At the start of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs, 29 out of 30 people on ESPN's expert panel believed the Colorado Avalanche would get through the first round against the Nashville Predators. Whatever concerns they had about the Avs, they wouldn't hinder Nathan MacKinnon and the boys from advancing.
But those concerns manifested for later rounds. Only seven people picked the eventual Stanley Cup champions to win the big prize on the eve of the 2022 playoffs.
Maybe it was the goaltending. Maybe it was their inability to get over the hump in previous postseasons. Maybe the fancy stats weren't fancy enough.
There are always flaws, headaches, concerns and consternation as the postseason nears. Some teams can overcome them. Other teams succumb to them.
Here's a look at some of the trepidations facing current playoff contenders. We've opted to leave off teams that are floating around the playoff bubble, focusing on teams with a playoff probability of greater than 90% as of Wednesday. The biggest playoff concern for the New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames? That would be actually making the playoffs.
Let's start with our resident juggernaut:
Boston Bruins: The power play
I remember the first time I saw the Hope Diamond. It was at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. I walked around the 45.52-carat blue beauty, studying its cut while at the same time scanning for any imperfections.
That's what it feels like to probe the Bruins for flaws. They're on pace to set a new NHL record for wins in a regular season and tie the all-time points record. They could walk away with no fewer than three NHL awards for Linus Ullmark (Vezina Trophy), Patrice Bergeron (Selke Trophy) and Jim Montgomery (Jack Adams). They are quite good.
But they're not flawless. They might have the NHL's best penalty kill -- 86% in 70 games -- but their power play is more middling (22.5%), ranking 12th in the NHL. In February, their power play was at just 13% efficiency. In March, it's up slightly to 16%.
Power plays don't often tip a series either way, but it's one of the few areas where the Bruins aren't crushing it -- and that's despite David Pastrnak already having more power-play goals (16) than he had last season (15). They're still the Hope Diamond. This is just a finger smudge.
Carolina Hurricanes: Those timely goals
If every critical playoff game for the Hurricanes could be like Tuesday night's win against the Rangers, then Carolina would be in great shape.
It was a wild one: The Hurricanes tied the game at 1 midway through the third period, gave the lead back 31 seconds later and then tied the game again 18 seconds after that. MSG had the faint whiff of overtime, until the Canes forechecked their way to a turnover and Brent Burns generated the winning goal with a smart pass to an open Teuvo Teravainen near the net.
It was a reminder -- and perhaps some proof of concept -- that the Hurricanes might be able to withstand the loss of Andrei Svechnikov to injury, like they withstood the loss of Max Pacioretty to injury already.
In 10 of the Hurricanes' past 11 playoff losses, they've scored two goals or fewer. I think a lot of people have written off the Canes as Stanley Cup contenders because of those significant losses of two top wingers -- especially when Pacioretty was brought in to provide those playoff goals they were lacking. But Carolina is a respectable 12th in goals per game for a reason. It's not just about Martin Necas and Sebastian Aho. They have 11 players who have scored 10 or more goals this season.
It's just a matter of when, and if, they score them when it counts the most.