The second round of the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs is in the books. It took one series the full seven games, while another series was surprisingly over in just four games. In this week’s Snap Shots, we’ll take a look at Round 2 and well as Round 3, which starts tonight.
1. Round 2 Recap
Round 2 ran the gamut when it came to games needed to determine a winner. The TBL-FLA series took four games. The EDM-CAL series took five games. The COL-STL series took six games. And the NYR-CAR series took seven games. What does that all mean? Nothing! Still, it is kind of neat. Here’s a quick rundown of each of the Round 2 playoff series.
Tampa Bay Lightning Wins Series 4-0 Over Florida Panthers
I think most of us were surprised that the Florida Panthers — who won the President’s Trophy for having the best regular-season record — fell in four straight games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Oh sure, the Lightning may have been the underdog, but they were still the favorites. They did win the last two Stanley Cup Championships, so they are the team to beat. And as we can see, having home ice advantage meant squat for the Cats, who could only muster three goals in four games. I’m no mathematician, but if you can’t even score one goal a game, you’re not going to win. But that had less to do with the Panthers’ abilities and more so to do with the play of Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who may just be the best goaltender in the world right now. (Igor who?)
Edmonton Oilers Wins Series 4-1 Over Calgary Flames
When the Calgary Flames clobbered the Edmonton Oilers 9-6 in the first game of their series, it looked like the Flames would show the world who the Oilers really were: Connor McDavid and a high-powered offense, with little defense to back them up. Or so I thought. After that loss — which was more lopsided than a 9-6 score would indicate — the Oilers roared back and won the next four games straight, with scores of 5-3 in Game 2, 4-1 in Game 3, 5-3 in Game 4, and a 5-4 overtime win in Game 5.
Colorado Avalanche Wins Series 4-2 Over St. Louis Blues
The Avalanche won Game 1 and the Blues won Game 2. The turning point of the series is when Jordan Binnington was injured with a collision with Avs’ center Nazem Kadri. (This was the main topic in the most-recent episode of the Puck Junk Podcast.) Binnington was out for the rest of Game 3, which the Avalanche won, and the rest of the series. The Avs won Game 4 and the Blues staved off elimination with an OT win in Game 5. The Avalanche, who were the best team in the Western Conference, won 3-2 in Game 6 to advance to the Conference Finals for the first time in 20 years.
New York Rangers Wins Series 4-3 Over Carolina Hurricanes
This was the only series in Round 2 that needed all seven games. In a nutshell, the Hurricanes won their first three home games, while the Rangers won their thee home games. As they say, it isn’t a series until a team loses a home game, and it all came down to Game 7 in Carolina. After being unbeaten at home in four first-round games and three second-round games, the Hurricanes finally lost at home. The Rangers scored early and held the lead throughout the entire game, while goaltender Igor Shesterkin made 39 saves as the Rangers won 6-2. Making things worse for the ‘Canes is that goalie Antti Raanta, who became the starter when first-stringer Frederik Anderson was injured, had to leave Game 7 with an injury. The Rangers have great players, but you have to wonder how far the Hurricanes would have gone if Anderson was healthy for the playoffs.
2. Round 3 Starts Tonight
And now, here is a quick look at the next round of the playoffs.
Western Conference Finals: Colorado Avalanche vs. Edmonton Oilers
This series will give us the Mc-Mac-Matchup we’ve all been waiting for: Connor McDavid vs. Nathan MacKinnon. The Oilers’ McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are tied for the lead in playoff scoring with 26 points and 19 assists each, while teammate Evander Kane leads the NHL in playoff goals with 12. The Avalanche can also score in droves, though not as impressively as the Oilers, but they have a more-solid blueline with Cale Makar, Bowen Byram, and Devon Toews. Neither team really shines in net, though I’d probably give the edge to the Oilers’ Mike Smith over Avs’ Darcy Kuemper, since Smith has more experience and is better at handling the puck.
My Prediction: Oilers in six games.
Eastern Conference Finals: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Rangers
If the Western Conference Finals is going to be all about high-scoring games, the opposite should be true for the Eastern Conference Finals. This will be a goaltending duel! Both Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Lightning and Igor Shesterkin of the Rangers are top-tier goaltenders who are practically unbeatable when they are in the zone. Both goalies can steal games for their teams. If games in the Eastern Conference Finals are settled by scores of 5-3 or 8-7 or whatever, it won’t be because of poor goaltending, but because each team has many capable scorers.
My Prediction: Lightning in six games.
Further Reading: 2022 NHL conference finals schedule
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk. ■