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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.