In a year like no other, we see a playoff like no other. Hockey is finally back after a layoff that chunked out about 40% of the entire calendar year of 2020. The Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2020 will not be a usual Stanley Cup Playoffs, they will consist of 24 teams, and have an additional round, and obviously, will take place without fans in Toronto and Edmonton. The energy amongst the players will still be there as the greatest trophy in sports awaits the winner.
Toronto Maple Leafs over Columbus Blue Jackets
The Leafs will finally win a series by defeating an overmatched CBJ team. Since Sheldon Keefe took over, the Leafs have returned to form. While Tavares isn't scoring the way he was last year, Matthews has picked up the slack. Without the elite goaltending they had from Bobrovsky last year, without disrespect to Elvis who is a great goalie in his own right, the Jackets won't have enough to win.
New York Islanders over Florida Panthers
In a battle of two legendary coaches, Trotz takes the upper hand. I believe that the Islanders have a severely underrated team, led by Ryan Pulock and Matthew Barzal. They have adequate goaltending from Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov, which will be enough to leap them over the Panthers. While I believe Bobrovsky is better than what he's shown this year, I don't believe the Panthers have the right defensive pieces around him, they need to bolster that d-core before doing anything else.
Carolina Hurricanes over New York Rangers
This is the all in year for the Canes, they traded a first rounder for Brady Skjei and then FOUR players for Vincent Trocheck. The Rangers time will come, but it will have to be soon before they have to pay Kakko and Fox. It's been a great year for Hart Trophy favorite Artemi Panarin, and Mika Zibanajed can score goals in bunches. Lots has gone the Rangers way, but their young core won't have enough in the tank to take out a scary Carolina team led by Svechnikov and Aho.
Pittsburgh Penguins over Montreal Canadiens
Habs fans have told me that watching the games is a chore. This is not a playoff caliber team. As much as I think the Pens are on the downswing, they still have Crosby and Malkin, and with Guentzel coming back, they'll have all the pieces that Mike Sullivan needs to push for Patrick Marleau's first Stanley Cup. Their first task will be easy, dispatching Claude Julien and the Canadiens, who will only benefit from this experience by giving Suzuki and Kotkaniemi playoff experience.
Edmonton Oilers over Chicago Blackhawks
As much as the Oilers have literally no defense, they'll have enough offense to push them past the Hawks. Kane and Toews are still great, but Debrincat has been inconsistent. Dominik Kubalik is okay, but I just don't trust the depth of this team offensively or defensively to beat the Oilers. The Hawks also traded starting goalie Robin Lehner at the deadline, not anticipating needing to make a playoff run. Corey Crawford isn't 2014-15 Crawford anymore, and the Oilers high powered duo of McDavid and Draisaitl will easily put them into the next round.
Winnipeg Jets over Calgary Flames
The best goaltender in the world against a team that had a breakout year and failed to repeat it? I'll take Hellebuyck and the Jets all the way. Even without their star defensemen, the Jets have made it back to the playoffs on the backs off Hellebuyck, Patrik Laine, Blake Wheeler, and more. They'll face a team, in the Flames, that has had a down year. Gaudreau and Monahan have both struggled, and they don't have consistent goaltending, as David Rittich is quite inconsistent. I enjoy watching the Flames, but the Jets are a team to look out for.
Vancouver Canucks over Minnesota Wild
If you thought Elias Pettersson broke out last year, he broke out even more this year. Led by a scary young core of Pettersson, Boeser, Horvat, Hughes, and key veterans Markstrom and Toffoli, the Canucks are a major sleeper this year, and in the very near future. The Wild are mediocrity masquerading as a playoff team. Alex Stalock is not half the goaltender he'll need to be in order to stop the high powered Vancouver team. Minnesota just isn't built for playoff success right now, and they won't have any.
Nashville Predators over Arizona Coyotes
The Yotes are another one of those mediocrities masquerading as playoff teams due to the expanded format. Sure, Darcy Kuemper is awesome, but what else? Nashville, despite having no special teams whatsoever, is in position to potentially make a run. Sporting a star goaltender in Pekka Rinne, along with two of the top 7 defensemen in hockey manning the blue line together for 20+ minutes a night in Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi, the Preds could make a run if the dominoes fall into place.
Boston Bruins over Toronto Maple Leafs
And I know what it means
To walk along
The lonely street of dreams
Here I Go Again on my own
Going down the only road I've ever know
For Toronto, they've lost to Boston before, and they'll lose to Boston again.
Philadelphia Flyers over New York Islanders
I like watching New York play, but Philly has just done the opposite of the Isles, get hot as the season progresses. The Flyers have a team built for right now, and they'll defeat the Islanders in this series.
Carolina Hurricanes over Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning have shown me absoutely nothing that tells me that they're not going to repeat the mistakes of last year. The only difference is Pat Maroon and his Cup experience, but mainly, the same chokers remain. It'll take a great goaltending performance from Carolina, but I believe they can pull it off.
Washington Capitals over Pittsburgh Penguins
I believe we'll see lots of great series' in the east, this'll be one of them. This could, and probably will, go all the way, but both teams will struggle to be their best selves. The Caps will be close enough to their best to win this series though.
Colorado Avalanche over Winnipeg Jets
This should go the distance. The Jets will be a team that deserves to go further, but just ran into a better team. The incredible team that the Avs are, they'll give Luca bragging rights in the Bardown studio over Jesse.
Vancouver Canucks over St. Louis Blues
I don't feel that this is bold. The Blues are great, but Vancouver will get hot and win this series. Another incredibly close series, as both teams have all of the components needed for a Cup run.
Dallas Stars over Nashville Predators
The best defensive pairing in hockey meets its' match in this series, a deep Stars team that is able to wear down the Predators forward core and let Ben Bishop do the rest. The talent on the ice in this series is sometimes questioned, and it will remain that way as neither team really will deserve to win this series.
Edmonton Oilers over Vegas Golden Knights
It's been a down year for Lehner AND Fleury, and running into the best player in the world and his extremely talented top 9 won't help. McDavid proves that he's a playoff hero with at least one overtime goal in this series while leading the way in points for the Oilers. Their shakey goaltending won't matter because they'll put enough past the Knights.
Boston Bruins over Carolina Hurricanes
In a rematch of the Eastern Conference finals from last year, we get the same result, a Boston bloodbath. The young Canes won't have enough to get past the experienced and hungry Bruins on the road back to the Cup.
Philadelphia Flyers over Washington Capitals
The Caps need consistent goaltending to come or they won't make it past the second round. The Flyers do have consistent goaltending, Carter Hart, who will carry the Flyers past the Caps.
Colorado Avalanche over Vancouver Canucks
This should be a fun series, but it won't last long. The Avalanche are going to be in machine mode ready to destroy the Canucks at this point, but the games will still be fun.
Edmonton Oilers over Dallas Stars
I truly don't believe in the Stars, and if the previous series, where they'll squeak past Nashville in an uninspiring performance wasn't enough, how about losing to the Oilers. The talented offense of the Oilers should be enough in this one.
Boston Bruins over Philadelphia Flyers
The Bruins are a machine. While the Flyers exhibit awesome chemistry and talent, the Bruins have just been doing everything right this season, barring the unforeseen, the Bruins should cruise to a Cup Final appearance, but be given a small test by Philly here.
Colorado Avalanche over Edmonton Oilers
The path really opened up for Colorado in this one, not that they can't beat St. Louis, but they're lucky they don't have to face them. Edmonton's offense should be matched by Colorado's and the rest should play out in a series sweep for the Avs.
Boston Bruins over Colorado Avalanche
I just think that Boston is a cut above every other team in hockey this year. They have more offensive talent than Colorado, more defensive talent, and better goaltending. The Bruins have been the best team in the league all season, and it will show. The Avs have all the makings of a future dynasty if they can pay everybody and find a top tier goaltender, but this year is not their year just yet.
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