2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1: Panthers v Capitals
It’s time for meaningful hockey. Everything you’ve done up to this point is null and void. It’s served its purpose and has disappeared into the wilderness. Whether you were the number one seed or the number eight seed means nothing. Let’s get ready to rumble in the (Vegas-less) 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Florida Panthers face the Washington Capitals in round one.
They are below the league average in high danger chances created, with the average being 11.8% and the Panthers coming in at 11.3%. Not a lot to worry about, especially when you consider their high danger chances against is not only below the league average but well below it. The Panthers come in at a 9.4 while the league average is 11.8. This confirms the Panthers are a defensively strong team that will be difficult to break down. The President Trophy Champions will also have the added advantage of home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
The trade deadline acquisition of Claude Giroux will be defined in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as the former Philadelphia Flyer adds playoff experience. Despite a fantastic regular season Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov will have the weight of making it past the first round for the first time in their careers on their shoulders. There are also doubts about goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. He posted a .841 SV% during last season’s playoffs for the Panthers and a .901 SV% the playoffs before. He has only posted above a .915 SV% in a playoffs run once and below a .900 SV% in four of his eight playoff outings.
It’s very much an old cliche but the Capitals’ season will rise or fall with goaltending. The Capitals have everything else needed to compete when it matters but neither Vitek Vanecek nor Ilya Samsonov is filling you with confidence posting a .908SV% and .896SV% respectively during the regular season. If either one steps up during the playoffs there is no reason the Capitals couldn’t find themselves with a second Stanley Cup in four years.
Alexander Ovechkin tallied 50 goals in a season for the ninth time in his career and will be the main driving force behind the Capitals’ offense, while Tom Wilson will look to play devil’s advocate at every possible opportunity. It’s common knowledge the hits get harder during the playoffs and is there anyone you’d rather have at that point than Tom Wilson?
While the Panthers will go in as overwhelming favorites, you should never rule out a team with Ovechkin leading the line. The Capitals have been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt. And it could be a case of deja vu with the Capitals going into the series without a dead cert goaltender.
For the Panthers, it’s now that the acquisition of Claude Giroux from the Philadelphia Flyers will be judged. Also, if Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov continue on their tear in the off-season it’s hard to look past the Panthers going all the way to the Finals.
Prediction: Panthers win in 6
Oddly Specific Prediction: There will be a game where both starting goaltenders leave with a below .900SV%