May 6, 2022 | SPORTS | By Quinn Guevara | Illustration by Iris Guo
The NHL playoffs are officially upon us. 16 teams will battle it out for the greatest trophy in all of sports: the Stanley Cup. With all that said, here is what you need to know with the upcoming madness.
The Colorado Avalanche are the favorites to win it all, according to Las Vegas betting odds, and rightfully so. They have had a team built for a deep playoff push for a few years now, and this year is no different. Drawing the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, the Avalanche started their series against a surprising Nashville Predators team on Tuesday, May 3. Expect a statement series from the Avs. As head coach Jared Bednar told his team on May 2, “It’s time to play our best hockey at the most important time of the year.”
While the favorites to win the cup are the Avalanche, the Florida Panthers took home the President’s Trophy for having the best record in the regular season. The Panthers are loaded all over the ice, highlighted by leading goal scorer Aleksander Barkov and member of the regular season 100-point club (a combination of goals and assists) Jonathan Huberdeau. They also have a sturdy goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky.
These players amount to a tall task for their opponent in the first round, the Washington Capitals. Lead by 36-year-old Alex Ovechkin, the Caps have the talent and the grit it takes to make a deep run in the playoffs, as they did in 2018 when they won the whole thing.
On the more disappointing end, the Toronto Maple Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup Playoff series since 2004 Don’t be surprised if this streak continues. The Leafs may have the home ice advantage against the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning, but Tampa has roughly the same roster has they have had for the last two years, both of which ended in winning the Stanley Cup. Led by a fierce trio of Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning are ready to send Auston Matthews and the Leafs home early.
The Minnesota Wild taking on the St. Louis Blues is, on paper, the best playoff series to watch. The teams are very evenly matched, and both posted impressive finishes to the end of their respective regular seasons. Minnesota is highlighted by the sensational Kirill “the thrill” Kaprizov, who boasted an impressive 108 points in the regular season.
St. Louis, on the other hand, is premiered by Vladimir Tarasenko, which is ironic given that he requested a trade at the beginning of the year. Minnesota has the home ice advantage, which may be just what they need in a potential seven-game series.
The Edmonton Oilers have the two best players in the world, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but this may not be enough to beat the Los Angeles Kings. Veteran goaltender Jonathan Quick has been in the playoffs before, leading the Kings to two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014. With a young and inexperienced team surrounding him, Quick has to be lights out in order for the Kings to upset the Oilers and their two 100-point season players.
New York Rangers Forward Alexis Lafreniere told the New York Post on Monday, “It’s sure fun to finish the season on a good note, but the real season starts [Tuesday].” The Rangers are the heavy favorite against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and don’t expect anything unpredictable in this series.
The Rangers have a very good chance of making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they’ll likely face the Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes are a team that is ready to make a real push to the Stanley Cup Finals, a place they haven’t been since 2006, where then captain and current Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour led them to the franchise’s only Stanley Cup victory. They too, have a historic franchise to beat in the first round in the Boston Bruins, and expect the series to go at the full seven games.
Another team that may take seven games to win their series is the Calgary Flames against the Dallas Stars. Calgary is anchored by a sturdy defense and led by Goalie Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom had nine shutouts in the regular season, the best in the league, and posted a .922 save percentage, good enough for third in the league.
The Stanley Cup playoffs are always full of drama, fights, and glory. It takes 16 wins for a team to hoist the Stanley Cup. The question is, which team has what it takes?