Around The NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2 Begin, Panarin’s Playoff Reputation, More
After last night’s dominant Game 7 win for the New Jersey Devils to eliminate Patrick Kane and the Rangers, the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs has officially come to a close. The second round has the potential to be just as fun with some amazing matchups on tap. Personally, I’m most looking forward to Vegas vs Edmonton, but all four series have the potential to be awesome.
I will say, I’m pretty disappointed Patrick Kane (not so much the Rangers) won’t be playing in the second round. But while the Rangers struggled in the opening round series loss, Kane put up six points in seven games and was double-shifted at times in Game 7. I’ll be fascinated to see where Showtime’s next stop is this offseason.
Round 2 Picks & Preview
The second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins tonight! Let’s do a couple of quick-hitter predictions and previews.
- Oilers over Golden Knights 4-3. I’m SO EXCITED for this series. Vegas is an incredibly deep hockey team that does a whole lot of things well, now they have their superstar talent in Jack Eichel that’s been missing from their playoff shortcomings the last few seasons. Edmonton is a WAGON offensively, and getting by LA in the fashion they did in Game 6 – surviving the goaltending blunder – seems like a launching point. The West is Edmonton’s for the taking, but Vegas can give them all they can handle.
- Stars over Kraken 4-2. This feels like the most under-the-radar of the second-round matchups. It really shouldn’t though. The Stars have an incredibly deep lineup and arguably the best goaltender in the NHL with Jake Oettinger (who should have been a Blackhawk btw). Jamie Benn got back to being his old self this year. Jason Robertson is a legit MVP candidate. That said, Seattle just upset the defending Stanley Cup Champions on the road in Game 7 in their first-ever playoff series. Dallas might be the better team. Seattle, though, is young, fun, and might not care that they’re “not supposed to be here yet.”
- Devils over Hurricanes 4-3. Don’t blink during this series, you might miss a lot. These teams both play so fast, and last night in Game 7 the Devils couldn’t have impressed me more. They play fast, they pressure on the forecheck, they do a great job of making their opponent uncomfortable, and they all of a sudden have an all-world goalie in Akira Schmid. Carolina comes into this round after surviving a tough test in the Islanders. They might get Teuvo Teravainen at some point as well. Is this one destined for seven games?
- Leafs over Panthers 4-2. The Panthers were so impressive in their historic upset of the Bruins. Winning three straight, scoring late in Game 7 to tie and in OT to win was a perfect way to wrap that series up. Matthew Tkachuk is quickly becoming one of my favorite players in the NHL to watch. After the Bruins series, they’re afraid of no one. But it feels like the Leafs time now, doesn’t it? They FINALLY get out of the first round in a hard-fought series over Tampa. The Bruins lost. They’re getting the best goaltending play they’ve gotten in years. Ryan O’Reilly has been the PERFECT playoff player and culture addition to their lineup. Everything is falling into place for Toronto. This totally shouldn’t be a terrifying thought for Leafs fans or make us assume heartbreak is on the horizon!
Panarin’s Playoff Reputation Taking A Hit?
It really pains me to write this, because I love Artemi Panarin. I loved him during his time with the Blackhawks, was heartbroken when they traded him for pennies on the dollar, and have rooted for him during his really productive years in Columbus and New York. He’s been a point-per-game player every season in the NHL since departing Chicago, including 92+ point campaigns in three of his last four seasons. But it’s time to take a look at his playoff production.
I won’t sit here and say Panarin has been AWFUL in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in his career. He’s got 46 points in 57 career playoff games. Regular season he averages 1.12 PPG, postseason he averages 0.80 PPG. There’s a dropoff there. However, since joining the Rangers he’s only averaging 0.66 PPG (20 points in 30 games) in the postseason. Panarin failed to record a point in Games 2-7 of the Devils series (he had two assists in Game 1). In his last nine playoff games, he’s got just two points. And it’s not just production, Panarin has a tendency to become invisible for way too long of stretches.
Even this year when the Rangers went out and got his ideal linemate and power play partner in Patrick Kane, the Breadman still struggled. New York’s power play was awful against New Jersey scoring at just a 17% clip in Round 1, though some of that is due to the Devils’ penalty kill. Panarin isn’t going anywhere – he’s under contract for three more seasons at over $11 million per season. There’s still time for him to change the narrative, but there most certainly is one forming around him (just take a look at Rangers’ Twitter if you don’t believe me). Your best players are the ones that have to carry the team at times and snap slumps. Panarin just hasn’t been able to do that since becoming a Ranger.
- I’m a gambling guy, so when I found out that the betting favorites to make the Stanley Cup Final are the Oilers and the Maple Leafs I got very excited. Can you imagine that Final? A Canadian team hasn’t won the Cup since 1993. If we got the Leafs looking fo win their first Stanley Cup since 1967 and Connor McDavid going for his first all with a guarantee Canada is getting their Cup, the hockey world could erupt.
- What’s next for Patrick Kane? Whether it’s right or not, it appears Joel Quenneville could be back in the NHL behind a bench next season – and quite possibly with the Rangers. Would Kane be enticed to take a team-friendly deal with New York if it meant a reunion with Quenneville and another go-around with his favorite linemate in Panarin? If not, could the team that just ousted him from the playoffs be a fit? The Devils have a lot of similarities to the Blackhawks before they went on their dynasty run (I’m by no means saying the Devils are about to win 3 Cups in 5 seasons). They’re young, fast, and will have some cap flexibility in the offseason. Could 88 hop across the river and be the playoff-proven veteran to put the Devils over the hump?
- If you’re not following Tab (I’m not sure why you wouldn’t be), the NHL Draft Lottery is less than a week away and the Blackhawks are loaded with draft picks! Tab did a fantastic job breaking down the top performers from last week’s U18 World Juniors. The piece includes an analysis of some possible selections for the Hawks with their top first-round pick (if the lottery doesn’t go our way). It also looks at some targets for their later first-round pick or one of their four second-round selections.
- After leading the Flames to a 50-win season in 2021-22, Darryl Sutter is out just one year later in Calgary after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Flames shook up their roster after falling to the Oilers in the second round last year. Johnny Gaudreau left for Columbus in free agency. They traded Matthew Tkachuk to Florida in a deal for Jonathan Huberdeau. Huberdeau wasn’t necessarily bad in Calgary, but Tkachuck’s success makes it a tough deal to swallow. Parting ways with Sutter makes sense, though. He’s an old-school coach that doesn’t fit with a lot of today’s players. He was massively successful during his time in LA. But he has a tendency to wear players out after so many years. Huberdeau himself said Sutter and the players didn’t see eye-to-eye. It will be an interesting off-season in Calgary. They had the 5th-oldest roster in the NHL this season. They have a few contracts coming off the books. However, they might need to hit the trade market to make changes after signing both Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri to big contracts last offseason.
- Either Round 1 of the playoffs has been great, or people really like the chance of upsets. Game 7 of Panthers vs Bruins drew 3.2 million viewers. That makes it the most-watched first-round Stanley Cup Playoff game ever on cable. The game clearly didn’t disappoint, either.