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2022 NHL Playoffs: First Round, Stanley Cup predictions

Ahead of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Pro Hockey Talk's Sean Leahy previews the Western Conference bracket, where it's top-heavy from the Avalanche on down.

The 2021-22 NHL regular season is finally over after that Seattle Kraken-Winnipeg Jets game that determined the final percentages for the upcoming draft lottery.

That means it’s Stanley Cup playoff time -- a two-month grind where 16 teams will be whittled down to two, which will end with one champion. Will the Tampa Bay Lightning make it a three-peat? Can the Colorado Avalanche finally reach the top? How magical will this spring be for the Florida Panthers? Is a Stanley Cup “Storm Surge” in our future?

With the First Round beginning Monday night, it’s time for the ProHockeyTalk team to give their predictions and how we see the next few months unfolding.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 First Round schedule, TV info]



Adam: Panthers in 7
Jake: Panthers in 6
James: Panthers in 6
Michael: Panthers in 5
Sean: Panthers in 5


Adam: Hurricanes in 6
Jake: Bruins in 7
James: Hurricanes in 7
Michael: Bruins in 6
Sean: Hurricanes in 6


Adam: Lightning in 6
Jake: Lightning in 7
James: Lightning in 7
Michael: Maple Leafs in 7
Sean: Lightning in 7


Adam: Rangers in 7
Jake: Rangers in 6
James: Rangers in 6
Michael: Rangers in 7
Sean: Rangers in 6

Edmonton Oilers v Colorado Avalanche

DENVER, COLORADO - MARCH 21: Nathan MacKinnon #29, Cale Makar #8, and J.T. Compher #37 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrate the game-winning goal in overtime against the Edmonton Oilers at Ball Arena on March 21, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche beat the Oilers 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images



Adam: Avalanche in 5
Jake: Avalanche in 5
James: Avalanche in 5
Michael: Avalanche in 4
Sean: Avalanche in 5


Adam: Flames in 7
Jake: Flames in 6
James: Flames in 6
Michael: Flames in 5
Sean: Flames in 5


Adam: Wild in 6
Jake: Blues in 7
James: Wild in 7
Michael: Wild in 7
Sean: Blues in 7


Adam: Kings in 7
Jake: Oilers in 7
James: Oilers in 6
Michael: Oilers in 6
Sean: Oilers in 6

NHL goalie ranking

CALGARY, AB - MARCH 10: Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lighting makes a save against Elias Lindholm #28 of the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 10, 2022 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images


Adam: CAR over TB in 7 / COL over CGY in 6
Jake: TBL over NYR in 6 / COL over EDM in 5
James: TBL over CAR in 6 / COL over CGY in 6
Michael: TOR over NYR in 7 / COL over CGY in 5
Sean: FLA over NYR in 7 / COL over CGY in 6

stanley cup

AP Photo/The Press of Atlantic City, Dale Gerhard



Adam: Avalanche over Hurricanes in 6 (Conn Smythe: Cale Makar)

Colorado is, for me, the best team in the NHL and has been for a couple of years. I believe in talent. Teams with this level of talent eventually get there no matter how many times they lose before that. This Tampa Bay core eventually got its championship. St. Louis eventually won. Washington eventually won. It will happen for the Avalanche, and I do not see why it will not be this season. The forwards are loaded with all-stars, the defense is the best unit in the NHL with impact player after impact player, and Darcy Kuemper is a very underrated goalie that has had a spectacular season behind a fantastic team. They do not have an obvious weakness. They not only break through the second round ceiling they have been stuck at the best three years, but this core gets its championship.

Jake:Avalanche over Lightning in 6 (Conn Smythe: Cale Makar)

If Colorado stays mostly healthy and plays its game, I believe they have the ingredients to get it done. The Avs’ recent playoff history gives me pause that they can deliver on their potential, but I still have the most faith in that roster over anyone else’s. I had a more difficult time picking an Eastern Conference winner, but every team aside from the Rangers and Lightning has a serious goaltending question mark, so I will bet on Andrei Vasilevskiy and the two-time defending champs until someone proves they can take them down. I predict Cale Makar and the Avs win an epic series to dethrone Tampa.

James: Avalanche over Lightning in 6 (Conn Smythe: Nathan MacKinnon)

When in doubt, go with your offseason predictions. Spoiler: I’m in a heap of doubt. Both the Lightning and Avalanche face treacherous paths to a Stanley Cup Final matchup (for all of the Maple Leafs’ agony, they could absolutely end the Bolts’ repeat bid). Also, Cale Makar enjoyed a more dynamic regular season than MacKinnon, giving me some pause with the playoff MVP choice. Still, I’m sticking with the Lightning passing the torch to the Avalanche, and a fiery MacKinnon leading the way.

Michael: Avalanche over Maple Leafs in 7 (Conn Smythe: Darcy Kuemper)

Kuemper shows the hockey world that Colorado made a great move in getting him from Arizona in the off-season with superb goaltending, especially against Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs.

Sean: Panthers over Avalanche in 7 (Conn Smythe: Jonathan Huberdeau)

This season’s it’s been one of rebirth for the Panthers. Sergei Bobrovsky has rebounded. Claude Giroux has found a new gear. Sam Bennett posted a career year. And Andrew Brunette, who took over the job following Joel Quenneville’s resignation, guided a 7-0-0 team to the Presidents’ Trophy. Why not believe they can go wire-to-wire and deliver the franchise its first championship? Stanley Cup opportunities can be fleeting, which is why GM Bill Zito strengthened his roster over the course of the season knowing his team has a shot. Get ready for a parade this summer that should A1A, Las Olas, and maybe a few boats down the intracoastal waterway.