On August 1, the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs finally begin.
This is the first time the Stanley Cup Playoffs will consist of 24 teams (it has consisted of 16 teams every year since 1979-80).
The top four teams in both the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference will compete in a round-robin series. Meanwhile, the fifth and twelfth seeded teams, the sixth and eleventh seeded teams, the seventh and tenth seeded teams, and the eighth and ninth seeded teams in both the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference will play each other in a best of five series. (This also marks the first time since the 1985-86 season that the playoffs started with a best of five series.)
The outcomes will determine who plays in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal and the Western Conference Quarterfinal.EASTERN CONFERENCEEastern Conference Seeding Round Robin
Boston Bruins (1)
Tampa Bay Lightning (2)
Washington Capitals (3)
Philadelphia Flyers (4)Prediction:
1) Boston Bruins; 2) Washington Capitals; 3) Tampa Bay Lightning; 4) Philadelphia Flyers.
Eastern Conference Qualifying Round Match-UpsPittsburgh Penguins (5) vs. Montréal Canadiens (12)
People said it wasn't going to happen at the start of the season, but thanks to the new playoff format announced in 2020, the Montréal Canadiens find themselves in the playoffs for the first time since 2017. They face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round, who extend their playoff appearance streak to 14 consecutive years, the longest active streak in the NHL. Pittsburgh won two of the three regular season matches.Prediction:
Pittsburgh in four games.Carolina Hurricanes (6) vs. New York Rangers (11)
The Carolina Hurricanes finally made it to the playoffs in back to back seasons, the first time they managed to do so since 2000-01 and 2001-02. They were a surprise in the 2019 playoffs; in their first playoff appearance in 10 years, the Hurricanes stormed to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they were swept by the Boston Bruins. They face the New York Rangers in the Qualifying Round. The Rangers find themselves in their first playoff appearance since 2016-17. Despite being considered the underdog in this series, the Rangers defeated the Hurricanes in all four regular season meetings. The Rangers were also one of the hottest teams in the league when the regular season was put on pause in March (it was officially declared to have ended in May).Prediction:
Carolina in five games.New York Islanders (7) vs. Florida Panthers (10)
The New York Islanders and Florida Panthers meet in the playoffs for the first time since 2015-16, when the Islanders defeated the Panthers in the opening round. This was also the last time the Panthers qualified for the playoffs. The Islanders won all three regular season meetings against the Panthers. However, the Islanders were disintegrating when the regular season was put on hold, not having won any of their last seven games. However, Florida holds an offensive advantage, having scored 228 regular season goals compared to the 189 the Islanders scored.Prediction:
New York in five games.Toronto Maple Leafs ( vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (9)
The Columbus Blue Jackets surprised the hockey world in 2018-19 by advancing beyond the opening round for the first time in franchise history, in what was one of the biggest upsets in NHL playoff history, a four game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning. They succumbed to the Boston Bruins in six games in the second round, but aim to advance for the second straight season. They face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round of the playoffs. This will be the first ever playoff meeting between the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets. The teams met twice in the regular season; Columbus won one game, and Toronto won the other. Toronto has not won a playoff series since 2004.Prediction:
Columbus in three games.WESTERN CONFERENCEEastern Conference Seeding Round Robin
St. Louis Blues (1)
Colorado Avalanche (2)
Vegas Golden Knights (3)
Dallas Stars (4)Prediction:
1) Colorado Avalanche; 2) St. Louis Blues; 3) Vegas Golden Knights; 4) Dallas Stars.
Western Conference Qualifying Round Match-UpsEdmonton Oilers (5) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (12)
The most dominant team in the NHL during the early to mid 2010s, winning Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013, and 2015, the Chicago Blackhawks found themselves in a downfall in the late 2010s. After being the top team in the Western Conference in 2016-17, they were shockingly swept in the opening round by the Nashville Predators, and the following season, missed the playoffs entirely, as they plummeted to last place in the Central Division. After being playoff no-shows again in 2018-19, the Blackhawks return to playoff action against the Edmonton Oilers, who are also in the playoffs for the first time in three years. This marks the fifth time the Oilers and the Blackhawks meet in the playoffs. Edmonton won the first three (1983, 1985, and 1990), but Chicago swept Edmonton during the most recent playoff meeting in the 1992 Clarence Campbell Conference Finals. Chicago is the underdog in this series, but did win two of the three regular season games against Edmonton. While Edmonton has the advantage in the offensive department, Chicago is the stronger team in the goaltending department.Prediction:
Edmonton in five games.Nashville Predators (6) vs. Arizona Coyotes (11)
The Arizona Coyotes snapped their skid of playoff appearances and appear in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. They will face the Nashville Predators in the Qualifying Round. In the lone previous meeting between Nashville and Arizona, Arizona (then known as the Phoenix Coyotes) won in the second round. The teams split their two regular season meetings.Prediction:
Nashville in five games.Vancouver Canucks (7) vs. Minnesota Wild (10)
The Vancouver Canucks enjoyed a revival in 2019-20, as they make their first playoff appearance since 2015. They face the Minnesota Wild in the Qualifying Round. The two teams last met in the playoffs in 2002-03, when the Wild defeated the Canucks in the second round of the playoffs. Minnesota won two of the three regular season meetings between the two teams.Prediction:
Vancouver in five games.Calgary Flames ( vs. Winnipeg Jets (9)
The lone all-Canadian Qualifying Round series pits the Calgary Flames and the Winnipeg Jets. This marks the first playoff meeting between the two franchises, although Calgary did face the former Winnipeg Jets (now the Arizona Coyotes) in 1987, when Winnipeg won in six games in the opening round. The two teams faced each other only once in the regular season; Winnipeg won the game.Prediction:
Calgary in four games.