Stanley Cup playoffs 2024: NHL convention finals preview TERMAN WEBSITE

Sixteen NHL groups certified for the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs. However with two rounds full, the sphere is all the way down to the ultimate 4 opponents.

Every staff brings a singular set of narratives to the convention finals spherical — each on and off the ice.

Here is every little thing you must know concerning the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers.

How they obtained right here: Defeated Lightning 4-1, Bruins 4-2
Playoff takeaways

Goalie confidence score: 8/10

Sergei Bobrovsky has improved all through the playoffs. That is good news for Florida because it faces maybe its hardest offensive problem but within the high-flying, high-scoring New York Rangers.

The Panthers’ netminder is a stable 8-3 within the postseason, with a .902 save share and a couple of.37 goals-against common. Bobrovsky was advantageous within the first spherical however hit an actual stride within the second spherical. The Bruins did not take a look at Bobrovsky usually, and he needed to be sharp once they did; for essentially the most half, he has come by means of when Florida has wanted him.

Bobrovsky’s 22-save efficiency in Recreation 6 to shut out Boston was a few of his best work, which ought to have him feeling in tip-top form forward of this convention finals bout.

What we have discovered concerning the Panthers to this point

Florida is impressively multifaceted, and there is not one space the place the Panthers are actually poor. They’ve averaged essentially the most targets per sport amongst Japanese Convention playoff groups (3.55), they’re stingy defensively (permitting 2.45 targets per sport and solely 24.1 photographs on web) and so they have stable particular groups (with a 22% energy play and 86.1% penalty kill).

Most significantly, although, Florida is balanced. The Panthers’ stars have contributed as anticipated, with Carter Verhaeghe (six targets and 11 factors), Matthew Tkachuk (4 targets and 14 factors) and Aleksander Barkov (5 targets and 13 factors) excelling. Florida’s depth skaters have made their mark, from Evan Rodrigues (three targets and 6 factors) to Anton Lundell (two targets and 9 factors). The Panthers have benefitted from well timed scoring from the again finish, too — Gustav Forsling netting the game-winner in Recreation 6 in opposition to Boston was particularly notable — and Brandon Montour (three targets and eight factors) has been very good.

The Panthers have enviable depth and an all-around sport on which to lean.

Gamers who will probably be key to this collection

New York is the Japanese Convention’s second-highest-scoring offense within the postseason (averaging 3.50 targets per sport), proper behind Florida, so Bobrovsky being at his finest is important for the Panthers. Bobrovsky wasn’t overly taxed by Boston (an issue as a result of most goalies favor a busier workload), and the Rangers mission to do the precise reverse by peppering the Panthers’ goalie at 5-on-5 and with their glorious energy play.

Matching New York’s potential assault falls on the Panthers’ top-six skaters, however Tkachuk and Sam Bennett ought to be notably engaged with their grittiness to get beneath the Rangers’ pores and skin. Florida does not wish to be in a observe meet reverse a lineup like New York’s, and setting a tone with some physicality and stress — whereas holding the Rangers to the skin and away from these juicy rush probabilities — is a perfect recipe for Florida to comply with. New York is not throwing many hits within the postseason (thirteenth total in that class) so the Panthers can use their feistier forwards to their benefit.

Participant who must step up

Make no mistake, Sam Reinhart has been stable within the playoffs, with 5 targets and 9 factors by means of 11 video games. However this can be a collection the place he can shine. Reinhart had an amazing common season, scoring 57 targets and 94 factors (together with 4 targets within the regular-season collection in opposition to New York). He simply hasn’t been lighting up the scoresheet as usually within the playoffs, with solely two targets in six video games in opposition to Boston (and one four-assist efficiency).

It simply appears like there’s extra Reinhart may give, notably on particular groups, the place he has simply two factors. The margins for victory change into smaller the deeper a staff goes, and Reinhart has the power to interrupt issues open for Florida. The Rangers have been closely star-driven within the playoffs, and it is how they’ve arrived within the convention finals. Florida’s depth has been a major asset, however at this juncture, a real standout like Reinhart could make the series-defining distinction.

Can Florida’s energy play match New York’s?

The Panthers did not have constant success in opposition to Boston’s terrific penalty kill (minus a four-goal outburst with the person benefit in Recreation 3). Florida was 0-for-7 with the additional man in Video games 5 and 6, two contests determined by a single purpose. In the meantime, New York’s energy play has been a decisive think about its success all through the playoffs, and it has gotten the Rangers by means of some tightly contested battles.

Florida cannot afford to let many power-play alternatives slip away.That will not be simple, given the Rangers’ penalty kill is great at 89.5%. There’s little doubt Florida has the expertise to make extra noise on the person benefit, with seven gamers scoring there to this point — it is only a matter of breaking by means of New York’s defenses.

If the Panthers can put some doubt within the Rangers on that entrance early within the collection, it could be a confidence-booster. If Florida cannot, there will probably be nail-biting outcomes sooner or later.

How they obtained right here: Defeated Capitals 4-0, Hurricanes 4-2
Playoff takeaways

Goalie confidence score: 9.5/10

Igor Shesterkin is arguably New York’s postseason MVP. The Rangers’ netminder has the playoff subject’s finest file (8-2), a .923 SV% and a 2.40 GAA. At virtually no level has New York needed to make up for errors on his finish.

Shesterkin has been an absolute difference-maker for the Rangers — that good cease on Andrei Svechnikov within the waning minutes of Recreation 6 of their second-round collection in opposition to Carolina was a jaw-dropper — and he has been markedly constant, with a .910 or higher SV% in 80% of the Rangers’ postseason video games.

It is no exaggeration to say the Rangers’ hopes of reaching a Stanley Cup Ultimate — and successful all of it — hinge closely on Shesterkin persevering with to be the Vezina Trophy-caliber goaltender he has been because the first spherical started.

What we have discovered concerning the Rangers to this point

The Rangers have not strayed a lot from what made them this season’s Presidents’ Trophy winners. New York boasts an elite energy play (at 31.4%) that just about overcompensates for his or her common 5-on-5 scoring (they’ve simply 20 even-strength targets by means of 10 postseason video games).

New York’s total success has come by means of its high abilities, from Shesterkin’s goaltending to elite performances from Mika Zibanejad (three targets and 14 factors), Vincent Trocheck (six targets and 14 factors) and Chris Kreider (seven targets and 10 factors). The Rangers have not relied on their depth to make a distinction, and whereas that hasn’t harm them (a lot) so far, it’s one thing they might look to enhance on in opposition to Florida.

Defensively, New York does not make it simple on Shesterkin — the Rangers enable 32.5 photographs on web per sport — however they should not take their goaltending as a right. The Panthers can rapidly make them pay for any sloppiness.

Gamers who will probably be key to this collection

Shesterkin is important to New York’s hopes of getting previous Florida. Sure, the Panthers have additionally leaned on their goaltending at occasions, however Shesterkin is an intimidating presence within the crease and supplies the arrogance New York must play the back-and-forth type that results in these open scoring alternatives (but additionally makes the Rangers susceptible defensively).

Past Shesterkin, this can be a collection the place Trocheck can proceed to have a significant influence. He has been the Rangers’ most efficient skater on the ability play (with eight factors), and they’re going to proceed to depend on that potent man-advantage unit to hold them by means of one other spherical. Trocheck has additionally been one in every of New York’s stronger contributors at 5-on-5; serving to bolster the Rangers there will probably be important, particularly when the collection inevitably will get tighter.

Participant who must step up

Artemi Panarin cooled off within the second spherical after a dominant begin to the postseason. There is not any time like the current for Panarin to show these jets again on (so to talk).

Panarin has zero targets and two assists in New York’s previous three video games, however he additionally leads the Rangers total in playoff game-winners (4). His 11 complete factors present he’s greater than able to avenging his previous postseason demons (simply two assists in seven video games final 12 months) by conserving his unimaginable regular-season displaying (49 targets and 120 factors) on the forefront of this playoff push.

Whereas the second spherical noticed Panarin in a lull of types, he could make up for misplaced time on this collection. Florida’s lineup is filled with scoring potential, and New York’s capability to match it’s going to decide who advances. Panarin ought to be able to reply that bell.

Can New York’s protection maintain up — and lock down?

Enjoyable reality: Carolina outshot the Rangers in all six of their second-round video games. Washington outshot New York in two of their 4 first-round video games. Regardless of a stable group of blueliners, New York has been channeling some “pretend it until you make it” vitality on the again finish (and Shesterkin enjoying lights-out is an enormous motive that hasn’t ruined the Rangers’ playoff run).

Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren have confronted New York’s hardest postseason matchups whereas being outshot 72-53 however not outscored (the Rangers have a purpose fringe of 4-3) at even power. However that is a fragile tightrope to stroll; New York may very well be one dangerous sport from Shesterkin away from shedding their deal with on a collection.

Enhancing defensively falls not solely on the Rangers’ blueliners however their forwards as effectively. Run-and-gun may suffice within the common season, and having a potent energy play is nice. Full-team buy-in is healthier, and that is the query mark for New York heading into the convention finals. Can the Rangers do the little issues effectively sufficient that the large ones fall extra simply into place?

How they obtained right here: Defeated Golden Knights 4-3, Avalanche 4-2
Playoff takeaways

Goalie confidence score: 10/10

Jake Oettinger has performed extra than simply assist the Stars attain the convention finals. He is presenting one of many stronger Conn Smythe instances this postseason.

Again within the 2022 playoffs, the Stars had been ousted within the first spherical, however Oettinger was arguably the largest motive they pushed the collection to seven video games. His performances created the idea that if the Stars may someway bolster their roster, they may have the ability to pose a major problem. That point has arrived, and Oettinger has performed a major function.

What we have discovered concerning the Stars to this point

They is perhaps essentially the most adaptable staff on this 12 months’s playoffs. Face the defending Stanley Cup champs within the first spherical? Spot them a 2-0 collection lead, enjoying right into a narrative by which Dallas had misplaced 9 of 11 conferences? No drawback. Advance to the second spherical and construct a three-goal lead in Recreation 1, solely to surrender 4 unanswered in additional time? Yeah, the Stars discovered a method to overcome that too.

The Stars have confronted the 2 most up-to-date Cup champions — whose rosters featured All-Stars corresponding to Jack Eichel, Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Alex Pietrangelo — and nonetheless received. Now they are going in opposition to Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. If they should tackle a number of the NHL’s finest gamers to show they’re the NHL’s finest staff, so be it.

Participant who will probably be key to this collection

Miro Heiskanen is averaging greater than 28 minutes per sport, with a few of his performances going longer than the run time of a sitcom. He leads his staff in factors. He is on the controls of an influence play that’s scoring practically 30% of the time. The years of belief he has gained enable him to be matched up in opposition to a number of the NHL’s finest gamers on a nightly foundation. And he’s solely 24.

Ever since Heiskanen debuted within the 2018-19 season, the dialogue centered on how excessive his ceiling can be if he ever discovered a stage of offensive consistency that would come wherever near matching what he does on the defensive finish. What he did within the 2022-23 season offered a glimpse. What he has performed in the course of the 2024 playoffs may land the Stars a Stanley Cup.

Participant who must step up

Joe Pavelski ranks thirty seventh in profession playoff factors, and he has 74 targets in 195 postseason contests. That is what makes the truth that he has one purpose and three factors in 13 video games this 12 months so jarring.

Pavelski performs the kind of sport that is constructed to succeed, in that he depends on his intelligence and positioning to both get targets or be in a spot that permits his teammates to get targets. His defensive contributions have performed a component in why he is averaging greater than 18 minutes per sport. But when Pavelski can begin producing extra on the scoresheet, it could make an already deep Stars assault even deeper.

Will it’s 5 the laborious manner or the enjoyment of six for the Stars on the again finish?

The success of their five-player defensive construction — coupled with Oettinger being in purpose — has allowed purpose prevention to be a key aspect of the Stars’ success. However as they get additional alongside, can they proceed to largely play 5 defensemen as a substitute of six?

Previous to Recreation 6 in opposition to the Avalanche, the Stars relied closely on Thomas Harley, Esa Lindell, Ryan Suter, Chris Tanev and Heiskanen, whereas Nils Lundkvist averaged 4:27 in ice time in 12 video games. The Stars turned to veteran Alex Petrovic, who logged greater than 16 minutes of their double-overtime win. Even when a part of Petrovic’s workload elevated due to additional time, it is nonetheless extra ice time than what Lundkvist has obtained at any level in these playoffs. The final time Lundkvist obtained greater than 16 minutes in a single sport got here again in January.

The Oilers will definitely make the Stars work on protection. Dallas’ blue-line rotation will probably be a important strategic level to look at because the collection will get rolling.

How they obtained right here: Defeated Kings 4-1, Canucks 4-3
Playoff takeaways

Goalie confidence score: 8/10

For each setback, there was a comeback. That has been the narrative surrounding Stuart Skinner all through his skilled profession. It additionally describes how he managed to come back again from being pulled in Recreation 3 of the Oilers’ second-round collection and benched in Video games 4 and 5 earlier than returning to assist the Oilers shut out the collection.

What Skinner offered in these last two video games was a goaltender who stopped photographs inside an Oilers defensive framework that takes away scoring probabilities and high-danger photographs, whether or not it is in 5-on-5 sequences or in short-handed conditions. If the Oilers can get that model of Skinner in opposition to the Stars, it may see them take the following step towards reaching their final vacation spot.

What we have discovered concerning the Oilers to this point

Aim prevention is simply as a lot a precedence for the Oilers as purpose creation. One of many looming questions dealing with the Oilers over the previous few years was whether or not they may discover consistency inside their defensive construction. It is a query they’ve regularly answered since they moved on from Jay Woodcroft and employed Kris Knoblauch as head coach, which led to the addition of Corridor of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey to the Oilers’ teaching workers. The arrival of Knoblauch and Coffey has since turned the Oilers right into a staff that may each create and remedy issues in both finish of the ice.

Perhaps the strongest instance of that progress has come in the course of the playoffs. Within the first spherical, the Kings went from scoring 9 targets within the first two video games to scoring a complete of 4 targets over the following three. The identical applies to the Canucks, who went from scoring 11 targets within the first three video games to eight targets for the ultimate 4 video games of the collection.

Participant who will probably be key to this collection

There are a number of causes to focus on Leon Draisaitl relating to why this may very well be the Oilers’ 12 months to win the Cup. Considered one of them got here within the last minutes of Recreation 7, when Draisaitl was one of many Oilers’ most lively gamers on the defensive finish. His funding into being aggressive on the forecheck performed a component in Canucks’ struggles to get settled in an try and discover a game-tying purpose. Draisaitl’s stick was consistently shifting to disrupt passes or present some kind of further impediment.

A lot might be stated about his defensive talents earlier than attending to the truth that he is one of many sport’s most harmful gamers on the offensive finish — he leads all playoff scorers, with 24 factors in 12 video games — reinforcing why he is perhaps an important Oiler, if not an important participant on this collection.

Participant who must step up

Dylan Holloway has used the previous few video games to point out that he’s making an influence. He began Recreation 7 on the second line and has recorded a purpose and two factors over his previous two video games.

Receiving these types of contributions from Holloway is essential for a pair causes. It stems from the expectation of being a first-round decide in a company that has discovered success with others taken within the opening spherical. The Oilers should additionally discover methods to get as a lot secondary and tertiary offense as potential. In an enormous collection (and doubtlessly a Stanley Cup Ultimate), Holloway can take optimistic profession strides because the Oilers make a push to remain among the many high Cup contenders.

What occurs if Connor McDavid begins persistently scoring once more?

It isn’t like McDavid hasn’t been busy. He has created targets for others whereas anchoring the Oilers’ high line and likewise driving a power-play unit that at one level was changing at a price of fifty% this postseason. That is what makes McDavid a perpetual risk who requires everybody’s consideration.

However the truth that he is scored solely two targets by means of 12 postseason video games raises two questions: What does it say that the Oilers can get this far with no need McDavid to attain in bunches? And the way terrifying may the Oilers be if McDavid begins persistently scoring once more and continues to create for these round him?

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