As we head into the home stretch of the 2021-22 NHL season, the preseason favourites to win the 2022 Stanley Cup — the Colorado Avalanche — are still the top pick to take home the NHL championship. However, the surprising Florida Panthers have made a surge in 2022 following some rough times in the final two months of 2021. Two other teams that have made moves up the rankings are the Carolina Hurricanes and the suddenly streaking Calgary Flames. Calgary has posted a 13-2 record since January 18. The Flames, who are now in first place in the Pacific Division, are riding a franchise best tying 10-game winning streak. Also, the Tampa Bay Lightning have won the Stanley Cup in back-to-back seasons and are a threat to three-peat.
2022 Stanley Cup Futures
Colorado Avalanche is more than offence
Ahead of the 2021-22 NHL season, the question was not if the Colorado Avalanche could score goals — everyone was sure the team could — but if the goaltending could prevent the opposition from scoring more. The team's offence has been outstanding. Colorado is second in the league in scoring with 199 goals and with 143 goals against. The Avalanche has a goal differential of plus-56, which is also second in the NHL.
As for the team's goaltending situation, Darcy Kuemper, who is in his first season with the club following a trade with the Phoenix Coyotes, is on pace to top his career high in wins. Kuemper had 27 victories in 55 games in 2019. In 2022, he has 25 wins in 36 games played. Kuemper's goals against average of 2,47 is 12th in the NHL. His save percentage of .919 puts him in the 13th spot among NHL netminders.
If Colorado holds on to home ice during the playoffs, they will be a tough out. The club is 21-3-2 at home.
The Florida Panthers are a complete team
The Florida Panthers are playing incredible team hockey during the 2021-22 NHL season. Florida leads the NHL in goals for with 212 — the only team close to 200 is Colorado with 199 — and goal differential at plus-61. What's impressive about the goal scoring exploits of the Panthers is that the team does not have a single player in the top-15 in the league in goal scoring. The closest player to that mark is Aleksander Barkov, who is tied for 16th in NHL goal scoring with 23.
What the Panthers have is a balanced scoring attack. With 51 games played this season, the Panthers have nine players with 30 or more points. The club also has the NHL's top scorer on its roster, Jonathan Huberdeau, who has 72 points (17 goals, 55 assists). If Huberdeau keeps up his pace, he will crush his previous best year of 92 points.
Florida's goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky, is second in the NHL in wins with 26.
Calgary Flames come alive
While most people were keeping an eye on the Las Vegas Golden Knights, the Calgary Flames put together a great run to start 2022. Calgary opened the new year with a win over Chicago and then dropped five of its next six games. Then, with a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers, the Flames seemed to find their groove. The Flames are 13-2 since January 18 and have wins in their past 10 games. If the F;ames manage one more consecutive victory, the team will have the longest winning streak in franchise history.
The Flames have scored at a good clip this season, with 169 goals, but it's the number of goals they have allowed that should be the focus. No team in the NHL has allowed fewer goals than the Flames at 114. Calgary's goal differential of plus-55 is third best in the league.
The Flames have an outstanding goalie tandem, but Jacob Markstrom has gotten the bulk of the starts in Calgary. He is third in the NHL in goals against average at 2.06, third in save percentage at .928, and first in shutouts with 8. No other NHL netminder has more than four shutouts this season.
Don't forget the Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning took home the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021 and the club is 100 percent in the running to make it three in a row in 2022, and with that achieve dynasty status. The Lightning have played 41 games this season and although they have lost consecutive games during the season, they have not lost consecutive games in regulation during the 2021-22 campaign.
The Lightning are in third place in the Eastern Conference, but they could make up some ground in the next week or so. Tampa Bay, who has a record of 16-4-4 at home, is set to play five straight home games between February 23 and March 4.
As expected, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been a workhorse for the Lightning. The team's outstanding goaltender and the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner is tied for second in the NHL in wins with 26.
Our Canada Sports Betting 2022 Stanley Cup Pick
With the offence they are putting up, the excellent goal differential and their ability to win at home, it's hard to pick against the Colorado Avalanche right now.
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