The Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2023 will feature unknowns for these players and teams.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2023 are about to start, but first, some questions. Every NHL postseason is filled with a ton of unknowns, which is one of the things that makes the competition so entertaining to watch.
Can a team that seems to be cursed overcome the obstacle? Will a player who is playing in his first postseason match live up to the anticipation or will he falter under pressure? Will the Cup favorites stumble along the way to a victory?
For better or worse, players and teams will respond to inquiries like those during the coming months. In the interim, let’s examine which players and clubs this season are dealing with the most uncertainty.
These are the top six queries regarding the 2023 NHL Playoffs.
Will anyone knock off the Avalanche?
Even though the Avalanche have battled an injury bug all season, they still appear ready to defend their Stanley Cup championship. Can any team end Colorado’s dominance?
Injuries have plagued the Avs throughout 2022–23, but they have truly found their form in the final stretch. Colorado has been one of the top teams in the league over the past month, posting a 13-2-1 record and an expected goals share of 53.5% at five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick.
All of that has been accomplished without the team’s captain, Gabriel Landeskog, who has yet to play this year due to an injury. The Avs are still one of the deepest teams in the league, led by Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen, and Nathan MacKinnon. But the Avs haven’t really been able to fill that void in the middle of the second line consistently this season since Nazem Kadri left in the offseason.
Additionally, the Avalanche’s path to the Cup in 2023 will be more difficult. The Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers have both improved since last year, while the Vegas Golden Knights are back to being one of the conference’s top teams. The Dallas Stars have remained at or around the top of the Central Division the whole season. This spring, those teams have what it takes to dethrone the reigning champions. –Nivison
Can the Maple Leafs finally win a series?
Regarding the Toronto Maple Leafs, it has been the only question in recent years. Will they eventually pass the first round of the postseason and shatter the metaphorical glass ceiling?
Mitch Marner recorded a career-high 99 points for the Maple Leafs during their fantastic regular season. All of it will, however, be for naught if Toronto is unable to overcome their own obstacles and win the series.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will be the Maple Leafs’ first-round opponent this time around for the second straight season. With a 3-2 series advantage, the Maple Leafs had the Lightning on the ropes in the previous round of play, but they dropped the final two games of the series in back-to-back one-goal games.
At the trade deadline, the Maple Leafs’ front office was very active, adding veteran winger Ryan O’Reilly, forward Sam Lafferty, and defender Jake McCabe. Kyle Dubas, the general manager, made it plain that he wasn’t attempting to be careless or take any chances this time. Can they defeat the reigning Eastern Conference champions with those moves? In a few days, we shall learn the results. –Bengel
Can Jack Eichel lead the Golden Knights to a Stanley Cup?
Jack Eichel will play in a playoff game for the first time since the Buffalo Sabres selected him with the No. 2 overall pick in 2015. Eichel also won’t be able to take a tentative step into the postseason. The Golden Knights need to take advantage of their championship window while it is still open, so he will have to go in with both feet.
Eichel was traded to the Golden Knights before the 2021–22 season along with his $10 million salary cap charge, although he missed the majority of the season while recovering from surgery. Eichel, who is now totally fit, has been fantastic for Vegas in 2022–2023. He has scored 65 points in 66 games and has eight straight games with at least one point.
It’s time to see what Eichel can do in the postseason after propelling the Golden Knights to the top of the Western Conference. Eichel seen teammates like Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and Auston Matthews win numerous Stanley Cups throughout his first seven years in the NHL.
This year, Eichel will be in the mix, and he has the support of his teammates to make a memorable run. –Nivison
Will the Rangers deadline additions result in a Stanley Cup Final appearance?
Prior to last month’s NHL trade deadline, the New York Rangers undoubtedly made the most impression. Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane are two outstanding wingers the squad has acquired.
In the 2022 postseason, the Rangers were two victories away from making it to the Stanley Cup Final. The Rangers immediately went out and signed Vincent Trocheck to be the team’s second-line center after being defeated by the Tampa Bay Lightning. With a 64-point season, which was the second-highest total of his ten-year career, Trocheck has undoubtedly paid off.
Even before acquiring Kane and Tarasenko, New York was undoubtedly enjoying a fantastic season. But such actions showed that the Rangers were prepared to go above and beyond to win the Stanley Cup. Kane and Tarasenko each have a Stanley Cup to their names, and they both perform best under pressure.
Although the Rangers’ first-round playoff series against the Devils won’t be easy, New York is undoubtedly capable of winning it. The Rangers’ upcoming matchup with the Boston Bruins will probably be their ultimate test. They haven’t defeated the Bruins yet this year, but they have only faced them once while Kane and Tarasenko were on their roster.
Will the Rangers’ all-out effort in 2023 be sufficient? –Bengel
How will the Wild handle their goaltending situation?
Dean Evason, head coach of the Minnesota Wild, must make a significant choice before Game 1. If the NHL doesn’t make an abrupt and unexpected adjustment to the rules, Evason will have to choose between Marc-Andre Fleury or Filip Gustavsson to start in goal.
Actually, he shouldn’t have too much trouble making his first choice. All season long, Gustavsson has been the superior goaltender, solidifying his status as a Vezina Trophy contender. According to Natural Stat Trick, Gustavsson has a GAA of 2.05, which is second in the NHL, and his 32.2 goals saved over average place him third.
Nevertheless, the presence of Fleury on the bench makes this situation intriguing. First off, while Fleury has a lengthy and outstanding postseason career, Gustavsson has never participated in a playoff game. Fleury has three rings in his trophy case, has started 107 playoff games, and has participated in three Stanley Cup Finals.
In light of this, how forgiving will Evason be with Gustavsson if the 24-year-old goaltender begins to falter? The pressure of a seven-game series may encourage Minnesota to start the more seasoned Fleury if Gustavsson has a bad outing, despite the fact that the latter has been flawless throughout the regular season. –Nivison
Will any team be able to solve Linus Ullmark?
In the 2022–23 season, very few teams have had much success while going up against Linus Ullmark, the Boston Bruins’ goalie. In terms of victories (40), goals-against-average (1.89), and save percentage (.938), the goalie in question is the league leader.
In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Ullmark has continued to play some of his best hockey. In five of his previous seven starts, the Bruins’ goalie has allowed one goal or fewer, and in six of those games, he has won. Ullmark had a league-best.966 save % when facing unimpeded shots during the regular season, according to MoneyPuck.
Ullmark has appeared a little more human when playing the Florida Panthers, Boston’s first-round foe. In his two starts, the 29-year-old has given up a total of six goals including three goals in each of his two games. The Panthers will undoubtedly face a difficult opponent, but they have had some success against Ullmark.
It will be intriguing to see if Ullmark can keep shutting down the opposition while facing great offenses like the Devils, Maple Leafs, or Rangers. In the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Ullmark did lose his only two career postseason starts and posted a startling 4.16 goals-against average.
Will Ullmark continue his outstanding regular season performance in the postseason? –Bengel