How every team will lose in the 2022 NHL playoffs

How every team will lose in the 2022 NHL playoffs

Hey, we’ll be right about all but one of these picks

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As the chase to the Stanley Cup begins, the Eastern and Western Conferences have completely different outlooks. Colorado or Calgary look the part to be the Western Conference champions, and I’m not sure there’s anything the rest of the field of six can do about it. The Eastern Conference is as wide open as ever with tough, but imaginable paths, to a Stanley Cup Final for most of that side of the bracket.

Instead of looking at why any of the 16 NHL teams left standing will be the ones to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup, I’m looking at why each of them won’t be the chosen ones. I’ll be right about 15 and guaranteed to be incorrect about only one. I like those odds. I have a prediction for who’ll win the Stanley Cup but that doesn’t matter here.

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Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers

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Winners of the President’s Trophy, given annually to the best regular-season team in the NHL, the Panthers are entering the playoffs after a recent end to a 13-game win streak. With home field advantage throughout, Florida will face the Capitals in the first round, who are on a four-game losing streak entering the playoffs. Washington is a massive underdog in the series. Too bad we haven’t seen the Capitals at full strength the entire season.

The Panthers have little playoff experience compared to the rest of the Eastern Conference and the Capitals’ core from their 2018 Stanley Cup run is still intact minus goaltender Braden Holtby. In three regular-season meetings between the teams, Florida won twice. Yet, there’s no way to prepare for a fully healthy Capitals team. Even if Washington can’t get it together in the next two weeks, the teams without previous deep playoff experience never win. Look at when the Capitals were heavy favorites to win the Eastern Conference in 2010 and got knocked out in the first round against lowly Montreal. Great season in Sunrise. You’re not raising a banner in October.

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Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes

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Rod Brind’Amour has steadily built one of the most consistent NHL teams in Raleigh. This will be the Hurricanes fourth straight playoff appearance after a decade away. After finishing in second place in the Eastern Conference in points and winning the Metropolitan Division, Carolina is also looking to win a playoff series for the fourth straight year. It’ll face Boston, which eliminated the Hurricanes in 2019 and 2020 from the postseason.

The Hurricanes’ will watch another team lift the cup because they don’t have the roster depth to pull it off. Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov are solid players. Frederik Andersen is an above-average netminder. A roster full of good players and no true superstar won’t get the job done. Next!

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Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs

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The Montreal Canadiens won the last north-of-the-border Stanley Cup in 1993 and the high-powered Maple Leafs could be the first in the millennium to bring the trophy to Canada and buck that trend. Third in the East in points, one behind Carolina, was more because of their offensive prowess and not because of Toronto’s goaltending or defense.

The Maple Leafs’ back-end won’t be good enough to win the Stanley Cup if their offense can’t sustain four goals a game, which will be impossible. Toronto is good enough to make a deep run in the playoffs. The Maple Leafs first championship since the NHL had six teams? It’s at least one year off.

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Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

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For most teams on this list, it’s a little bit of a nitpick to find reasons within elite teams to not lift a championship. Not for Boston. The Bruins goaltending isn’t good enough to win four playoff series. It’s likely not good enough to make it to seven playoff games. Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman have potential in reprieve of Tuukka Rask. That promise won’t show for a few years, if at all.

Over the last 11 years, the Bruins have made three Stanley Cup Finals appearances. This team lacks the grit those squads had. An upset of Carolina in the first round could happen but it’s the most-likely elimination in the first round in the Eastern Conference.

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New York Rangers

New York Rangers

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Playing home games at the world’s most famous arena far from guarantees anything. While the Rangers have a huge homegrown star for the first time in a while in Chris Kreider, they don’t jump off the page as special in any way. New York actually drew a favorable matchup, where an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals isn’t out of the question.

What is out of the question is two playoff victories after that. Likely Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin can only handle so much of the team’s load and the deep-round grittiness that’s signature to the NHL playoffs doesn’t appear to be within this group despite good offensive depth in Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox.

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Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins

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Sid’s lost a step. Malkin’s lost several. That comes with age, but where are Pittsburgh’s young reinforcements to be anything other than a playoff team? I don’t see it and that lack of synergy behind Crosby and the old guard will make it tough for the Penguins to even get out of the first round.

Pittsburgh doesn’t have the same offensive arsenal shown throughout the last decade-plus to keep with the competition this year. Crosby leads Pittsburgh with 66 points and it’s a true distribution behind him. Teams like that don’t win the Stanley Cup. Easy out.

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Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals

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Unlike their rivals in the Steel City, the Capitals’ leader, Alex Ovechkin, hasn’t slowed down. His ninth 50-goal season tied him with Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most such campaigns in league history. His complement of Nicklas Backstrom, TJ Oshie, John Carlson and more have all looked good this season. Washington may upset Stanley Cup favorites Florida in the first round but won’t go much further than that for two easy reasons.

No. 1, the team has rarely been at full strength the entire season. That constant need to shift lines around will leave the Capitals a little short in terms of chemistry. Maybe more importantly, Washington hasn’t settled on a starting goaltender all year between Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek. It wasn’t procrastination that made no such declaration. Neither goaltender proved worthy of holding that spot consistently. No repeat from 2018 is happening four years later.

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Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning

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Since 2014, no team in the NHL has been more consistent than the Lightning, with five trips to the Eastern Conference Finals or deeper. The reigning back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions quest for a three-peat draws them into the tougher side of the Eastern Conference bracket, having to beat Toronto and likely Carolina to get to another final four.

With largely the same roster and tons of playoff experience behind them, Tampa may somehow be undervalued coming into the playoffs with how wide open the Eastern Conference is? Yet those that aren’t doubting how good the Lightning are will be inside NHL locker rooms. They’re the hunted and there are too many other talented teams to have the league’s first three-peat since the early 1980s.

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Colorado Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche

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The Western Conference’s best team will have home-ice advantage as long as it doesn’t run into the Florida Panthers in a Stanley Cup Final. The Avalanche have looked dominant in the easier conference to do so this season but controlled what was right in front of them. Colorado has had proper goaltending, offensive depth and defensive strength in order to make a deep run. So why won’t they win this whole thing 21 years after the last championship in Denver?

I believe the Avalanche peaked too early and their best form was on display in January and early February. That invincible 18-game run without a regulation loss showed just how good Colorado could be. Teams that lift the cup save their best for May and June, not the winter.

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Minnesota Wild

Minnesota Wild

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It’s hard to believe the Wild have been in the NHL for 22 years and they have only one Western Conference Finals appearance to their name, when they were swept by Anaheim. Minnesota drew a tough first-round matchup against St. Louis and are already down 1-0 in the series with an uninspiring Game 1 performance. That solely isn’t the reason I believe a breakthrough in Minneapolis isn’t happening.

This newly formed roster headlined by Kirill Kaprizov doesn’t have the legs to sustain a playoff run. Every team around the Wild gives them a red flag, whether it’s experience, a better goaltender or better composure throughout the season. I can’t see success coming to this bunch for a few years.

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St. Louis Blues

St. Louis Blues

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The magical run from 2019 was just that, wholly unique to that season with the diaspora from that roster easy to track. Very little of the core from that championship team from three years ago still plays home games at Enterprise Center. Not quite to the lengths of last-to-first that occurred that year, but the Blues have gotten better as the season has progressed.

Craig Berube’s squad will break from its defense or goaltending eventually. Ville Husso getting the nod in net over Jordan Binnington was deserved but replicating how Binnington played in the 2019 run to a championship won’t be possible. The Western Conference’s offenses this season are too good.

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Nashville Predators

Nashville Predators

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The team claiming one of the last spots in the Western Conference playoff picture were the Preds. With five players finishing the regular season with 60 points or more, Nashville’s offense is good enough to compete in the playoffs. A tough first-round draw against Colorado will do them no favors.

The Avalanche should advance easily here because of their offense, which the Predators will have a hard time stopping, as will most of the rest of the NHL. Yet, Nashville’s defense won’t give goaltender Juuse Saros a chance to make a proper impact in the playoffs.

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Calgary Flames

Calgary Flames

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The Flames’ top trio offensively can match any other team’s best three players from this season. A combined 301 points from Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm is an impressive showing. Jacob Markstrom in net and a solid defense makes the Flames look like the biggest challengers from the Western Conference to Colorado’s path to a Stanley Cup.

Calgary’s 11 overtime losses over the course of the season is tied for the second-most among postseason teams (only behind Washington’s 12). The combination of being a favorite to make a deep run and how the Flames play beyond 60 minutes makes them impossible to trust should they last beyond the second round.

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Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton Oilers

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Where’s the secondary scoring going to come from? The Oilers have the best teammate-scoring combination in the league in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who combined for 233 points in the regular season. Edmonton will need more than the two of them to do damage in the playoffs. I don’t see that happening.

Zach Hyman is third on the Oilers in points with 54, which is such a huge dropoff. That disparity will give the rest of the Western Conference an easier time figuring out how to slow down Edmonton. Someone will eventually.

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Los Angeles Kings

Los Angeles Kings

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The Kings had an underrated season. Yes, their veteran stars of Anze Kopitar, who led the team with 67 points, and 36-year-old goaltender Jonathan Quick, who is amazingly still going strong at Crypto.com Arena, represent the heartbeat of Los Angeles hockey. It’s the supporting cast that should step up more for the Kings and will lead to their demise this postseason.

There is nothing that stands out as great about the Kings, outside of how they can make games murky for other teams, evidenced in their Game 1 victory over Edmonton. That’ll run out quickly when Los Angeles can’t overpower teams. The Kings’ two championship teams from 2012 and 2014 were much better than the 2022 squad.

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Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars

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The only team to make the playoffs by giving up more goals than they scored with the Stars. No one else was even close to breaking even in that way except the Kings, who were barely on the positive side. Although Dallas has played much better offensively during the stretch run of the season, those offensive woes will catch up with it in the postseason.

In net, going with Jake Oettinger is deserved but having Braden Holtby on the bench should make Oettinger have a short leash. Holtby had the single best postseason for a goaltender in a long time four years ago. Another reason Dallas will fall in the postseason: how bad a first-round matchup Calgary is. Good luck stopping the Flames.

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