star weekend. His father hasn’t participated at All-Star since 2018, either because of COVID-19 or injuries. The last time his dad played in an All-Star event, Sergei hadn’t been born.

    Alex Ovechkin has 812 goals. He only trails Wayne Gretzky’s 894 in NHL history.

    And later in the night, Ovi Jr. got to center a line alongside his dad and Pittsburgh great Sidney Crosby. They each got an assist on a goal that Sergei scored – beating Roberto Luongo, the Florida great who came out of retirement for All-Star weekend.

    Said Ovechkin after his son scored: “I think he’s really enjoying it.”

    WELCOME HOME, LU

    Luongo got to be part of one more All-Star competition.

    In a building where a banner bearing his No. 1 jersey hangs – he’s the only former Panthers player to have that distinction – Luongo was a celebrity goaltender during the Breakaway Challenge during the Skills Competition on Friday night.

    He stopped his lone shot in the breakaway, off the stick of Toronto’s Mitch Marner. On one hand, Marner is the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer this season. On the other hand, he was also wearing a white suit, sunglasses and a light blue T-shirt to keep with a “Miami Vice” theme.

    Luongo was up to the challenge. Marner tried to beat him to the glove side, but Luongo got enough of it to make the save – then flopped forward to cover up the rebound, the smile clearly seen through his mask.

    “You got too close,” Luongo told Marner.

    Later, Luongo told ESPN during the telecast of the event that “this is my house. This is my home right here. The crease is my home.”

    Luongo’s pads paid tribute to his career – the design paid tribute to his time both as a member of the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks.

    He also took part, and scored a goal, in a Florida alumni game on Wednesday night.

    REMEMBERING JIMMY

    Sergei Ovechkin – who knocked a shot into an open net during a stoppage of the skills events – wasn’t the only child who got a great view of the night.

    Philadelphia forward Kevin Hayes has his 3-year-old nephew Beau with him for All-Star weekend. Beau’s father was Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes’ brother.

    Jimmy Hayes was 31 when he died in 2021 with fentanyl and cocaine in his system. He played for four NHL teams, including Florida.

    Kevin Hayes is part of an All-Star weekend for the first time.

    ANTHEM POISE

    “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus, and group crushed it – never minding that the crowd, representing several different fan bases, was going to shout some term specific to their team at various points in the lyrics.

    Florida fans shout along with “red” and “Knight,” one a nod to one of the team’s primary colors, the other for goaltender Spencer Knight. There also were some shouts from other fan bases; some St. Louis fans, for example, could be heard singing “home of the Blues” instead of “home of the brave” to close the song.

    And “O Canada” performer Hannah Walpole had some shouting as she sang as well, particularly when she reached the “true North” portion of those lyrics – something typically heard at Winnipeg games.

    SLAP SHOTS

    Cale Makar, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, was the first participant in the Fastest Skater event – the opening competition of the night. He fell coming around the second turn. … Tampa Bay’s Pat Maroon, one of the broadcasters on the event, reported that he was “freezing” by working at ice level. “I’m used to the gear,” said Maroon, who was in a blazer and open shirt Friday night. … A big hit for those used to the regular colors of FLA Live Arena – and basically all other hockey arenas – was the ocean-water-shade of blue used for the blue lines and the creases. The faceoff dots at the circles on either end of the ice aren’t the standard solid red this weekend, but depict an image of the sun instead.

    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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    Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports
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    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.