2022 Division Finals Preview
Previewing the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs
What an amazing opening round of playoff action! Despite the fact that it only saw eight of the 51 games played go to overtime (which is quite low for the first round), it saw five of the eight series go the maximum seven games, with the home team winning four of the five Game Sevens played. After all of the dust has settled, and after all of the mayhem, we finally have our Elite Eight for the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The four Division Final series are all solidified, and they are as follows:
Atlantic Division Final
The Battle of Florida will take place in the playoffs for the second straight year, this time in the Elite Eight! That's not the only thing making the stakes higher than they were last season, which saw the Tampa Bay Lightning defeat the Florida Panthers in six games. In this go-around, it's the Presidents' Trophy winners (Panthers) against the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions (Lightning), meaning that something's got to give: either the trophy curse continues, or the champions will be dethroned.
For the Panthers, this is their first time in the 2nd round since their amazing run back in 1996. The Panthers defeated the Washington Capitals in an amazing six-game Atlantic Division Semifinal series to reach this point, with Carter Verhaeghe being the OT hero in Games Four and Six of the series. The Lightning survived a seven game thriller against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and after six games of looking human, it appears that Andrei Vasilevskiy got his stroke back in Game Seven. If he maintains it in this series, it could mean curtains for the Panthers.
Metropolitan Division Final
Both the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers needed seven games to win their Metropolitan Division Semifinal series, but the approach was very different. The Hurricanes relied on home ice in their series against the Boston Bruins, as all seven games were won by the home team. For the Rangers, however, they had to scratch and claw to get to this point. They were down 3-1 after four games against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they managed to survive deficits in each of the next three games to win all of them, with the final piece being Artemi Panarin's OT winner in Game Seven.
The Rangers' win came in spite of Igor Shesterkin also looking quite human in net. Shesterkin (who is up for the Vezina and the Hart) had his memorable 79-save performance in the Game One triple overtime loss, but he has been getting beat up in net, regardless of the outcome of said games. However, at least the Rangers have their top goaltender in net. The same cannot be said for the Hurricanes, who had been sans Frederik Andersen for the whole playoffs. Both sides also boast strong offensive threats, so this should be a captivating series. The Hurricanes and Rangers last met in the Qualifying Round in 2020, which Carolina swept (best-of-five).
Central Division Final
Only three teams didn't need seven games to advance, and two of them will face off in the Central Division's final round. The Colorado Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues have developed quite the history in recent years. This meeting is their third in playoff history; the Avalanche defeated the Blues in the Western Conference Final in 2001 (five games), and it was last season that the Avs swept the Blues in the opening round. Their postseason history also includes a memorable Round Robin game in the 2020 bubble, which the Avalanche won, 2-1, behind Nazem Kadri's buzzer beater, which began Jordan Binnington's playoff slump since winning the Stanley Cup.
The Avalanche swept the Nashville Predators in their Central Division Semifinal series, while the Blues won a six-game series against the Minnesota Wild. The player to watch in this series is Cale Makar, who is up for the Norris Trophy, as he has racked up 10 games in only four games! Nathan MacKinnon is also in his usual form, as he scored five goals in the short series. On the Blues side, David Perron has been red hot with 9 points, five of them goals, while Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O'Reilly also have five goals each.
Pacific Division Final
It's happening! We have the Battle of Alberta in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year! The Edmonton Oilers did their part first; they ousted the Los Angeles Kings in seven games, a very thrilling series. All that needed to happen was a Calgary Flames win in Game Seven, which ended up going to overtime. When Johnny Gaudreau scored 15:09 into the extra period against the Dallas Stars, it became official! The Flames and Oilers have co-existed in the province of Alberta since 1980, and were foes in the old Smythe Division. They have met five times in the playoffs, with the last meeting occurring in 1991. The Oilers won in 1983, 1984, 1988, and 1991, with the Flames' only victory coming in 1986.
The names have changed vastly in the last 31 years. It's not Lanny MacDonald, Doug Gilmour, and Al MacInnis for Calgary, it's Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, and Elias Lindholm. Instead of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier for Edmonton, it's Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Regardless, this will be an absolutely thrilling series; full of intensity, full of bad blood, and full of goals!
Regarding TV rights, the American regional sports networks are done for the season; it's all national TV from this point on. According to the schedule, the Atlantic and Central series will air on TNT, while the Metropolitan and Pacific series will air on ESPN. The first round was thrilling, and regarding the second round, we should see the intensity double, as the chase for the Stanley Cup continues!
About the author
Born on March 18, 1985. I am an avid fan of sports and wrestling, and I've been a fan of female villains since the age of eight. Also love movies--especially comedy and horror--and among my favorite TV shows are The Simpsons and Family Guy