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What gives remaining 8 teams cause for concern in 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

After securing a 3-2 overtime win in Game 3 of their playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, the New York Rangers have won seven consecutive games to open the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s the second time in franchise history they’ve accomplished the feat, the first since 1994 when they won their most recent championship. 

The Rangers would love to complete that deja vu,

The Broadway Blueshirts are not lucky with their perfect record so far, which started with a four-game sweep of the Washington Capitals. The Rangers are breathing easily at the moment with an opportunity Saturday to finish off the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

Of the remaining eight clubs remaining in the Stanley Cup hunt, the Rangers have the least cause for concern. Their star players are piling up points, special teams have been lethal and goalie Igor Shesterkin has regained the form that earned him the 2021-22 Vezina Trophy.

If there is any area for the Rangers to address it would be reliance on Shesterkin, who has faced an average of 32.9 shots per game. Over the past two games, he has stopped 99 of 104 shots.

Clamping down defensively would increase New York’s championship chances.

The seven other teams still alive have greater weak spots and glaring concerns.

Related: Sheldon Keefe firing latest change in NHL coaching merry-go-round

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Boston Bruins at Florida Panthers
Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Bruins

David Pastrnak racked up 47 goals and 110 points in the regular season. In the past five games, the star forward has one goal — the Game 7 overtime winner to knock out the Toronto Maple Leafs  — and one assist. Brad Marchand has only two assists in the past five outings. The Bruins will be hard-pressed to defeat the Florida Panthers if those two fail to produce more. 

Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina will push to become only the fifth NHL team to win a best-of-7 series it trailed 3-0. Not only must the Hurricanes improve their special teams — the power play is at 16.7 percent (5-for-30) and 0-for-15 in this series, and the penalty kill is at 70.8 percent overall— but they must find a way to win on the road. Over the past six years, Carolina has a 10-23 road record in the postseason. 

Colorado Avalanche

Being an offensive juggernaut has the Avalanche strong Cup contenders, but the question remains whether goaltender Alexandar Georgiev can hold the fort. Through seven games, Georgiev’s goals-against average is 3.10 and his save percentage is down to .891. The overworked goalie seemed to buckle down the stretch and bears watching with no proven backup on the roster. 

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Colorado Avalanche at Dallas Stars
Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Stars

Sixth defenseman Nils Lundkvist is averaging 4:35 of ice time per game. The Stars have relied heavily on Miro Heiskanen, Ryan Suter, Thomas Harley, Esa Lindell and Chris Tanev. Only Suter is averaging less than 23 minutes per game. Winning the Stanley Cup is a marathon that usually requires more defensive depth. 

Edmonton Oilers

Since turning their fortunes around in mid-November, the Oilers showed an ability to defend not seen in year’s past. Surrendering five goals to the Vancouver Canucks in their Round 2 opener brings back all of those questions. The health of Leon Draisaitl, especially when Connor McDavid has managed only one goal in the playoffs, is also worth watching. Coach Kris Knoblauch said Draisaitl missed eight-plus minutes of the second period due to cramping and equipment issues, but we have seen plenty of smokescreens in playoffs past to wonder how much truth is in that statement.

Florida Panthers

The Panthers have a tendency to be their own worst enemy. No team bullies its way to victory like the Panthers, but they are by far the most penalized team among those still in the hunt — averaging 20:42 penalty minutes per game. The Panthers have a strong penalty kill at 84 percent, but relying on kills has a way of catching up to teams in the postseason. 

Vancouver Canucks

Rookie goalie Arturs Silovs has been a great story. The third-stringer was thrust into action due to injuries sustained by Thatcher Demko and Casey DeSmith, and has been solid. However, the powerful Oilers have made more established goalies whither. As well, top-line center Elias Pettersson is struggling offensively. He’s without a goal in seven postseason games and has only three assists.

Randy Sportak covers the NHL for Field Level Media. It wasn’t long after learning to walk that he was wearing skates in northern British Columbia. Since then, hockey has been a huge part of his world, including 15 years on the NHL beat with the Calgary Sun.

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