7 Takeaways as the Stanley Cup Playoffs Continue: Lightning, Flames, Oilers, Blues, Avalanche, Hurricanes, Rangers

Jacob Slavin and the Carolina Hurricanes are struggling on the power play in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (Image: All Pro Reels)
Jacob Slavin and the Carolina Hurricanes are struggling on the power play in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (Image: All Pro Reels)

The Stanley Cup Playoffs: they’re fun, aren’t they?

Following the Tampa Bay Lightning’s sweeping of the Florida Panthers, we’re one step closer to knowing which team will end the season as the NHL’s champions.

It won’t be the Toronto Maple Leafs: they lost another Game 7 heartbreaker in Round 1. It won’t be the LA Kings: they couldn’t overcome Connor McDavid in the first round. And it won’t be the Panthers, who succumbed to the Presidents’ Trophy curse in Round 2.

Nor will it be the Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, or Pittsburgh Penguins: they all crashed out early, some acrimoniously.

7 Takeaways From the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Only a handful of squads remain in the hunt for Lord Stanley, with Tampa Bay the first team to punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Final. With that in mind, let’s discuss the one thing each remaining club must do to go all the way in the playoffs.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Avoid (More) Injuries

Tampa Bay’s path to the final four wasn’t easy, they had to overcome the Maple Leafs and Panthers to make it this far, but the bracket is starting to open up for Jon Cooper’s team. According to The Athletic’s model, the Lightning are second-favourites to win the Cup, with a 26 percent shot after knocking out their cross-state rivals.

Following their stunning sweep in Round 2, Tampa’s only major concern is staying healthy. They out-shot, -scored, and -chanced the Panthers this week, limiting Florida to just three goals through four hours of playoff hockey.

Although netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy was his usual electric self, the Lightning put on a team-wide clinic in the second round. They absorbed hits, took the sting out of Florida’s rush, and scored in key moments. But they’re a little beaten up, with Brayden Point missing Tampa’s tête-à-tête with Florida. As a result, staying healthy is the their top priority moving forwards.

Colorado Avalanche 3-1 St. Louis Blues

  • Game 5: Thursday, 26 May @ 01:00
  • Game 6: Saturday, 28 May @01:00 (if required)
  • Game 7: TBD (if needed)

Colorado Avalanche: Stay Focussed

Nazem Kadri had quite the night in Game 4, scoring a hattrick amid awful circumstances.

Following a collision with Jordan Binnington in the previous match, Kadri was subjected to abhorrent racist abuse on social media in the hours leading up to puck drop. He was also disappointed by what Blues head coach Craig Berube had to say about his reputation before the fourth game of the series.

But there wasn’t a hint of distraction in Kadri’s performance on Tuesday [23 May] night. He enjoyed a memorable four-point night, propelling the Avalanche to within one win of the Western Conference Final, despite the level of physicality thrown his way by the Blues.

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“I wanted to come out and really put a mark on this game, especially after what happened. I tried to do that as best as possible,” said Kadri. “Sometimes you’ve got to be patient and you’ve got to wait. I was able to strike early in the second period and was able to get the mojo going, in terms of individually and as a team, so it felt amazing. Especially to do it on the road, it was pure.

“I guess I needed some fuel. I was pretty upset for the last couple of days, but it is what it is. We got the win and that’s what we wanted.”

Colorado will eliminate the Blues if they stay laser focused on executing their game plan. Thus far, they’re doing an impressive job.

St. Louis Blues: Limit Cale Makar’s Puck Time

It’s now do-or-die for the Blues: they’re one defeat away from being eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Their only path to victory against Colorado is stopping Conn Smythe Trophy candidate Cale Makar, who has a whopping 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in eight playoff appearances this term.

Related: 2022 Conn Smythe Trophy Tracker – Makar, McDavid in Pole Position

Makar is excellent on the puck and equally impressive in his own end. If the Blues find a way to stop him, they’ll slow down the Avalanche and (maybe?) be able to plot a route back into this series. It feels unlikely.

Calgary Flames 1-2 Edmonton Oilers

  • Game 4: Wednesday, 25 May @ 02:30
  • Game 5: Friday, 27 May @ 02:30
  • Game 6: TBD (if required)
  • Game 7: TBD (if required)

Edmonton Oilers: Lean on Connor McDavid

With all due respect to the Edmonton Oilers, their path to the Western Conference Final is almost wholly dependent on Connor McDavid’s form. If he continues to produce offence at such a ridiculous rate, they might just go all the way:

He’s been excellent this postseason, dragging the Oilers beyond the Kings in Round 1 to place the Battle of Alberta back on the postseason schedule.

“He’s been on fire in the playoffs and has taken his game to the next level,” Evander Kane said of his linemate’s form.

“He’s not just doing it on the scoresheet. That’s what is allowing him to really showcase his skill. He is physical, he is involved. he is winning puck battles along the wall, both in the defensive and offensive zones. He is a dominant force out there.”

If McDavid keeps this up, the Flames are in trouble.

Calgary Flames: Stop Obsessing on Connor McDavid

On the other hand, it’s about time Calgary stopped focussing so heavily on McDavid. If the Flames find a way to rediscover the magic touch that propelled them to regular-season success, their quality should shine through against an unbalanced Oilers roster.

Stanley Cup Playoffs - After featuring for Team North America in 2016, Connor McDavid could captain Team Canada at the 2024 World Cup of Hockey (Image: Brian Murphy, All-Pro Reels)
Connor McDavid has six goals and 17 assists in 10 playoff games this season (Image: Brian Murphy, All-Pro Reels)

“They’ve got one player that plays half the game and is playing some great hockey right now,” Matthew Tkachuk said of McDavid’s influence.

“We’ve got to find a way to stop that. When we get in their zone, we’ve got to hold pucks, nothing blind, and get shots to the goalie. That’s where they can have some trouble, with rebounds and lose coverage with that. Just have to have consistent O-zone shifts and not throw anything blind where they can feed their transition.”

Quite.

Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 New York Rangers

  • Game 4: Wednesday, 25 May @ 00:00
  • Game 5: Friday, 27 May @ 00:00
  • Game 6: TBD (if required)
  • Game 7: TBD (if required)

Carolina Hurricanes: Convert on the Power Play

Scoring on the man-advantage is just about the only thing the Carolina Hurricanes haven’t done this series. They’ve flubbed seven power play opportunities so far, despite carving out a number of high danger scoring chances against the star netminder Igor Shesterkin.

“At the end of the day, the power play let us down again,” Nino Niederreiter told reporters after Carolina’s 3-1 loss in Game 3.

Tony DeAngelo added: “The power play stunk. That’s the reason we lost the game. We can’t keep going game after game with no power-play goals. We can keep saying we’re getting the chances, but it wasn’t good enough.

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“They’re not always going to go in but eventually they have to. We have to do something to fix it. We’ve got a lot of belief in the guys and we’re working hard but it just seems a little flat.”

Carolina are goalless on the power play in Round 2: they need to change that if they want to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.

New York Rangers: Support Igor Shesterkin

If the Rangers are to turn the tide against Carolina, Gerard Gallant’s side must find a way of supporting Shesterkin. He was their key player during the regular-season and has already stolen wins for New York during the playoffs. But the Russian can’t do it all on his own.

The Rangers proved they are more than capable of upsetting the Canes in Game 3, tying up loose ends to overcome the Metropolitan Division winners on home ice. Improving on the powerplay is a must, especially as they’re seven-for-seven (thanks, Igor) on the penalty kill this series.


Which team will win the Stanley Cup Playoffs? Join the conversation by tweeting @BritIceHockey.

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