What we know (and remaining mysteries) midway through Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs

NHL

We’re previous the midway level of every second-round sequence within the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs, and one convention semifinalist has already begun its offseason, because the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers have been swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

What have the primary 4 video games of every sequence taught us? And the way will these classes affect the remainder of the spherical and past?

If the Lightning weren’t favored to three-peat as Stanley Cup champs going into the playoffs, they may be now. Tampa Bay dismantled the Florida Panthers in a second-round sequence sweep that was spectacular for the way easy it appeared. The Lightning are headed for his or her third straight Japanese Convention finals look and sixth in eight years. Few groups on this period can maintain that sort of success season over season. Tampa Bay is doing it earlier than our eyes.

The true revelation within the sequence in opposition to Florida, although, was Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy. His beautiful play (.981 save share, 0.75 objectives in opposition to common, capped off by a shutout in Recreation 4) defied superlatives. The Panthers averaged extra regular-season objectives (4.11 per sport) than anybody, and Vasilevskiy made them look feeble as Tampa Bay outscored them 13-3. That dominance by Vasilevskiy wasn’t assured, both, after how he performed within the first-round matchup in opposition to Toronto. His numbers there by means of six video games (.885 SV%, 3.37 GAA) have been common, however in Recreation 7, he rose to the event (30 saves, .968 SV%) and pushed Tampa Bay by means of.

The Lightning will face New York or Carolina subsequent. It is an unenviable project for both of them. The Lightning have solely gotten stronger on this postseason. The restrict to their potential may not exist. — Shilton


Igor! [clap clap]

Hey, keep in mind the opening spherical of the Japanese Convention playoffs between the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins? Bear in mind when Igor Shesterkin, the favourite to win the Vezina Trophy because the NHL’s high goaltender, was pulled twice? Bear in mind how he gave up three or extra objectives in six of the seven video games they performed?

Should you do not, that is OK. The Rangers goalie has finished the whole lot he can in opposition to Carolina to make you neglect these opening-round struggles ever occurred.

Shesterkin has stopped 117 of 122 photographs he has confronted in opposition to the Hurricanes, good for a .959 save share. That included his 73 saves on 75 photographs in two dwelling victories at Madison Sq. Backyard, to the delight of Rangers followers who chanted his identify after saves (and opposing objectives) for encouragement. He hasn’t been excellent — little question he’d like that Nino Niederreiter backhand aim from Recreation 3 again — however he has been adequate that the Hurricanes are nonetheless making an attempt to persuade themselves they will beat him.

“I am assured that finally they will discover the again of the web. Perhaps as a ahead group we will perform a little higher to be in his eyes and get to unfastened pucks on the market,” Hurricanes middle Sebastian Aho stated after Recreation 4. “Soiled objectives. You get a kind of, you get confidence — and abruptly, you get every kind of objectives.” — Wyshynski


Carolina is taking part in with hearth

The Hurricanes are a fantastic workforce (clearly). However they’re trending into harmful territory in opposition to the Rangers. Successful the sequence’ first two video games at dwelling was a powerful begin, and Carolina did it due to key objectives from depth contributors Ian Cole (with the Recreation 1 time beyond regulation winner) and Brendan Smith (with the opening salvo in a 2-0 Recreation 2 victory).

Unlikely heroes are an indicator of profitable postseason groups. However Carolina will want extra out of its high guys too, as evidenced by their too-quiet sticks when the sequence shifted to New York. The Hurricanes blew into Manhattan and dropped consecutive video games, transferring to 0-5 on the highway on this postseason and heading dwelling to Raleigh with the sequence knotted 2-2. Carolina was outscored 7-2 on mixture in Video games 3 and 4, and their misfiring energy play (0-for-12 within the workforce’s previous 5 video games) stays a problem. Aho and Teuvo Teravainen mixed for one aim in Video games 3 and 4; Niederreiter had the opposite. However the Hurricanes by no means appeared to fireplace on all cylinders.

Given Carolina hasn’t but misplaced at dwelling within the postseason (6-0) and it nonetheless owns home-ice benefit on this sequence, it will be simple for the Canes to get complacent. Carolina held the Rangers to just one aim in Video games 1 and a couple of and will probably shut them down once more. However the warmth is rising on this second-round matchup after the nastiness of Recreation 3. It is all correct fodder for the Rangers to steal one on the highway now and put Carolina on the ropes. — Shilton


The objectives proceed to circulation

Do not let the defensive grind of the Rangers vs. Hurricanes sequence idiot you: The 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs proceed to imitate the common season’s extraordinary offensive tempo.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are actually averaging 6.27 objectives by means of 67 video games. That places the postseason on tempo to be the highest-scoring one because the 1995 event (6.36 objectives per sport), which was performed after a lockout-shortened season.

A mean of 6.3 objectives per sport have been scored this common season, the best since 1995-96 (additionally 6.3).

All of that scoring has come on the expense of shut finishes; there have been solely 10 time beyond regulation video games by means of the primary two rounds. Final postseason, there have been 16 time beyond regulation video games in simply the primary spherical. — Wyshynski


St. Louis’ supposed goaltender of the long run is dangerously near a freefall. After taking up the Blues’ beginning job from Jordan Binnington and posting terrific stats to finish the common season (9-1-2, .913 SV%, 2.88 GAA), Husso has been terrible since a Recreation 1 win over the Minnesota Wild within the Blues’ first-round sequence. He adopted that efficiency by permitting 9 objectives mixed in St. Louis’ subsequent two video games (.847 SV%) and was changed by Binnington in Recreation 4.

St. Louis rallied round Binnington and pulled by means of to the second spherical in opposition to Colorado. Then Binnington was injured in Recreation 3 and will not be again for this sequence. Husso has the Blues’ crease once more, and the outcomes since he stepped in have been poor: 0-2, .847 SV%, 4.99 GAA. Ouch.

The Avalanche are up 3-1 on the Blues within the sequence. It will take the perfect of the whole lot St. Louis has to beat the Western Convention’s high workforce three straight occasions and advance. And what Husso is exhibiting would not attain that degree. For the Blues to have an opportunity, their rookie netminder should channel no matter made him so spectacular for big swathes of the common season. — Shilton


Avalanche greater than MacKinnon, Makar

The Colorado Avalanche have managed to push the St. Louis Blues to the brink of elimination and not using a aim from Nathan MacKinnon and simply two factors from Cale Makar. That ought to scare the daylights out of the remaining groups within the Western Convention.

Take into account how the Avs steamrolled the Nashville Predators within the opening spherical of the playoffs. MacKinnon had six objectives. Makar had 10 factors, probably the most in NHL historical past by a defenseman by means of 4 video games in a postseason. However in opposition to the Blues, it has been a unique story. MacKinnon has seen copious quantities of St. Louis defensive ace Ryan O’Reilly. He has managed to choose up assists in three of the 4 video games however hasn’t been in a position to tally a aim regardless of taking 17 photographs. Makar had 9 photographs within the first two video games in Denver however managed solely two prior to now two video games in St. Louis. Nonetheless, he picked up assists in each of these video games.

Once more, the truth that Colorado hasn’t actually wanted them is totally scary. They’d a hat trick and an help from Nazem Kadri in Recreation 4. They’d two objectives from deadline pickup Artturi Lehkonen in Recreation 3. Of their Recreation 1 time beyond regulation win, it was defenseman Josh Manson getting the sport winner in time beyond regulation.

The mark of a championship-caliber workforce is the flexibility to win even when its stars aren’t shining the brightest. In Spherical 2, the Avalanche have that mark. — Wyshynski


The Battle of Alberta wants some chunk

One of the best factor about an Edmonton-Calgary matchup is the torrid history between their teams. That was on full show in Video games 1 and a couple of. The Flames asserted themselves bodily, drawing Edmonton into an uncomfortable place and reaping the advantages. One thing shifted for Calgary after its loss in Recreation 2, although. Edmonton got here again from a 2-0 deficit, scored late within the third whereas short-handed to interrupt a 3-3 tie and wound up profitable 5-3.

The Flames have not appeared fairly the identical since. There’s much less edge to their sport, like they’re making an attempt to match the Oilers’ talent as an alternative of difficult it. Edmonton appears to be like snug, and that is not going to assist the Flames try to beat a 3-1 gap within the sequence.

After which there’s Calgary’s goaltending. Jacob Markstrom has been inexplicably inconsistent, producing durations of brilliance (like a 21-save effort within the opening 20 minutes of Recreation 3, or a clear sheet within the second body of Recreation 4) adopted by pricey errors uncharacteristic of a Vezina Trophy finalist. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane mixed for 16 factors in Video games 3 and 4 at dwelling. The complete Oilers offense is rolling. Markstrom has been getting crushed cleanly, and he is sometimes hurting his trigger by making an attempt to play the puck (together with a gaffe that straight resulted in a aim 21 seconds into Recreation 4).

The Flames battled again to tie Recreation 4 however could not preserve the momentum going to get the win. That is twice within the sequence they have been knotted within the third and are available up quick.

The parades to the penalty field that marked this sequence early on are gone, however with them has gone an excessive amount of of the physicality that makes Calgary nice. The Flames might want to flex some muscle in the event that they need to lengthen this sequence any longer. — Shilton


The floppy cats

Can we blame the “Presidents’ Trophy Curse” for the Florida Panthers‘ second-round exit, as they have been swept away by the Tampa Bay Lightning?

Prior to now decade, there was just one workforce that had the common season’s greatest file and received the Stanley Cup: the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks. Because the wage cap was instituted after the 2005 lockout, solely the Blackhawks and the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings received each the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup in the identical season. In actual fact, these two groups and the 2014-15 New York Rangers are the one Presidents’ Trophy winners to play in a convention last — everybody else bowed out earlier.

But when we’re not citing the supernatural for the Cats’ demise, what then? Clearly, the offense is guilty. Florida averaged 2.3 objectives per sport within the playoffs, down from 4.11 objectives per sport within the common season, which was the best for any workforce because the 1995-96 season. The supply of a lot of that frustration was the ability play, which went from fifth within the league (24.4%) to final within the playoffs (a depressing 3.2%), with one aim in 31 power-play alternatives.

It appeared like interim coach Andrew Brunette was headed towards a multiyear extension earlier than the playoffs began. Was profitable a playoff spherical earlier than getting swept by a two-time Stanley Cup champion sufficient to earn him that? In the meantime, the Panthers should take inventory of what labored and what did not within the playoffs. Are the adjustments they should make personnel-oriented, or have been their goal-scoring woes a sign that one thing stylistically would not translate from the common season to the playoffs? — Wyshynski

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