The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs are now down to eight teams after a First Round where all but two of the higher seeds advanced and we finished with a weekend that gave us five Game 7s.
For the Second Round we have rematches of recent playoff series, plus the first postseason Battle of Alberta since 1991. Will the Panthers end the Lightning’s quest for a three-peat? Can the Rangers continue their magic? Is this the year the Avalanche finally reach the Western Conference Final? Will Brady Tkachuk find himself inside Rogers Place to root on brother Matthew?
On to the Second Round predictions!
[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]
SECOND ROUND – EASTERN CONFERENCE
PANTHERS vs. LIGHTNING
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Lightning in 7. The Lightning are not the same team that they have been the past two seasons, but you are not going to get rid of them easily. They got through the First Round with Andrei Vasilevskiy looking human. He can be better, and I think he will be. If he is, I am still not sure how anybody beats them. I like their experience and goaltending over a Florida team that was probably very fortunate to get by Washington.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Lightning in 7. Anyone who doubted the Lightning may be reconsidering how they view this team after Tampa rallied to eliminate Toronto. Simply put, it will take a supreme effort to knock out the Bolts, and while Brayden Point’s injury is cause for concern, I am still going to bet on this championship group to keep hopes of a three-peat alive.
James O’Brien, NHL writer: Lightning in 6. Here’s a take for you: while the Panthers were exposed at times last go-around with the Lightning, it also felt like their pace made Tampa Bay uncomfortable at times. If the Panthers can take advantage of their younger legs and make this a track meet, the three-peat could go incomplete. There’s concern about all that mileage on the Bolts, but they just keep finding ways to get things done.
Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Lightning in 6. The Lightning had a very tough matchup with the Maple Leafs and finally Andrei Vasilevskiy played like his old self in the last four periods of the season. The Lightning have too much experience and will prevail as Sergei Bobrovsky will have his troubles in net in Round 2.
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Panthers in 6. There’s room to improve here for the Cats, especially from Sergei Bobrovsky, who would like to further vanquish his postseason demons. It won’t be easy in this rematch from 2021. The Lightning know how to bounce back from defeats (17-0 since 2020!) and still have Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes. But Tampa Bay has played a lot of hockey over the last two seasons, and this series is the only one this round with a back-to-back scheduled. Is that an edge to Florida? We’ll see. There’s also a revenge factor here from the 2021 series to Carter Verhaeghe wanting to show his old team what they lost.
HURRICANES vs. RANGERS
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Hurricanes in 5. The Rangers have their share of talent, and there is always the chance Igor Shesterkin can go on a heater at any moment and just steal some games, but I don’t see it happening here for the Rangers. They are going to have to play light years better in this round than they did in the First Round if they are going to have any chance of winning, because not only is Carolina younger and faster than Pittsburgh, the Rangers are also not going to be using an AHL goalie in this series. Carolina is the better team and the Rangers have some major defensive issues.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Hurricanes in 6. This is an intriguing matchup – and not just because it’s the Tony DeAngelo Bowl. On one side, you have an incredibly balanced Hurricanes team, who excel at 5-on-5 play and smother you defensively. On the other side, you have a top-heavy Rangers squad who can seem outmatched at times, but because of their star players and world class goalie, can never be counted out. I’m going with Carolina just because the Rangers have too many holes in their game. New York had the benefit of facing a 3rd-string goalie for most of the Pittsburgh series and a superior team to the Penguins (which I believe the Hurricanes are) would have had no trouble closing the Rangers out after building up that 3-1 series lead.
James O’Brien, NHL writer: Hurricanes in 5. Perhaps the ramshackle Rangers’ defensive structure won’t be exposed as glaringly against a very different type of possession animal in the up-tempo, puck-chucking Hurricanes. But, seeing a banged-up Penguins team often dominate the Rangers (and negate some of the Igor Shesterkin edge) eased much doubt about this one. Then again, it’s hockey, and the Hurricanes get “goalie’d” about as often as the Penguins, so there’s room for an upset.
Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Hurricanes in 7. While Shesterkin played well in Game 7, he really has not played up to his level since March 10. The Hurricanes have home ice advantage and that will be major if it goes seven games. I like the Hurricanes depth at forward to carry them to the series win while Raanta has provided the team with excellent goaltending.
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Rangers in 6. We’ve yet to see regular season Igor Shesterkin in the playoffs and maybe that First Round debut against the Penguins got his feet wet enough that now the Hurricanes could be in trouble. The Rangers did not quit versus Pittsburgh and while pushing a series to seven games could lead to some tired legs, how New York advanced is enough to supply further adrenaline and motivation against Carolina.
SECOND ROUND – WESTERN CONFERENCE
AVALANCHE vs. BLUES
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Avalanche in 5. My actual prediction for this series is pure chaos. Connor McDavid looks like a man on a mission this postseason and I think he is going to steal a couple of games. But the Flames have the coach, the defense, the depth, and the goalie to get the edge.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Avalanche in 6. I do think the Blues can challenge the Avalanche, but ultimately I am going to ride with Colorado. They have been able to rest, have the best roster, and seem destined to finally break through. However, we’ll see how powerful the Curse of the Second Round is.
James O’Brien, NHL writer: Avalanche in 6. Gee, the Blues sure seem to be in a better place than last time these two teams met, when the Avalanche swept them like you’d shoo away a fly. Ryan O'Reilly is the sort of player who could slow down some of Colorado’s weapons, and the Blues have a versatile array of attackers. But the Avalanche are fresh, Cale Makar is at the height of his powers, and the Blues’ blueline personnel can keep up.
Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Avalanche in 5. The Oilers will gain a lot of confidence from their first round win and have Connor McDavid carry them once again to victory over their provincial rivals. Calgary had trouble scoring against the Stars (Jake Oettinger was sensational) but it is tougher to score in the playoffs and that will be Calgary’s downfall.
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Avalanche in 6. We’re looking at a Blues team this year with better skill than year’s past. The breakthroughs of Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas helped them to a very good season and helped supplement an already solid offense. But the Avalanche are the Avalanche and they made quick work of the Predators in the First Round. Can Jordan Binnington slow them?I don’t think he can for very long, but just enough to make it a series. Colorado has learned the lessons of the past and what it takes to make a deep playoff run. It’s all there for them this season.
FLAMES vs. OILERS
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Flames in 7. My actual prediction for this series is pure chaos. Connor McDavid looks like a man on a mission this postseason and I think he is going to steal a couple of games. But the Flames have the coach, the defense, the depth, and the goalie to get the edge.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Flames in 6. The Oilers barely squeaked by the Kings, who were missing their best defenseman and 4th-leading scorer for the entire series. Now Leon Draisaitl is significantly hurt. Calgary should have the advantage here, particularly if Tyler Toffoli and Matthew Tkachuk – who ended slumps in Game 7 with their first goals of the postseason – can catch fire.
James O’Brien, NHL writer: Flames in 7. We were so, so close to being deprived of a Battle of Alberta, but we’re getting a delicious one. The Flames combine the possession mastery of the Kings (which gave the Oilers fits) with high-end talent that can finish those plays far more often. The Oilers have the highest of high-end talent in Connor McDavid, but a more complete Calgary team takes this.
Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Oilers in 6. The Oilers will gain a lot of confidence from their first round win and have Connor McDavid carry them once again to victory over their provincial rivals. Calgary had trouble scoring against the Stars (Jake Oettinger was sensational) but it is tougher to score in the playoffs and that will be Calgary’s downfall.
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Flames in 6. Hard to believe between all the playoff format changes this is the first Battle of Alberta playoff series in 31 years. We’re going to get some very physical games, probably a suspension or three, and some star power between McDavid Gaudreau, Lindholm, Markstrom, Draisaitl, and the rest. While Mike Smith has been on a run of late, I can’t see him out-dueling Markstrom over the course of the series, and I think that will be a huge factor. The Flames got goalie’d by Jake Oettinger in the First Round and I don’t see that happening again here.