Only eight teams remain in the NHL playoffs after one of the most unpredictable first rounds in recent memory. Here’s how we rank the squads left in the mix heading into Round 2.
1 – Toronto Maple Leafs
With the Panthers taking out Boston, the Maple Leafs are now among the favorites to win the Stanley Cup according to the sportsbooks. Although many thought they were outplayed for most of the series against Tampa Bay, getting through without their best might be what this team needed. Ilya Samsonov was fantastic in the first series and if he can continue this play throughout the playoffs, the Leafs will be a force to be reckoned with. With that being said, they’ll need to step up defensively in Round 2 to combat Florida’s relentless forecheck.
2 – New Jersey Devils
The Devils are interesting because they looked both terrible and awesome at different points in their first round. However, when Akira Schmid came in and took over the crease, they dominated the Rangers. From games 3-7, New Jersey allowed a high-powered Rangers offence to score just nine goals, five of which came in one night. Now, they’ll face a faster, more defensive Carolina team. It may be a different type of series, but New Jersey proved in the first round that they can win any way they need to.
3 – Edmonton Oilers
Things did not look good for the Oilers at the end of the first period in Game 4. However, instead of wrapping it up early and moving on, Edmonton stormed back from a three-goal deficit and eventually evened up the series with an overtime goal from Zach Hyman. The resilience of this team is real, and they finally started to get some secondary production behind Draisaitl and McDavid in the second half of the first round. The powerplay is also a huge factor, as it clipped at over 50% in the first round. When the production its coming from everyone and the goaltending is solid, Edmonton is one of the toughest teams to beat in the NHL.
4 – Dallas Stars
The Stars looked terrific in their last three games against Minnesota and will face off against the Seattle Kraken in the second round. Dallas has a tremendous defensive game paired with one of the league’s best goaltenders in Jake Oettinger, making them extremely difficult to score against. At forward, they’re deeper than most teams and they still have the star power in players like Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Now that they’ve got Joe Pavelski back in the lineup as well, Dallas could roll in Round 2.
5 – Carolina Hurricanes
The Canes are a very good team. Unfortunately, they’re also a defensive team that has seen multiple scoring forwards go down with injuries in the last few weeks. Without help from Andrei Svechnikov, Max Pacioretty and Tuevo Teravainen, a lot of pressure will be on their top lines to produce against the Devils in Round 2. They could certainly do it, but they’re slight underdogs in this series despite being the higher seed for a reason.
6 – Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights cruised through the first round of the playoffs and are the Western Conference’s number one seed. They won’t be an easy opponent for anyone. With Mark Stone back, this team has a great mix of depth and skill with forwards that can play both sides of the puck. On the blue line, they’re also very sound, and the experienced core of Shea Theodore, Alex Pietrangelo and Alec Martinez will not make things easy on anyone. Although they take the 6th spot in the Power Rankings, I’d expect a very tight series with Edmonton.
7 – Florida Panthers
How could the Panthers not be higher in the rankings after taking down the best regular season team of all time? Well, now they’ve got to take on the next best team in the East. They could certainly pull off another upset, but Matthew Tkachuk, Brandon Montour and Sergei Bobrovsky specifically will all have to continue their outstanding play in this series. They caught the Bruins off guard, but a wave of momentum is coming from Toronto. Thankfully, they pursue pucks on the forecheck extremely well, and that could definitely expose the weaker parts of Toronto’s game.
8 – Seattle Kraken
The Kraken may not have too many household names, but their whole roster is full of talented NHL players. They may be the deepest team left in the playoffs, and with how they forecheck the puck and come at the opposition in constant waves, beating them four times will be no easy task. They may be the last team on our Power Rankings, but if Grubauer can continue his solid play in net, the Kraken will be pushing the Stars all series long in Round 2.
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