2020 NHL Playoff Preview

By: Max O'Neill
Posted: August 13, 2020

The 2020 NHL Playoffs are upon us. After 8 teams were eliminated in the qualifying round, 16 teams remain. 

One of the teams that lost in the qualifying round got the first overall pick, as the New York Rangers got swept by the Carolina Hurricanes in the qualifying round.

The top seed in the Eastern Conference is the Philadelphia Flyers. The top seed in the Western Conference is the Vegas Golden Knights. The Flyers went 3-0-0, outscoring opponents 11-3. The Golden Knights went 3-0-0, outscoring opponents 15-10. 

As a result, the Philadelphia Flyers play the Montreal Canadiens, who got to the first round after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Montreal Canadiens outscored the Pens in that series, 10-8, in what was a 3-1 series win for the Habs. 

The Vegas Golden Knights play the Chicago Blackhawks who beat the Edmonton Oilers. The Blackhawks won their series vs the Oilers 3-1, outscoring them 16-12. The Blackhawks did have to battle against Connor McDavid trying to will his team to victory, scoring 5 goals. The Blackhawks were led by Duncan Keith’s 2.70 xgf.  

The second seed in the Eastern Conference is the Tampa Bay Lightning who went 2-1-0, being outscored 8-7. While the second seed in the Western Conference is the Colorado Avalanche who went 2-0-1, outscoring their opponents 9-5. 

The Bolts now play the Columbus Blue Jackets who beat the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Jackets beat the Leafs in five games, 3-2, outscoring them 12-10. The Jackets won game 5, in commanding fashion 3-0. The Jackets’ were led by Vladislav Gavrikov’s 10 shot blocks and 2.60 xgf. 

The Colorado Avalanche match up against the Arizona Coyotes. The Yotes beat the Nashville Predators, 3-1 in the series. They outscored the Preds, 14-9. The Yotes best player in the series was Clayton Keller who scored 2 goals and had a GS average of 1.19. 

The third seed in the Eastern Conference is the Washington Capitals who went 1-1-1 in the round-robin, being outscored 7-5. The third seed in the Western Conference is the Dallas Stars who went 1-2-0, being outscored 10-5.

The Washington Capitals now play the New York Islanders. The Isles beat the Florida Panthers 3-1. The Isles outscored the Cats 13-7. The Islanders best player was Anthony Beauvillier who had 3 goals and 2 assists, who had 1.54 GS average. 

The Dallas Stars now play the Calgary Flames. The Flames beat the Winnipeg Jets, 3-1 in the series. The Flames outscored the Jets 16-6. The Flames were led by Sean Monahan’s 2 goals and 4 assists with 1.72 GS average. 

The fourth seed in the Eastern Conference is the Boston Bruins, who went 0-3-0, being outscored 9-4. The fourth seed in the Western Conference is St. Louis Blues, who went 0-2-1 being outscored 10-6. 

The Boston Bruins now play the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes beat the New York Rangers, 3-0. The Canes outscored the Rangers 11-4. The Canes were led by their big three of Aho, Svechnikov, Teravainen. Those three combined for 7 goals and 9 assists for 16 points. Sebastian Aho led the Canes with a 3.36 GS average. 

The Boston Bruins who won the President’s Trophy at the pause stumbled in the round-robin. They now look to get back to the form that they had when the season was paused, and they had the best record in the NHL. 

The St. Louis Blues match up with the Vancouver Canucks in this series. The Canucks beat the Minnesota Wild 3-1 in the series. The Canucks outscored the Wild 12-10. The ‘Nucks were led by Quinn Hughes’ 1 goal and 5 assists, with a 1.94 GS average.


The Philadelphia Flyers are taking on the Montreal Canadiens. In the season series this year, the Flyers won 2-1-0. This is the seventh time the two teams have played in the playoffs with both teams splitting the previous six. The Broad Street Bullies were the hottest team in hockey when the season was paused and Alain Vigneault’s team picked up right where they left off, dominating the round-robin. While the Canadiens had a lot of scoring depth in their series, with 7 players scoring in their upset win over the Penguins. 

Between the pipes, Canadiens goalie Carey Price had a 1.67 goals-against average, and a .947 save percentage. Flyers goalie Carter Hart had a 1.00 goals-against average and a .966 save percentage. Both teams struggled mightily on the power play going 0-23. 

Pick: Flyers in 5 

Next is the Vegas Golden Knights against the Chicago Blackhawks. In the season series this year, the Vegas Golden Knights won 2-1-0. The two teams have never played each other in the playoffs before. The Golden Knights played well in the regular season before the pause, finishing third, but dominated the round-robin. The Blackhawks meanwhile squeaked into the playoffs finishing 23rd in the NHL out of the 24 playoff teams. 

In between the pipes, the Blackhawks had Corey Crawford, who struggled in the first two games recovering from COVID-19 before picking it up late in the series, particularly in game 4 when he saved 40 shots in a 3-2 win. While, the tandem of Marc Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner, who the Blackhawks traded at the deadline this year played well for Vegas. Lehner played better than Flower, compiling a .903 save percentage in the two Round Robin games he played compared to Flower’s .765 save percentage in his one game. 

Pick: Vegas in 4  

Next, is the Tampa Bay Lightning taking on the Columbus Blue Jackets. In the season series this year, the Lightning won 1-0-0. This is the second consecutive year that the teams play in the first round of the playoffs after the Jackets pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent memory, sweeping the Bolts last year. The Lightning will be without Steven Stamkos and Jan Rutta for at least the first game of this season. 

The Jackets who lost their starting goalie, their leading scorer and their 12th leading scorer last summer, have made the remarkable feat of making the playoffs under Jack Adams nominee John Tortorella.

In between the pipes, the Bolts are led by reigning Vezina winner Andrei Vasilevskiy, had a 2.28 goals against average and a .921 save percentage, with the 2-1-0 Bolts. While the Blue Jackets had a tandem of Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo for the qualifying round series. Korpisalo played really well in the game 5 win over the Leafs, making 33 saves, in place of the Merzlikins. Korpisalo also had another shutout in the qualifying round to go with 1.45 goals against average and a .956 save percentage. While Merzlikins had 1.96 goals against average and a .946 save percentage. 

Pick: Blue Jackets in 7

Next up on the docket is The Colorado Avalanche and the Arizona Coyotes. In the season series the Avs won 1-1-0. This is the second time the two teams have played after the 2000 Western Conference Quarterfinals, which was won by the Avalanche. This is the first time since 2012 that the Coyotes have made the playoffs, with Oliver Ekman Larsson being the last remaining player from that team. 

In net the Avalanche were led by the duo of Phillipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz, with Grubauer getting two starts in the round robin and compiling a 1-0-1 record and a .914 save percentage. While Francouz only started the second game and had a shutout, saving 27 shots. The Coyotes have had Darcy Kemper standing on his head in the qualifying series, compiling a .950 save percentage when on even strength in that series. In total he had a 2.77 goals against average and a .933 save percentage in the qualifying round. 

Pick: Avs in 5

Now, the Washington Capitals take on the New York Islanders, in this series. The season series was tied 2-2-0. This is the first time that Islanders coach Barry Trotz is facing the Capitals since his unceremonious exit from behind the team’s bench shortly after winning the 2018 Stanley Cup. This is the eighth time the two teams have played in the playoffs with the Islanders owning a 5-2 record in the previous matchups. 

In the net, Braden Holtby played all three round robin games after backup Ilya Samsonov was ruled out of the playoffs at the start of training camp. In those games Holtby in what is potentially his last run with the Capitals, went 1-1-1 with a 1.98 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. The Isles were led by Seymon Varlamov’s 1.77 goals against average and .932 save percentage. 

Pick: Capitals in 6

The Dallas Stars and the Calgary Flames are next up in this series. The Flames won the season series 2-1-0. The Stars have struggled mightily dating back to before the pause, going 1-7-2 in their last 10 games. This is the second time that the Stars and Flames have met up in the postseason with the first coming back in 1981 when the, then Minnesota North Stars and Flames matched up, with the Stars winning in six games. 

In net, the Stars are led by Ben Bishop, who is currently listed as day to day and Anton Khudobin. In the qualifying round Khudoobin went 1-1-0 with .919 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against average. On the other end of the ice, the Flames relied on Cam Talbot who went 3-1 with a .945 save percentage and a 1.51 goals against average. 

Pick: Flames in 4

The Boston Bruins look to get back on the right track against the Carolina Hurricanes in this series. The Bruins won the season series 1-0-0. The two teams are on contrasting trajectories at the moment with the Hurricanes outscoring the Rangers 11-4 in their series and the Bruins being outscored 9-4 in three consecutive losses. This is the fifth time these two teams have met in the playoffs with the Bruins going 4-1 previously, dating back to the Hurricanes time as the Hartford Whalers. 

In net, the Bruins have relied on Tukka Rask, who went 0-2-0 in the round robin, with a .917 save percentage and a 2.55 goals against average. Both goalies for the Hurricanes, Petr Mrazek and James Reimer played well against the Rangers. Mrazek went 2-0-0 with a .940 save percentage and a 1.50 goals against average. While Reimer, went 1-0-0 with a .974 save percentage and a 1.00 goals against average. 

Pick: Bruins in 5

The Vancouver Canucks battle the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues in this series. The Canucks won the season series 2-0-1. In the Canucks series vs. the Wild, they were led by their star youngsters in 20-year-old Quinn Hughes, 25-year-old Bo Horvat, and 20-year-old Elias Pettersson, who combined for 14 points. This is the fourth time that the two teams have played in the playoffs with the ‘Nucks winning the three previous. 

In net, the Blues rely on last year’s hero Jordan Binnington who start strong in the round-robin, only allowing three goals on the first 51 shots he faced before falling apart completely in the last game of the round-robin a 6-4 loss to the Golden Knights, giving up those 6 goals on 25 shots. On the other side, Jacob Markstrom compiled a 3-0-1 record, with a .926 save percentage and a 2.27 goals against average. 

Pick: Blues in 5

For more thoughts and opinions from Max, check out his author page or Twitter.

Image Source: Getty Images

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