We are now one week into the NHL preseason, and the first puck drop of the regular season is only a few short days away. As we get the first glimpses of what this season will look like, and players are beginning to round into form with their new teams, I am going to have some fun and predict how this year’s hockey season is going to turn out. I will list my predictions for each division’s final standings, and then based on that order I will predict exactly how I believe the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will unfold.
*NOTE: The following is just a prediction and is not meant to show bias in any way, shape or form. These predictions are based on factors including each team’s divisional matchups, new members to each team and how they will fare this season, and each team’s strength of opponent.*
Metropolitan Division Final Standings:
1. Washington Capitals – 107 points
2. Pittsburgh Penguins – 102 points
3. New York Rangers – 94 points
4. New Jersey Devils – 93 points
5. Carolina Hurricanes – 91 points
6. Columbus Blue Jackets – 85 points
7. Philadelphia Flyers – 79 points
8. New York Islanders – 74 points
I see the Metropolitan Division being a highly competitive division again this season, as there are a few teams that have got significantly better over the off season in my opinion. Washington and Pittsburgh are my sure guesses for the number one and two positions, but any of the teams in the three to five slots could easily be switched. However, the Metropolitan will be sending five teams to the playoffs again this year. The Rangers, Devils, and Hurricanes will all finish within a few points of one another, and Pittsburgh will finish with five fewer points than the Capitals. The Rangers will make a huge jump in the standings and lock up the third position, while the Devils and Hurricanes will lock up the two East Division wild card spots.
Atlantic Division Final Standings:
1. Boston Bruins – 111 points
2. Tampa Bay Lightning – 105 points
3. Toronto Maple Leafs – 103 points
4. Florida Panthers – 90 points
5. Montreal Canadiens – 86 points
6. Buffalo Sabres – 83 points
7. Detroit Red Wings – 75 points
8. Ottawa Senators – 67 points
The final standings of the Atlantic Division will look fairly similar to last year’s, with the same three teams finishing in the top three. The Boston Bruins will get over the hump that is Tampa Bay and win the division this year, which will be good news for the Maple Leafs as they won’t have to suffer the Bruins curse in the first round for the third consecutive year. The Panthers will battle with the Hurricanes for the final wild card spot, ultimately falling just short by one point. Montreal will be in the mix as well, but in the end will fall short of playoffs by a few points. Boston will win the division and finish with the best record in the East, solidifying home ice advantage for the first three rounds of playoffs. The Senators will finish with the league’s worst record.
Central Division Final Standings:
1. Dallas Stars – 104 points
2. Nashville Predators – 100 points
3. St. Louis Blues – 99 points
4. Colorado Avalanche – 96 points
5. Chicago Blackhawks – 88 points
6. Minnesota Wild – 88 points
7. Winnipeg Jets – 82 points
The Central Division will be competitive between the teams finishing 1 through 4. At the midway point of the season, only a few points will separate all four of these teams from one another. I do feel as though the Dallas Stars will begin to pull away in the second half of the season, and finish first by season’s end. The Predators and Blues will be neck and neck all season long and only one point will separate them in the final standings. The Jets will nose dive to the bottom of the division, especially with Byfuglien and Trouba gone and the uncertainty of unsigned RFAs Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor. The Wild and Blackhawks will finish with an identical amount of points, but Chicago will finish higher due to winning the head to head matchups between the teams. Unlike the Metro Division, only four teams in this division will book their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Pacific Division Final Standings:
1. Vegas Golden Knights – 114 points
2. San Jose Sharks – 108 points
3. Edmonton Oilers – 97 points
4. Calgary Flames – 95 points
5. Arizona Coyotes – 92 points
6. Vancouver Canucks – 90 points
7. Los Angeles Kings – 81 points
8. Anaheim Ducks – 71 points
Unlike the other divisions, the Pacific Division is where we start to see some separation between the teams. The Vegas Golden Knights will dominate the division and win the franchise’s first President’s Trophy after finishing the season with the most amount of points. The San Jose Sharks will compete with Vegas throughout the season, but in the end their effort won’t be enough and they will fall a few points below the Golden Knights. The rest of the division will be a fair bit behind, but I have the two Alberta teams making the playoffs in this division, as I don’t think Vancouver and the other southern States teams will have enough weapons to compete. The difference in points between the Oilers and Flames will be very minimal, but I think Edmonton will have the slight edge and finish top three in the division, just because of the assets they brought in over the summer. Calgary will be the lone Pacific Division team in the wild card spots. The Kings and Ducks will finish bottom two, and prove to the league that they will need to get younger in order to contend for the playoffs again.
2020 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions
Eastern Conference First Round:
M1 Washington vs. WC1 New Jersey – WSH in 5
A1 Boston vs. WC2 Carolina – BOS in 7
M2 Pittsburgh vs. M3 New York – NYR in 6
A2 Tampa Bay vs. A3 Toronto – TB in 6
In the first round, the top seeds in Washington and Boston will advance, and I believe the New York Rangers will be able to sneak by Pittsburgh, whose players are gradually getting older. The big story in this round is the Maple Leafs again getting knocked out in the first round. I don’t believe the Leafs’ defense will be strong enough to push them over the edge, and Fredrick Andersen has a history of underperforming in the playoffs. Tampa Bay will have the advantage in this series.
Eastern Conference Second Round:
M1 Washington vs. M3 New York – WSH in 6
A1 Boston vs. A2 Tampa Bay – TB in 5
I believe the second round will end with Washington and Tampa Bay advancing. The Lightning will be out for revenge after getting swept out of the playoffs in the first round last year, and they will make the necessary adjustments for a deep playoff push this year. I think the Lightning offence will lead the way in this series, and they will dispatch the Bruins in 5 games, maybe 6. Washington will have the playoff experience over New York, and will advance in this series.
Eastern Conference Third Round:
M1 Washington vs. A2 Tampa Bay – TB in 6
Alex Ovechkin’s quest for a second Stanley Cup ring will end in the Conference Finals. Tampa Bay’s offence consisting of Stamkos, Kucherov, and rising star Ondrej Palat will be too much for the Capitals. I believe the Lightning have enough depth left on their team to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, with or without unsigned RFA Brayden Point on the team.
Western Conference First Round:
C1 Dallas vs. WC1 Colorado – COL in 5
P1 Vegas vs. WC2 Calgary – VGK in 6
C2 Nashville vs. C3 St. Louis – STL in 7
P2 San Jose vs. P3 Edmonton – SJ in 5
I need to have one Wild Card team beating a top seed, and I believe Colorado will take out Dallas in the first round, especially if unsigned RFA Mikko Rantanen signs. Colorado proved in last year’s playoffs that they are the real deal, and MacKinnon and Landeskog will have a fire in their belly to prove last year’s run wasn’t a fluke. The top two Pacific teams will win their rounds handily, but the Blues vs. Predators series will be a seven-game battle with the defending champions emerging victorious.
Western Conference Second Round:
WC1 Colorado vs. C3 St. Louis – COL in 6
P1 Vegas vs. P2 San Jose – SJ in 6
The series to watch in this one is the battle for Pacific Division glory, the Sharks versus Golden Knights. When these two teams met in last year’s playoffs, a questionable 5 minute penalty by Vegas in the third period led to four San Jose goals and a come-from-behind 4-3 victory for the Sharks, stunning Vegas and eliminating them from Stanley Cup contention. I see the same happening but without the controversy, as San Jose rolls over the President’s Trophy winners in six games. Colorado will continue to cruise by eliminating the defending champions in the other series.
Western Conference Third Round:
WC1 Colorado vs. P2 San Jose – SJ in 5
In the Western Conference finals, the Sharks will prove to be too much and too experienced for the Avalanche, who will fall in 5 games. The Sharks leadership and experience will guide them to victory in this series quite handily, and they will also have the advantage in net, as Martin Jones has been to the dance before and Colorado will rely on Philipp Grubauer, who will only get the team so far. Colorado will tap out with high expectations for next season.
Stanley Cup Finals:
P2 San Jose vs. A2 Tampa Bay – SJ in 7
Jumbo Joe Thornton will finally have his ring and will retire a Stanley Cup champion. Thornton signed a one-year extension with the Sharks for one more chance to raise Lord Stanley, and I believe he does it this year. The Sharks have been a great team for a few years now, and have advanced far into the playoffs in recent years but haven’t been able to finish. New team captain Logan Couture will guide the Sharks to a dramatic, hard-fought game 7 victory over the Lightning on home ice, and the Cup will return to California for the first time since the Los Angeles Kings won it in 2014.
So, these are my predictions for the upcoming NHL season. Buckle up folks, the 2019-20 NHL season is going to be another exciting one. Are you on board with my predictions, or do you think I’m way out in right field on this one?
Featured photo courtesy of Brandon Magnus / NHL Network
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