2022 NHL Playoffs: What teams you should be rooting for with the Panthers and Avalanche as the No. 1 seeds – CBSSports.com

The Stanley Cup playoffs are set to get underway on May 2 as 16 teams will begin their chase for the Stanley Cup.The Florida Panthers, who won the Presidents’ Trophy with the league’s best record, are the top seed in the Eastern Conference while the Colorado Avalanche secured the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Stanley Cup playoffs are among the most exciting in sports where anything can happen. For those that don’t have a favorite team to root for, we’ve got you covered with the players and teams you need to be cheering for as the postseason unfolds.Florida PanthersIf you’re looking for the Stanley Cup favorite, look no further than the Panthers. The Cats have a league-best 122 points and have the NHL’s most dangerous offense. This is a team that averaged 4.1 goals per game in the regular season and is one of the most exciting groups to watch in all of hockey. Florida also has a marquee veteran player chasing his first Stanley Cup title in winger Claude Giroux. Giroux had spent the first 15 years of his professional career with the Philadelphia Flyers and only reached the Stanley Cup Final on one occasion in 2010. The star winger came to the Panthers at the trade deadline in March as he wanted to join the Panthers’ chase for the Cup. If you want to root for a feel-good story, then Giroux is the player you need to be rooting for.Colorado AvalancheThe Avalanche were a standard bearer for the NHL in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In a five-year period lasting from 1996 until 2001, the Avalanche won two Stanley Cup championships with a core that included Hall of Famers Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy. However, Colorado hasn’t enjoyed that same level of success since those Stanley Cup glory days. The Avalanche last won a Stanley Cup during the 2000-01 season, but have risen to the top of the NHL once again. With a group that features a lethal offense consisting of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, and Cale Makar, the Avalanche have all the firepower to make a run at a first championship in two decades. In fact, the Avalanche were neck-in-neck with the Panthers for the Presidents’ Trophy in the final days of the regular season. If you’re looking to root for a favorite and the Panthers aren’t doing it for you, the Avalanche are another option.Tampa Bay LightningIf you’re a fan of greatness, Tampa Bay might be where your rooting interest should lie. After all, the Lightning are the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions and have a chance to turn themselves into a dynasty if they’re able to three-peat this postseason. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs (1947-49, 1962-64), Montreal Canadiens (1956-60, 1976-79), and New York Islanders (1980-83) have won at least three consecutive Stanley Cup championships. The Lightning may not have registered the most points in the Eastern Conference like previous years, but this is still a very dangerous team that has a chance to make history. Calgary Flames/Minnesota WildIf you’re inclined to side with an underdog in the Stanley Cup playoffs, there are a few teams that you can choose to root for. The Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild may not be your typical underdogs after both had at least 111 points during the regular season. The Flames have reached the Stanley Cup Final three times in team history and won it during the 1988-89 season. Meanwhile, the Wild haven’t ever advanced farther than the Western Conference finals. Both teams possess two of the more polarizing players during the 2021-22 season. Flames star winger Johnny Gaudreau just turned in the best season of his nine-year NHL career with 115 points (40 goals and 75 assists). Gaudreau recently became the first Flames player to record 70+ assists in a single season since defenseman Al MacInnis tallied 75 assists during the 1990-91 season. On the other hand, the Wild are paced by talented, young winger Kirill Kaprizov. In his just his second NHL campaign, Kaprizov registered a career-high 106 points (46 goals and 60 assists) and helped lead the Wild to a second place finish in the Central Division behind the Avalanche. Much like Gaudreau, Kaprizov is just as content being a distributor as he is putting the puck in the back of the net. On the Minnesota Wild, you also have Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes. Fleury has been a fan favorite during his previous stints with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vegas Golden Knights. The veteran goaltender came close to winning a fourth Stanley Cup championship with Golden Knights during their inaugural season, but didn’t quite get the job done. Fleury has what could be one of his final opportunities to make another run at the Cup. Toronto Maple LeafsIf you enjoy being let down time and time again, Toronto may just be the team for you. Over the past five seasons, the Maple Leafs have been eliminated in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. In three of those five campaigns, the Maple Leafs had stellar regular seasons in which they recorded at least 95 points. Talent has never been a problem for this iteration of the Maple Leafs, but playing efficient hockey sure has. It is worth noting that this is probably the deepest team that Toronto has had in quite some time. Center Auston Matthews has developed into one of the game’s biggest stars. Matthews put together a regular season in which he became the league’s first 60-goal scorer since 2012. The Maple Leafs star finished the regular season with 106 points (60 goals and 46 assists) and had the most goals in a single season in team history. This is the type of success that the Maple Leafs front office envisioned when they selected Matthews with the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Now it’s time for Matthews and company to erase those recent painful playoff memories and throw their weight around as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.Edmonton OilersIf you enjoy rooting for the top player in the sport, the Edmonton Oilers are for you. Center Connor McDavid has blossomed into arguably the top player in the hockey world since entering the league back in 2015. McDavid led the NHL with 123 points during the regular season and is one of the most dynamic players in the league. McDavid is a human highlight reel that can make anybody’s jaws drop when the puck is on his stick. If you need further convincing, check out our list of the top goals from the first half of the 2021-22 NHL season and McDavid is at the top of the list. On top of all that, Edmonton possesses two of the most talented centers in the game in McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. If you’re looking to be entertained, the Oilers are your team.

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