Puck drops for the 2021-22 season are finally here!
Like always, hope springs eternal for all 32 teams — welcome to team No. 32: the Seattle Kraken — but not every team has the same objective. Some teams like the Golden Knights, Avalanche and Maple Leafs are Stanley Cup or bust. Others are hoping for one more chance as their windows close like Sidney Crosby and the Penguins and Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. Teams like the Devils, Blackhawks and, yes, even the Kraken, are looking to take that next step and some teams are already signing up for the Shane Wright sweepstakes.
Back for 2022 is the usual playoff format with the top team in the conference facing the second wild card, the other division winner playing the first wild card and N. 2 going up against No. 3 in an inter-divisional battle.
The road to the Stanley Cup is a long, twisting, curving one with never-ending potholes ending in a glorious result for one team — the Stanley Cup champion. Who will be there is the greatest mystery. Will the Lightning pull a Bulls-like three-peat? Can the Maple Leafs finally put the ghosts of playoffs — 54 years worth — pasts behind them?
Predicting what will be is always a tricky concept — and in all likelihood, none of this will come to fruition — but now with the 2021-22 season here it’s time to look into the future and see who will make it one to remember.
SN’s NHL award predictions for 2021-22
|Hart||Connor McDavid, Oilers|
|Vezina||Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning|
|Art Ross||Connor McDavid, Oilers|
|Rocket Richard||Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs|
|Norris||Adam Fox, Rangers|
|Calder||Cole Caufield, Canadiens|
|Selke||Mark Stone, Golden Knights|
|Jack Adams||Sheldon Keefe, Maple Leafs|
SN’s standings predictions for 2021-22
The Eastern Conference is expected to be business as usual in 2021-22 with just one team moving on up — the Rangers. It’s fair to say the rebuild is over in New York powered by new bench boss Gerard Gallant (who has a knack for taking a team far in his first year), new $8.5 million-per-year man Mika Zibanejad and the young stars led by Norris Trophy guy Adam Fox.
|Atlantic Division||Metropolitan Division||Wild cards|
|A1. Tampa Bay Lightning||M1. New York Islanders||W1. Boston Bruins|
|A2. Toronto Maple Leafs||M2. Carolina Hurricanes||W2. Washington Capitals|
|A3. Florida Panthers||M3. New York Rangers|
Atlantic Division: 5. Montreal Canadiens; 6. Ottawa Senators; 7. Detroit Red Wings; 8. Buffalo Sabres
Metropolitan Division: 5. New Jersey Devils; 6. Pittsburgh Penguins; 7. Philadelphia Flyers; 8. Columbus Blue Jackets
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Welcome to the NHL Seattle! This pick — and most of the picks out West — were based on goaltending (ok, Oilers have McDavid and Draisaitl and Hyman so that was why). Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger are a solid 1-2 punch and as every night the team has a guy who wants to prove a point (and will have money on the board).
|Central Division||Pacific Division||Wild cards|
|C1. Colorado Avalanche||P1. Vegas Golden Knights*||W1. Dallas Stars|
|C2. Winnipeg Jets||P2. Edmonton Oilers||W2. Chicago Blackhawks|
|C3. Minnesota Wild||P3. Seattle Kraken|
Central Division: 6. St. Louis Blues; 7. Nashville Predators; 8. Arizona Coyotes
Pacific Division: 4. Vancouver Canucks; 5. Los Angeles Kings; 6. Calgary Flames; 7. Anaheim Ducks; 8. San Jose Sharks
*Presidents’ Trophy winner
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SN’s NHL Stanley Cup playoffs predictions
What’s more fun than simply picking a Stanley Cup winner? Picking every single series!
Here is how we see the Stanley Cup playoffs playing out including our pick to win it all.
|Lightning (A1) vs. Capitals (W2)||Lightning|
|Maple Leafs (A2) vs. Panthers (A3)||Maple Leafs|
|Islanders (M1) vs. Bruins (W1)||Islanders|
|Hurricanes (M2) vs. Rangers (M3)||Rangers|
|Lightning vs. Maple Leafs||Maple Leafs|
|Islanders vs. Rangers||Islanders|
|Islanders vs. Maple Leafs||Islanders|
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|Golden Knights (P1) vs. Blackhawks (W2)||Golden Knights|
|Oilers (P2) vs. Kraken (P3)||Oilers|
|Avalanche (C1) vs. Stars (W1)||Avalanche|
|Jets (C2) vs. Wild (C3)||Jets|
|Golden Knights vs. Oilers||Golden Knights|
|Avalanche vs. Jets||Jets|
|Golden Knights vs. Jets||Golden Knights|
Stanley Cup Final
Who will play in the actual Stanley Cup Final is anyone’s guess but the Islanders and Golden Knights have been two of the most consistent teams in the last few years. If this is the matchup it’ll be the Islanders against ex-teammate — and the guy who loved his time on the Island — Robin Lehner. The Islanders have played solid hockey under mastermind Barry Trotz and there’s no reason to think they won’t punch through 39 years after the last Cup.
|Golden Knights vs. Islanders||Islanders|
Conn Smythe: Mathew Barzal, Islanders