The puck drops on the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs on Monday. It marks the first time since 2019 that the 16 postseason competitors have completed a full 82-game schedule.
How that factor affects these clubs in the quest for the Cup remains to be seen. In the meantime, each of them will rely on their strengths in hope of persevering through four best-of-seven playoff rounds to claim hockey's ultimate prize.
Some teams will lean on their solid goaltending. Others play a strong defensive system, while there are those with a high-powered offense. Other intangibles, such as a healthy roster or a game-breaking superstar, could also tip the balance in their favor.
Here's our take on what each of the 16 playoff clubs has in order to claim the honor of becoming the 2022 Stanley Cup champion. We've broken it down by division and where each club finished in their respective divisional standings.
Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.
Winners of the Presidents' Trophy, the Florida Panthers were red-hot after acquiring Claude Giroux before the March 21 trade deadline, winning 16 of their final 20 regular-season games. Led by Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart, they led the league in goals per game (4.11). Sidelined defenseman Aaron Ekblad has resumed skating and could return for the opening round.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Thanks in part to 60-goal scorer Auston Matthews, the Toronto Maple Leafs boasted the league's best power-play percentage (27.3). They also led the league in faceoff win percentage (55.1), while their 3.80 goals per game sat second to the Panthers. The addition of Mark Giordano at the trade deadline bolstered their blue line. Their penalty-killing percentage (82.1) ranked eighth overall.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning still possess a talented core led by Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy. They also have a deep, experienced supporting cast featuring Brayden Point, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat and Mikhail Sergachev. They tied for seventh in goals per game (3.48), while their 29.8 shots against per game was the seventh-lowest.
The Boston Bruins have two solid scoring lines since moving Jake DeBrusk onto the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand and putting David Pastrnak alongside Taylor Hall and Erik Haula. The goalie tandem of Linus Ullmark and rookie Jeremy Swayman combined for a fourth-best 2.66 goals-against per game. Hampus Lindholm's return from injury provides a welcome boost to their defense corps.