NHL playoff predictions 2022: Second-round winners, Stanley Cup champion, MVP and more

The second round of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs is here, with the Tampa Bay Lightning – Florida Panthers and St. Louis. Louis Blues – Colorado Avalanche series opening Tuesday, and the New York Rangers – Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers – Calgary Flames series opening Wednesday. What do we expect to happen when the games begin? What have we learned so far? Who will be left standing when we hit the conference finals?

The Athletic surveyed its NHL staff to get their predictions. We asked who will win each second-round series, plus got updated favorites to win the Eastern and Western Conferences, the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe.

Some of the results were expected. The Colorado Avalanche have only picked up steam as a favorite to win it all after their first-round sweep of the Nashville Predators, and star Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar has become the even-heavier favorite to win the Conn Smythe. Other results were a bit more surprising, from a new top pick to win the Eastern Conference to a huge name missing from the Conn Smythe voting.

Here are the full results of our survey.

Second-round series predictions

Metropolitan Division: Rangers vs. Hurricanes

Percent of vote Rangers Hurricanes

4 games

0.0

0.0

5 games

0.0

15.9

6 games

2.3

70.5

7 games

9.1

2.3

Total

11.4

88.6

Can the Rangers win this one without Igor Shesterkin playing at a higher level than we saw in the first round? It’s not only Shesterkin’s play that needs to improve. The Penguins dominated possession, zone time and scoring chances in the opening round, getting to the front of the Rangers net with ease. Of the teams that love to funnel pucks and bodies to the net, no one does it better than the Hurricanes. That means not only does Shesterkin need to be on top of his game but so do the Rangers skaters in the defensive zone. – Arthur Staple, Rangers beat writer

Atlantic Division: Lightning vs. Panthers

Percent of vote Lightning Panthers

4 games

0.0

0.0

5 games

2.3

0.0

6 games

13.6

18.2

7 games

25.0

40.9

Total

40.9

59.1

The Lightning beat the Panthers in six games in the postseason last year and have won two straight Cups. So why do we think they’re not going to win this series? The Lightning aren’t favored for two main reasons. 1) The Panthers are deeper and more experienced than last year’s version. They looked like a juggernaut all year. And 2) There’s question about the status of Lightning star Brayden Point, their No. 1 center and engine. The Cup champs don’t care who is favored, though. They’ve got the pedigree and recipe to win, as they showed against the favored Leafs in Round 1. – Joe Smith, Lightning beat writer

Central Division: Blues vs. Avalanche

Percent of vote Blues Avalanche

4 games

0.0

0.0

5 games

0.0

36.4

6 games

2.3

52.3

7 games

0.0

9.1

Total

2.3

97.7

The Avs are the overwhelming favorite here. How can the Blues slow them down? Honestly, it’s going to be tough. There’s a reason the Avs are the prohibitive favorites and it’s more than their star power, speed and skill. Much like the Blues before they won the Stanley Cup in 2019, the Avs have been knocking on the door for a few years. They’ve dealt with heartache, and that above anything else is going to drive them this postseason. In order to combat that, the Blues have to use their Cup experience to their advantage, and quite frankly, they’ll have to use their underdog status as motivation, too. The Blues have the ability to beat the Avs, but if the Avs play like a team that’s learned a few lessons along the way, this will be the challenge many expect for Craig Berube’s club. – Jeremy Rutherford, Blues beat writer

Pacific Division: Oilers vs. Flames

Percent of vote Oilers Flames

4 games

0.0

0.0

5 games

0.0

6.8

6 games

9.1

27.3

7 games

18.2

38.6

Total

27.3

72.7

Connor McDavid seems like he’s picking up steam. Can the Flames stop him? The Kings certainly couldn’t in Games 6 and 7, with two chances to upset Edmonton in Round 1. McDavid recorded five points on six Oilers goals over those two games, culminating with a playoff-leading 14 points in seven games. Can the Flames stop him? Some of that will depend on if Chris Tanev is available. He’s Calgary’s most dependable defenceman and he missed Game 7. Having Jacob Markstrom as the last line of defense will help too. The Flames showed the ability to dominate puck possession against Dallas at five-on-five, and the best way to keep McDavid off the scoresheet is to keep him in the defensive zone. They’ll also need to minimize penalties because we know McDavid scoring on the power play is inevitable. Can Calgary do all that? That remains to be seen. The only thing we really know about The Battle of Alberta Playoff Edition is there’s going to be some (fun) chaos. – Hailey Salvian, Flames beat writer

Beyond the second round

Eastern Conference champion

Percent of vote Pre-playoffs Now

16.7

38.6

39.6

34.1

20.8

25.0

4.2

2.3

10.4

0.0

4.2

0.0

4.2

0.0

The Hurricanes jumped from 16.7 percent to win the East to 38.6 percent. What did they show in the first round to convince so many people they’re for real? Yes, it took the Hurricanes seven games in the first round to beat a Bruins team they had crushed in the regular season. And, yes, the Game 6 loss was uninspiring. But finally defeating the team that took them out in the 2019 Eastern Conference final is a huge mental weight lifted, and Brad Marchand said himself he thinks the Canes are coming out of the East this year. Carolina showed in Round 1 that it has the depth, blue line production and discipline in its system to make a long run. – Sara Civian, Hurricanes beat writer

Western Conference champion

Percent of vote Pre-playoffs Now

58.3

77.3

39.6

18.2

0.0

2.3

2.1

0.0

Any concern of rust with the Avalanche after a lengthy break following their first-round sweep? Captain Gabriel Landeskog didn’t seem too concerned with the idea of ​​rust. “Everybody wants to make that into a thing,” he said. “Rest is an advantage at this point of the year.” Landeskog mentioned that the Blues also had an extended layoff between series, and both he and Nathan MacKinnon stressed that the Avalanche have been practicing well and are ready to go. But game reps are different from practice, so there could be a feeling-out period for both teams early in this next series against the Blues. – Peter Baugh, Avalanche beat writer

Stanley Cup champion

Percent of vote Pre-playoffs Now

45.8

70.5

10.4

11.4

14.6

6.8

12.5

6.8

14.6

4.5

2.1

0.0

Why won’t the Avalanche win the Cup? I dunno – why didn’t they win it last year? Colorado was a favorite back then too, and they came out fast against Vegas before dropping four straight. Most of us thought the Blues would lose to the Wild in the first round; look how that turned out. They’re used to winning games despite losing the possession battle. Potentially down the line, Calgary is an outstanding five-on-five team with an elite goalie. There are four really good teams alive in the East. Hockey is inherently chaotic, a lot can happen in a seven-game series and we should know better than to crown the Avs in the second round. Doesn’t mean they aren’t the smart pick, though. – Sean Gentille, national NHL writer

Conn Smythe winner

Cale Makar is a huge favorite here. Is that what the numbers say too? In a word, yes. Makar went from having an outstanding regular season and being known as the best two-way defenseman in the league to legitimately putting himself in the conversation as one of the best overall players in the league in Round 1. Granted, it was against a weaker opponent , but he was absolutely phenomenal. With Makar on the ice at five-on-five, the Avalanche controlled 66 percent of the expected goals share and outscored Nashville 6-2. Then there was his special-teams impact. Altogether, he tallied 10 points in four games, and he leads the league with an average Game Score of 3.56 so far in the postseason. The expectation, based on his stellar body of work at the NHL level, is that he’s just going to build on that. If the Avalanche keep advancing, his game-changing play is going to be an essential part of it.

A few notable omissions here: Connor McDavid leads the playoffs in scoring (14 points), and if the Oilers do anything, it will be on his back. He’s also second to Makar in Game Score (3.00). And Carter Verhaeghe has been the Panthers’ MVP with 12 points and three game-winners already, so it’s interesting to see Claude Giroux (seven points) make the board when he doesn’t. – Shayna Goldman, NHL analytics writer

How have we done so far?

First-round series predictions

The only series the majority of The Athletic staff didn’t call correctly heading into the first round was Blues-Wild, which was predicted as the closest series, with two-thirds of votes predicting it to go seven games. Here’s how all of our predictions held up, with the actual result of the series, the percent of voters who picked the right team and the percent who picked the right team and number of games:

Percent of correct picks Team Team and games
Hurricanes over Bruins in 7

62.5

14.6

Rangers over Penguins in 7

66.7

18.8

Panthers over Capitals in 6

93.8

25.0

Lightning over Maple Leafs in 7

70.8

33.3

Avalanche over Predators in 4

97.9

39.6

Blues over Wild in 6

37.5

4.2

Flames over Stars in 7

95.8

0.0

Oilers over Kings in 7

68.8

16.7

(Top photo of Connor McDavid and Elias Lindholm: Codie McLachlan / Getty Images)

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