The 2022 NHL playoffs have arrived, but that presents hockey fans with some tough decisions. Which game should get the most attention on a night filled with thrilling postseason action? That’s what we’re going to work through today by ranking each series by entertainment value.
All playoff hockey is beautiful and should be cherished, but not all of these first-round series are created equally. There are a few series that promise to be must-see TV every other night, but some lack the same level of intrigue for one reason or another.
A number of different factors were considered when coming up with these rankings. How well the teams stack up to one another, the animosity between the two sides, the starpower, the potential for fireworks on the scoreboard, and the possibility of a lengthy series were all examined for each matchup.
With non-stop playoff action beginning in a matter of hours, here is every first-round series ranked by entertainment value.
Earlier this season, Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said that landing in the second wild card spot and playing the Avalanche would be “a waste of eight days.” When it comes to this matchup, he might be right. With star goaltender Juuse Saros sidelined for Nashville, this may be a brief series. Blink and you might miss it. Colorado is a machine, and this is the most lopsided matchup of the first round. As a result, it’s tough to see this series providing any kind of intrigue. The most fascinating aspect of this one will be the battle between the top two Norris Trophy candidates, Roman Josi and Cale Makar.
This series has the potential to get very nasty, and that is certainly appealing. However, it just doesn’t have as much juice as some others on this list. When the Flames’ trio of Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, and Elias Lindholm is on the ice against the Stars’ top line of Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Joe Pavelski, this will be must-watch television. The trouble is that Dallas doesn’t offer much in the way of resistance further down the lineup, and the team isn’t as fun when the No. 1 line is on the bench. The result might be a quick series that is largely controlled by the Flames as they roll to the second round.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are reason enough to watch this series, but the Kings don’t offer too much in the way of star power, with all due respect to the great Anze Kopitar. Normally, any series featuring the Oilers would offer the potential for some shootouts, but the Kings aren’t really built for those high-scoring types of games. They finished the regular season 25th in goals scored at five-on-five. I do think the Kings could give the Oilers a run for their money and stretch this into six or seven games, but losing Drew Doughty to injury takes this one down a peg.
If you like starpower, this series has plenty of it. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang going up against Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox, and Chris Kreider is very appealing. On top of that, it is incredibly tough to predict which way this series will go. It could be back and forth all the way to Game 7. If I do have one knock on this series, it’s the health of Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry. He definitely won’t play in the first two games, and Casey DeSmith makes this less of an even fight.
These two teams are very familiar with one another. They have seen each other twice in recent postseasons, and the Bruins came out on top both times. As the Hurricanes attempt to change that, they will have to deal with their arch-nemesis, Brad Marchand. His rivalry with the entire Carolina organization has been fun to watch, and it will only be amplified in the playoffs. Patrice Bergeron attempting to shut down the likes of Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov will make for good theater, and this series is fully capable of going the distance.
This series probably may not even go beyond five games. However, I cannot wait to watch this matchup for as long as it lasts. The Panthers are the most fun team to watch in the league, and on the other side is Alex Ovechkin, arguably the best goal-scorer in NHL history. The Capitals’ goaltending has been inconsistent all season, and even though he was much improved this year, Sergei Bobrovsky has the potential to backslide a bit. That means we could see goals, and a lot of them. Short as this series might be, the entertainment potential will be through the roof every night.
These Central Division rivals are know one another very well, and they’re not quite fond of each other either. This could be the meanest series of the first round, and I was tempted to place it at No. 1. The Wild and Blues played each other twice in the final month of the season, and both contests resulted in thrilling overtime action. They are very evenly matched, and Game 7 is absolutely on the table here. Minnesota forward Kirill Kaprizov provides some star power, and the emergence of Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas has made the Blues a blast to watch as well.
The two-time defending Stanley Cup champs are going head-to-head with a formidable foe that is looking to exorcize some postseason demons. Being able to watch Auston Matthews and Steven Stamkos, the two most recent 60-goal scorers in NHL history, fight it out will be a treat for hockey fans across North America. This series has everything you could possibly want. The big names, the high stakes, a couple of frenzied atmospheres, and the possibility of a Game 7 will make each game appointment viewing. On a night loaded with playoff games, this matchup should be the top priority.