The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs are finally here. It took some time to get here and the end of the regular season dragged on, but the puck is going to drop tonight on Game 1 of Round 1 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Everyone talks about the format and how we are losing all these good teams in the first round. But the way the season played out, and the matchups we got in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs are intriguing. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of juicy matchups in both the East and the West, especially between the second and third seeds. So with all that being said let’s dive into the top five storylines heading into the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Top Five Storylines
1) Can Toronto and Florida Get Out of the First Round?
It is a shame these two teams did not meet in the first round, but in the Eastern Conference, all eyes will be on the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs. Neither team has won a first-round playoff series in a long time. The Maple Leafs struggles have been well documented. Toronto has not gotten out of the first round since 2004. Florida, on the other hand, has not made it out of the first round since 1996. That year the Panthers made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final losing to Colorado in four games.
The Panthers will hold a slight edge over the Maple Leafs heading into this season considering their matchup. But the pressure is on both teams to win. More so in Toronto, but many people pegged the Florida Panthers to go to the Stanley Cup Final, so there is equal pressure on them. It will not be easy for either team. This is the best team the Panthers have had in years, hopefully, they can learn from past years. The same goes for the Maple Leafs, except the difference is Toronto has to face the defending two-time Stanley Cup Champions.
2) Can the Tampa Bay Lightning Three-Peat?
The Tampa Bay Lightning are rolling into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the team is firing on cylinders. They have put to bed any doubt of being tired. As Jon Cooper stated earlier in the year, it did not matter to his team whether they had home-ice advantage or not. They are on a mission to do something no team has done since the 1980s. And that is to win three straight Stanley Cup Championships.
Yes, this team may be different, but it is still the same team that went to two straight Stanley Cups. Outside of the third line that now features Nick Paul and Brandon Hagel. These players are starting to jell and understand their roles. Not to mention the big boys of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, and Andrei Vasilevskiy are once again showing why you cannot doubt this Tampa Bay team. Oh yeah, they have Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh on the back end as well.
You know Tampa Bay wants to put to bed the doubt they can’t win the Stanley Cup in a regular season. Their first came in the bubble and their second came in a shortened season. They still were the best team those years. And you know what there is no reason why they can’t do it again.
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3) Is This Finally Colorado’s Year?
If it is not this year then when will the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup again? This is the most balanced team the Avalanche have had in years. Top to bottom the Avalanche are a complete team. But there is one question mark holding them back. Their goaltending. Darcy Kuemper has shown flashes of brilliance. But can he bring this team over the hump? Colorado has failed to get out of the second round in back to back playoffs. Hopefully, that hard break will propel them to the next level. Because this Avalanche team is going to look a lot different next season, especially with the players that are going to hit the open market. It will not be easy, but the favourites to win the Stanley Cup have the team to be there in the end.
4) Is This the Last Run For the Pittsburgh Penguins?
The Pittsburgh Penguins are limping into the playoffs. Many thought the Penguins would slip and miss the playoffs this year. At times throughout the season, that looked like a legitimate possibility. However, Sidney Crosby and company figured out a way to stay relevant one more season. With the top stars like Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jeff Carter missed time, the Penguins relied on Evan Rodrigues, Jake Guentzel, Kasperi Kapanen, and Bryan Rust.
At one point the Penguins looked like they could win the Metro Division, now there is a chance they could finish in the second wild-card position. Having Tristan Jarry hurt does help their cause heading into the playoffs. Most pundits agree even with a healthy Jarry, the Penguins had an uphill climb no matter who they were facing off against. Considering the team’s last two years in the playoffs. It feels Pittsburgh just wants to just get in the playoffs, but when push comes to shove they go out with a whimper. With Malkin and Kris Letang free agents at the end of this season, this could be the final run of this very talented group.
5) Are the Edmonton Oilers For Real?
The Edmonton Oilers ended the regular season playing really well. Mike Smith is finally healthy as he gives the Oilers a chance to win every night. This might be Smith’s final run and the Oilers will rely heavily on him once the playoffs begin. The Oilers recently have not had great playoff success losing in the play in the bubble to Chicago. They followed that performance by a first-round exit against the Winnipeg Jets last season. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have not been to the second of the playoffs since the 2016-17 season. There they lost to Anaheim in seven games.
However, the task will not be easy against the Los Angeles Kings. On paper, the Oilers should win the series, but the Kings have a cagey veteran in Philip Danault who can stop any talented in their tracks with his defensive ability. See last year against Toronto as he shut down Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. But it will be hard to stop three highly skilled players when you add Evander Kane to the mix. Like with Florida and Toronto, the Oilers need to win a round.
These are just five storylines heading into the 2022Stanley Cup Playoffs. There are many surrounding each of the teams in the playoffs including the New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, and Calgary Flames. Do not be surprised if there is an upset or two in the first round as well.
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