Well, it has been quite some time since we wrote about the National Hockey League—other than discussing the new franchise in Seattle last month, of course. But with the qualifying for the 2020 postseason complete, the NHL drops the puck on its playoff season tomorrow.
We love the Stanley Cup playoffs, in truth: It’s one of the best spectacles in sport from one of the last pure professional sports leagues. Thus, we offer our guesses on the first-round matchups, with no guarantees on our expertise, of course.
- Philadelphia Flyers vs. Montréal Canadiens: The Canadiens shouldn’t even be here, but the NHL ran some weird qualify to augment the end of the regular season, and Montréal knocked off Pittsburgh, the No. 5 team from the regular season. The Canadiens had just 19 regulation wins—look for the Flyers to beat them, readily. Philadelphia in five.
- Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets: The Lightning have been waiting for this rematch since May 2019. The Blue Jackets were almost as bad as the Canadiens in the regular season. Tampa Bay won’t be caught off guard this time around like last year. Expect the sweep. Tampa Bay in four.
- Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders: The Caps are the better team on paper, but we know that doesn’t always translate to ice well. The Isles were outscored in the regular season, before beating the Florida Panthers to qualify here. Washington in six.
- Boston Bruins vs. Carolina Hurricanes: The Bruins were the best team in the NHL before the COVID stoppage. The Hurricanes were the fifth-best squad in the Eastern Conference. Boston has yet to find its rhythm after the restart, but we can bet the team is motivated after losing Game 7 of the Finals last year at home. Boston in six.
- Vegas Golden Knights vs. Chicago Blackhawks: This is basically the No. 3 team (Vegas) against the No. 11 (team). Yes, the qualifiers were wonky. The Golden Knights may still be smarting from their 2019 playoff ouster, so they’re a focused bunch right now. Vegas in five.
- Colorado Avalanche vs. Arizona Coyotes: On paper, the Avs are the best team in the Western Conference. The ‘Yotes are a solid team, though, too, so Colorado won’t roll right through them … at least not too much? Colorado in five.
- Dallas Stars vs. Calgary Flames: This is an interesting matchup, as neither team is really good—especially Calgary, which was the last team in the conference allowed into the qualifier before making good. Does that give them momentum? We think it might, since the Stars are no great shakes. Calgary in six.
- St. Louis Blues vs. Vancouver Canucks: Like Boston, the Blues suffered the most out west from the layoff. The Canucks are a firm bunch, and unless St. Louis gets over its restart hangover, it won’t be defending its Cup title. We will bank on the Blues finding their souls before it is too late, however. St. Louis in seven.
Make sure to check back at the completion of the first round for our next attempt at fruitless NHL predictions!