It seemed to fly by, but the end of the 2021-22 season is officially here. The playoffs are set to begin on Monday night, and there promises to be plenty of great series in this opening round.
Related: NHL 2021-22 Power Rankings: Week 27
For this week’s power rankings, things are going to be done a little bit different than they were for throughout the season. The reason behind that is that many teams chose to rest some of their top players to keep them healthy for what lies ahead. Because of that, I have decided to use this week’s power ranking to simply put together a list of each of the 16 clubs in the postseason, based on their overall strength as a team.
16. Nashville Predators (45-30-7)
In seasons past, a lack of offensive stars has been what has plagued this Predators team. That hasn’t been the problem in 2021-22, as players like Roman Josi, Matt Duchene, and Filip Forsberg all had themselves career years, while Ryan Johansen and Mikael Granlund were very solid as well.
The huge cause of concern for this team is goaltending. Juuse Saros is one of the best in the business, but he may not be available at all in the opening round, as there have been reports that he is dealing with a high-ankle sprain. If that is the case, they will likely turn to David Rittich, who has struggled immensely the past two seasons.
15. Dallas Stars (46-30-6)
The Stars enter the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the only team with a negative goal differential on the season. Their top line in Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski has been outstanding, but after that they haven’t gotten a ton of offensive contributions. On top of that, they are going with Jake Oettinger in net, who, despite a solid regular season, has extremely limited playoff experience at the NHL level.
14. Los Angeles Kings (44-27-11)
The Kings deserve a ton of credit for simply getting into the playoffs this year, as almost nobody predicted they would even sniff a top three spot in the Pacific Division prior to the 2021-22 campaign beginning.
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Up front, they have Anze Kopitar who is still one of the games premier two-way forwards, while also possessing Phillip Danault, who is a very good two-way threat himself. Being without Drew Doughty on the back end may prove to be too difficult to overcome, however.
13. Pittsburgh Penguins (46-25-11)
Many questioned whether this Penguins team had what it took to make the playoffs this season, and they responded by doing so with relative ease. With Sidney Crosby continuing to play at an elite level, this team remains dangerous. Unfortunately, they will be without starting goaltender Tristan Jarry in the opening round, meaning they will be forced to rely on Casey DeSmith.
12. Washington Capitals (44-26-12)
At the age of 36, Alex Ovechkin put up his highest point total (90) we have seen from him in over a decade. Evgeny Kuznetsov also had himself a very solid season with 78 points, while John Carlson surpassed the 70-point mark on the back end for the third time in four years.
However, this team failed to address their main concern at the trade deadline in their goaltending. Vitek Vanecek is believed to be their Game 1 starter, but his inconsistent play all season long makes it hard to have much confidence in him.
11. Boston Bruins (51-26-5)
For the first time in what seems like forever, this Bruins team isn’t being viewed by many as a true threat. That underdog mentality could go a long way in helping this group, as this could very well be their final kick at the can in the Patrice Bergeron era. They have been getting outstanding goaltending as of late, and have some lethal offensive options in Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. They won’t be an easy out for the Carolina Hurricanes.
10. Edmonton Oilers (49-27-6)
Since hiring Jay Woodcroft back on Feb. 11, the Oilers’ 26 wins are tied with the Florida Panthers for first in the entire league. Everyone is aware of just how good Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are, but they are no longer the only threats on this team thanks to the additions of Evander Kane and Zach Hyman. Questions remain surrounding their goaltending, but Mike Smith has been very good as of late, coming into the playoffs riding a nine-game winning streak while recording a 2.55 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .921 save percentage (SV%) in 22 games since the All-Star break.
9. St. Louis Blues (49-22-11)
The Blues are entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 12-2-2 record since April 1. They have been outstanding as of late and have been an underrated team all season long. The issue for them is that their first-round opponent, the Minnesota Wild, is entering the playoffs with an identical 12-2-2 record since the beginning of April.
Related: NHL 2021-22 Power Rankings: Week 25
This series could very well be the best of the bunch in the opening round, though the Wild are being viewed as the favorites thanks in large part to an outstanding goaltending duo.
8. New York Rangers (52-24-6)
Everyone knew entering the 2021-22 season that the Rangers were on the up and up, but very few would have predicted them finishing with 110 points. Several players stepped up offensively for this team, while Igor Shesterkin likely won himself his first ever Vezina Trophy with an outstanding 2.07 GAA along with a .935 SV%. The big question surrounding this group is their overall lack of playoff experience.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (54-21-7)
Several players on this Maple Leafs roster had outstanding seasons, none more so than Auston Matthews who put up a career-high 60 goals in just 73 games. With that being said, their lack of playoff success has many questioning this team.
Making it even worse for them is the fact that they are set to take on the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions in the Tampa Bay Lightning in round one.
6. Minnesota Wild (53-22-7)
Next season could be a challenging one for the Wild, given their upcoming salary cap situation, making this one very crucial. They are perhaps the most underrated team in the entire league entering the playoffs, as very few are recognizing them as a contender despite a very strong roster. Leading the way is Kirill Kaprizov who had an outstanding 108-point season, while Cam Talbot and Marc-Andre Fleury are arguably the best goaltending duo in the entire league.
5. Carolina Hurricanes (54-20-8)
The Hurricanes enter the postseason on a six-game winning streak and finished the regular season third in league standings. There is plenty to like about this roster, as it has several solid offensive talents while also having arguably the best blue line in the entire league. However, with Frederik Andersen being forced to miss at least the opening game of the playoffs, they will be forced to rely on Antti Raanta, who has a ton of troubles himself when it comes to staying healthy.
4. Calgary Flames (50-21-11)
The Flames had perhaps the most surprising season of any team in the entire league. After missing the playoffs in 2020-21, they were viewed by most as a fringe playoff team for 2021-22. Instead, they put up 111 points and ran away with the Pacific Division, thanks in large part to the systems implemented by head coach Darryl Sutter.
Players like Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk all had career years, while Jacob Markstrom’s nine shutouts led all netminders. There are zero weaknesses with this team, which puts them in a great position to go on a deep playoff run.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (51-23-8)
Through a good chunk of the 2021-22 season, the Lightning weren’t the dominating force we have all become accustomed to over the past few years. However, this group knows exactly when to ramp things up, and have done so as of late with a record of 7-3-0 over their past 10. With their recent winning experience, they are simply impossible to count out, and could very well win their third straight Stanley Cup this year.
2. Florida Panthers (58-18-6)
What an outstanding season it was for the Florida Panthers. Their 337 goals on the year led all teams by a wide margin, and make them a very scary squad for any team to be matched up against. While they shouldn’t have much issue sneaking past the Washington Capitals, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will need to elevate his play from previous years in the playoffs if they hope to win it all.
1. Colorado Avalanche (56-19-7)
With the Golden Knights missing the playoffs this season, it truly feels like the Avalanche’s year to come out of the West. They were outstanding all season long, even when missing some of their top players for significant chunks in Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog.
By the sounds of things, Landeskog, who hasn’t played since Mar. 10, will be ready to go for Game 1, making this already Stanley Cup favorite roster that much better.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.