NHL Power Rankings: Top Second Round storylines

NHL Power Rankings
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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.

[2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, TV information]

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.

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    Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

    Andrei Kuzmenko
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

    The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

    The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

    Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

    His 43 points are also tied for third on the team in overall scoring, while his 32 even-strength points (12 goals, 20 assists) are second on the Canucks.

    Kuzmenko leads all Vancouver skaters in shooting rate (24.7%) and ranks third in the NHL in that category (minimum of 20 games).

    He leads all first-year NHLers in almost every offensive category, including goals, assists, points, points per game (0.91), power-play goals, and power-play points.

    He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

    A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

    Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.

    Hurricanes top Stars in OT to win matchup of 1st-place teams

    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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    DALLAS – Martin Necas scored 1:34 into overtime to give the Carolina Hurricanes a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars in a matchup of division leaders Wednesday night.

    Sebastian Aho had a short-handed goal and Brent Burns also scored for the Hurricanes, who lead the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference. The game-winner was Necas’ 19th goal this season.

    Dallas is still atop the Western Conference, and the Central Division, after its second consecutive 3-2 overtime loss at home. Jason Robertson scored his 33rd goal for the Stars, and 19-year-old rookie Wyatt Johnston got his 13th.

    Carolina goalie Frederik Andersen didn’t return after the first intermission because of an upper-body injury, soon after a strange sequence that ended with Robertson scoring on a shot from what seemed to be an impossible angle.

    The puck was bouncing on the ice behind Andersen and settled against the post after Tyler Seguin‘s shot before the goalie was able to swipe it away to his right. Robertson then shot from behind Andersen, and the puck apparently ricocheted off him and into the net for a 2-1 Dallas lead. Robertson’s 33rd goal matched his assists total.

    Antti Raanta replaced Andersen and stopped all 15 shots he faced – none in overtime – after the starter had four saves. Raanta had to shake off getting struck in the head by Mason Marchment‘s stick when the Stars forward was behind the net fighting for the puck midway through the third period.

    Stars goalie Jake Oettinger stopped 22 shots, including a glove save of Andrei Svechnikov‘s wrister with just more than five minutes left in regulation.

    Aho’s 200th career goal put Carolina up 1-0 midway through the first period. The Stars got even just more than two minutes later when Johnston scored unassisted after a faceoff.

    Johnston also had a shot ricochet off the post with just under six minutes left.

    In between the first two goals, Oettinger went into a fully extended split, with his right skate against the post, to deny Paul Stastny‘s attempt to knock in a loose puck.

    Burns tied the game at 2 in the second period, getting the puck after a faceoff, then skating over the top of the circle and scoring top shelf over Oettinger’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Marchment was coming out of the penalty box at the same time Carolina made an errant pass in the second period. He had a breakaway attempt, but couldn’t get enough control of the puck to get off a quality shot. … Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce and Stars center Luke Glendening both got five-minute penalties for fighting in the second period.


    Hurricanes: Will play San Jose on Friday night in the first of three consecutive home games.

    Stars: Host the New Jersey Devils on Friday night in their last game before the All-Star break.

    Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry out until after the All-Star break

    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry‘s on-again, off-again season is now off again.

    Coach Mike Sullivan said that the two-time All-Star will miss at least two games with an upper-body injury.

    Jarry was scheduled to start against Florida but reported an upper-body issue when he arrived at PPG Paints Arena. Casey DeSmith got the last-second start as the Penguins pulled out a wild 7-6 victory over the Panthers.

    Jarry is out through at least the All-Star break. Pittsburgh plays at Washington and then hosts San Jose before getting a full week off.

    The 27-year-old Jarry has played well when he’s been in the lineup, posting a 16-5-5 record with a 2.65 goals-against average in 27 games. His availability, however, has been an issue of late. He missed more than two weeks earlier this month after being injured against Boston in the Winter Classic on Jan. 2.

    The Penguins are not as sharp when Jarry is out. Pittsburgh is 8-10-3 with DeSmith or Dustin Tokarski in goal this season. The Penguins recalled Tokarski from their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to back up DeSmith during Jarry’s absence.

    Letang scores twice in return, Penguins beat Panthers 7-6 in OT

    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    PITTSBURGH – Amid a nightmarish season off the ice, Kris Letang has been searching for joy. A sense of normalcy.

    He found a little of both.

    The veteran Pittsburgh defenseman scored twice in his return from a lower-body injury, the second with 54 seconds left in overtime to give the Penguins a 7-6 victory over Florida.

    “I was just happy to be out there,” Letang said. “Be in the atmosphere of the team.”

    Letang’s 17th season with Pittsburgh has been pockmarked by health issues and a profound sense of loss. He missed two weeks after suffering the second stroke of his career shortly after Thanksgiving. He then tweaked something in a loss to Detroit on Dec. 28.

    His father died unexpectedly a few days later, and Letang spent an extended amount of time with his family in his native Montreal, with his teammates making an unexpected stop to join Letang for his father’s wake at the end of a West Coast swing earlier this month.

    The Penguins activated him off injured reserve on Tuesday afternoon. Letang responded with four points in a rollicking game that featured 13 goals, the last Letang’s one-timer from just above the left circle on the power play that gave Pittsburgh just its fourth win in 12 overtime games this season.

    “It was kind of surreal, you know?” Letang said. “I didn’t know what to think or how it was going to go. These guys supported me for the last month… it’s just great to be back.”

    The Penguins, currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, opened up a small bit of breathing room over the ninth-place Panthers by beating Florida for the 18th time in its last 21 trips to Pittsburgh.

    Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Danton Heinen each had a goal and two assists for The Penguins. Rickard Rakell and Drew O'Connor also scored for the Penguins.

    Casey DeSmith struggled in place of Tristan Jarry, a late scratch with an upper-body injury. DeSmith stopped 33 shots, including both he faced in overtime, to win for the third time in his last 10 starts.

    “That was a huge two points for us,” DeSmith said. “Obviously we’re battling with them in the standings. Character win at home.”

    Carter Verhaeghe scored twice for Florida, including a tying goal with 2:32 left in regulation. Aaron Ekblad had a goal and two assists. Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Reinhart each had a goal and an assist. Colin White‘s sixth goal of the season 4:10 into the third gave the Panthers the lead but Florida couldn’t hold it.

    Alex Lyon made 42 saves after getting the start when Spencer Knight was unavailable for reasons head coach Paul Maurice would not disclose. The Panthers are 7-3-2 since January 1 to surge back into the fringe of contention.

    “We’re so much more of a different hockey team than we were a month ago at this time,” Maurice said. “Rallied around each other, battled as hard as they could to get a point on the road in the circumstances that we’re in. I couldn’t be more proud.”

    Neither Lyon or DeSmith – who got the heads up he was playing less than an hour before the opening faceoff – appeared quite ready to play on short notice. They gave up a six goals – three by each team – during a frantic first period that included Letang’s first goal since Dec. 15 and Tkachuk’s 25th of the season.

    Things settled down in the second. Ekblad’s short-handed goal put the Panthers in front but Crosby knotted the game at 4-4 with a pretty backhand through Lyon’s legs with 40 seconds to go in the period to set up a hectic third in which both teams squandered one-goal leads.

    “It wasn’t pretty but you need to find ways to win sometimes,” Crosby said. “We did a good job of that here today.”


    Panthers: Host Angeles on Friday night.

    Penguins: At Washington on Thursday night.