In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we start getting you ready for the Second Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs by looking ahead to some of the top storylines that will be playing out.
We have rivalries, rematches, and teams looking to break through to the Conference Finals, as well as Tampa Bay looking to continue its quest for a third consecutive championship.
Which storylines are we looking forward to?
To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!
1. Florida rivalry renewed. It may not get the respect of other long-time NHL rivalries because they are “non-traditional markets,” but make no mistake here: Tampa Bay and Florida is as intense as it gets, especially now that both teams are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. It is so good, and featuring two teams of such high quality, that it gets the top spot here. Yes, even over the Battle Of Alberta. Their playoff matchup a year ago was absolute mayhem and the Panthers would love nothing more than to break through to the Eastern Conference Final by ending Tampa Bay’s three-peat bid.
2. The Battle Of Alberta. When the NHL implemented its divisional playoff format this is probably the type of matchup they had in mind. Edmonton and Calgary will be meeting in the playoffs for the first time since 1991 and a trip to the Western Conference Final is on the line. It will be chaotic, heated, hateful, and hopefully awesome. There will not be a better atmosphere than these two buildings.
3. Colorado looking to break through the Second Round wall. The Avalanche have been one of the league’s best teams for four years now and odds on Cup favorites for the past three. They keep running into a wall in the Second Round, having lost here three years in a row. Eventually teams like this start to feel heat and additional pressure if they can not take the next step, and Colorado is now at that point. Not saying they have to win the Cup, but losing in the Second Round again with this roster would feel like a massive disappointment.
4. Will Tampa Bay’s three-peat run continue? Speaking of the Second Round, this is where teams looking for a three-peat tend to run into their own wall. Four of the past five back-to-back Cup winners have lost in this round in year three of their attempt (the fifth lost in the First Round). Tampa Bay did not look like itself late in the regular season and was probably fortunate to get through Toronto in the First Round, and now they get the Presidents’ Trophy winners in the Second Round.
5. Will the goal scoring surge continue? This was a big question going into the First Round. The 2021-22 regular season was one of the highest scoring years in recent NHL history, and there is always concern as to what will happen once we get to the playoffs. That surge seemed to continue through the First Round as we seem to be at the threshold of a more skilled, offense-based league. That is a good thing.
6. The Makar and McDavid show. They are not going head-to-head (yet) but Connor McDavid and Cale Makar were by far the most dominant players in the opening round. McDavid put the Oilers on his back and carried them over the Kings, while Makar spent four games absolutely dominating Nashville. It would be fantastic to see these two play against each other in a Western Conference Final. The two most exciting players in the sport right now.
[Conn Smythe watch: McDavid, Makar lead after First Round]
7. The Rangers and Tony DeAngelo. You are going to hear a lot about it. DeAngelo wore out his welcome with another team for many reasons, with an altercation with backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev being the final straw. DeAngelo has played well in Carolina this season, but had some meltdowns in the First Round against Boston and is still a consistent source of drama. Now he has to play against his former team in the playoffs.
8. Will Igor Shesterkin play better, and will the Rangers play better in front of him? The Rangers should be feeling very fortunate to still be playing hockey this season. Not only did Igor Shesterkin struggle in their First Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the team in front of him was mostly lousy during 5-on-5 play and defensively. Shesterkin has another level he can get to (we saw it all season), but whether or not the Rangers have another level remains to be seen. They are going to have to find it against a much better team that will not be playing a third-string goalie.
9. Brayden Point‘s health. This is going to be significant for Tampa Bay. He has dealt with injuries this season and suffered an ugly looking injury early in Game 7 against Toronto. He is “highly doubtful” for Game 1, according to head coach Jon Cooper. He is one of the Lightning’s best players and a consistent playoff performer. Beating Florida without him would seem to be a challenge.
10. The Blues goaltending. Ville Husso took over the starting job in the second half of the season, and then lost it after struggling early against Minnesota with Jordan Binnington taking over again. It is probably a fair assumption that Binnington starts the series against Colorado, but which version of him will they get? The one that played well enough to get them through the Wild, or the one that has badly struggled in his past couple of postseasons (and this season)? Given the opponent and the current state of the Blues’ defense they might need a herculean effort from Binnington to get through this series. Or even have a chance of winning.