The NHL All-Star game just happened last weekend, which means it’s time for some 2022 NHL playoffs predictions. Here, I’ll review some of the teams that are streaking right now and some I think may make a deep playoff run.
The top three teams in each division advance to postseason play, along with two Wild Card teams in each conference who have the next highest point totals, regardless of division.
Eastern Conference – Atlantic Division
Division Winners: Florida Panthers
I expect the Florida Panthers to keep their number one spot in the Atlantic Division heading into the playoffs. Left winger Jonathan Huberdeau is tied for the league lead in points, and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is top five in the league in saves.
Florida has the tools to succeed, but they must remain consistent and avoid late-season injuries. This year, the Panthers have the most proficient offense in the league in terms of goals per game (4.09), and they can turn it on against anyone. I see them making a run to at least the Conference Finals this year.
Division Second Place: Toronto Maple Leafs
I believe the Toronto Maple Leafs will continue in great form and pull ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second spot in the Atlantic division. Toronto had won six straight before the All-Star break, and superstar Auston Matthews is third in the league with 31 goals.
Toronto has a young core of players who can really shine bright, as well as one of the best power play units in the league. However, the Maple Leafs also have the longest streak in the NHL of consecutive seasons without going to the Stanley Cup Finals, with their last Finals appearance in 1967. Can Matthews bring his team back to its former glory this year?
Division Third Place: Tampa Bay Lightning
I think the Lightning will slow down a bit and take the third spot into the playoffs. Tampa Bay is one of the deepest and most skilled teams in the league. They’ve won two straight Stanley Cups and have a decent chance at another one this season.
However, it’s extremely difficult to sustain three consecutive Stanley Cup runs, and I see this Lightning team trying to play it smart and rest up for the playoffs. The regular season finish isn’t as important as where the standings lie after the playoffs.
Eastern Conference – Metropolitan Division
Division Winners: Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes look incredible this year. They’re top three in goal differential in the entire NHL and have only played 45 games. Rod Brind’Amour’s squad is fast and defensively sound, and is top five in goals scored as well.
Veteran goaltender Frederik Andersen has stepped up and should be in the Vezina conversation. The 32-year-old leads the league in wins and has helped his team to the best record in the Metro division.
Division Second Place: New York Rangers
The New York Rangers are back. Chris Kreider has been a superstar in the late part of the first half of the season, scoring 12 goals in January after only scoring eight in November and four in December. Kreider is tied for the league lead in goals, and his teammate Artemi Panarin is fourth in the league in assists.
The Rangers have the pieces to make a deep run, but they’ll be trying to win their first playoff series since 2017.
Division Third Place: Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins started off slow this season, but have steadily picked up the pace. To me it’s somewhat reminiscent of their 2016 Stanley Cup run, where they started the season very slowly, but built up momentum heading into the playoffs and rode it to a Finals victory.
However, Sidney Crosby is not the player he used to be. While still phenomenally skilled with one of the best Hockey IQ’s in the league, Crosby is only 36th in the league in total points. Can he and Evgeni Malkin lead the Penguins to one more Cup run?
Eastern Conference – Wild Card
Wild Card 1: Washington Capitals
At the end of December, I would’ve had the Washington Capitals either winning the Metro crown or coming in a close second to the Hurricanes. But the Caps had an abysmal January, going an embarrassing 4-8. They’ve been missing T.J. Oshie for a while, but the worst part is the Power Play.
The Caps were once the model of a perfect powerplay, but now they’ve sunk to 15% scoring while up a man. They need to figure something out if they want to have any chance of making it past the first round.
Wild Card 2: Boston Bruins
The Bruins have a solid team with good depth and lots of veterans. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron know what it’s like to make a deep playoff run, but recently, Boston has looked a bit slow.
Their Power Play has looked solid, but the goal differential is a little too tight for my liking. The goaltender situation is scary as well, especially after the failed Tuukka Rask experiment. I see the Bruins losing a first round series to the Hurricanes in five games.
Western Conference – Central Division
Division Winners: Colorado Avalanche
My pick to win the Western Conference this year, the Colorado Avalanche are a powerhouse. This team is so fast, so good at scoring, and knows how to win close games. Colorado is 7-4 in overtime games this season, and it’s always good knowing you can win close games down the stretch.
The Avalanche have the individual talent and the team cohesiveness to make a serious run this season. If there’s a concern, it’s with the goaltending, but they may address that at the trade deadline.
Division Second Place: St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues are going to come back and steal this spot away from both the Minnesota Wild and the Nashville Predators. The Blues are all in with coach Craig Berube having just signed him to a three year extension, and they’ll look to make a playoff run this year.
Jordan Kyrou has looked phenomenal, leading the team with 42 points. If Vladmir Tarasenko can step up heading into the postseason, the Blues could be a scary team come postseason.
Division Third Place: Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild are nine points above the wild card race and have only played 42 games, the least amount in the NHL. Minnesota has won nine of its last 11 and have scored three or more goals in 10 of those 11.
This is a team that I see making the playoffs for multiple years to come, and if they can sustain this goal-scoring hot streak they should head into the playoffs with lots of momentum. Kirill Kaprizov (19 goals, 34 assists) is on pace for the highest scoring season in team history.
Western Conference – Pacific Division
Division Winner: Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames are only three points back of the Vegas Golden Knights but have played four fewer games. The Flames are solid defensively and Johnny Gaudreau leads the league in plus/minus.
Calgary has a long way to go, but I could see them making it to the Western Conference Finals if they can stay healthy. Goaltender Jacob Markstrom needs to remain strong in net for the Flames to have a chance as well. He leads the league with eight shutouts; no other netminder has more than four.
Division Second Place: Vegas Golden Knights
In only their fifth season, the Vegas Golden Knights are looking as good as ever. They’re atop their division and they play by committee; they only have one player with more than 14 goals, but five that have 10 or more.
Vegas fights hard in scrappy games but sometimes leave something to be desired defensively. I think the Knights will make an early exit in the playoffs this year, barring a resurgence around star center Jack Eichel.
Division Third Place: Edmonton Oilers
Okay, hear me out. The Oilers are too skilled to not make the playoffs, and if it’s in a Wild Card spot they should be embarrassed. After getting out to an incredible start, Edmonton has fallen apart, resulting in head coach Dave Tippett’s dismissal last week, and the Oilers are currently sitting on the outside looking into the playoffs.
All-Stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are animals offensively and are two of the top three in points in the league. Draisaitl also leads the league in game winning goals and I see his success continuing. If Edmonton cleans up their defense, they can make a run. Look to see them make a move or two at the trade deadline.
Western Conference – Wild Cards
Wild Card 1: Nashville Predators
As of publication, the Predators are in second in the Central Division. Nashville looks strong all around, but primarily in net.
Juuse Saros leads the league in total saves as well as in win shares. However, he also has faced the most shots in the NHL, which means their defensemen are not blocking shots as much as they should be.
The Predators also struggle with discipline and lead the league with 578 penalty minutes so far. I like this team alot, but they have tons of details to clean up before they’re a true Cup contender.
Wild Card 2: Anaheim Ducks
I’ll be honest, this is a tough one. The L.A. Kings and the Anaheim Ducks are both good teams that will be fighting for this spot come late April in my eyes. Both teams are good but I’d like to see the Ducks snag this last spot.
Anaheim is a solid all-around team that has been plagued by losing close games. That’s not a great omen, but it also shows that they can stay in close games, oftentimes until overtime.
Regardless, young prospect Trevor Zegras is one of the most fun and skilled players in the league, and goaltender John Gibson can carry the team down the stretch. The Ducks have a promising future ahead.
2022 NHL Playoffs Final Predictions
Eastern Conference Final Prediction: Hurricanes beat the Panthers in six games
Western Conference Final Prediction: Avalanche beat the Golden Knights in five games
Stanley Cup Final Prediction: Avalanche beat Hurricanes in six games
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