The qualifying rounds are over in which now we move onto the actual playoffs. There are no changes to the playoff format as all series will be a best-of-seven with the first to win four games advancing to the next round. Despite the playoffs starting now and going into October, there should be no asterisk for the winner as winning the Stanley Cup this year is no different from winning it all any other year. Here is how the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs could go down.
Stars and Flames Go the Distance
The Calgary Flames beat the Jets to advance to the first round in which they are set to take on the Dallas Stars. The Flames and Stars both have a strong set of forwards and a decent defensive corps. Ben Bishop is more experienced in the net than David Rittich, but both goalies are important to their team nonetheless. The Flames won the season series 2-1 including a win in a shootout but both teams have even talent spread out on their respective teams. As both teams are pretty even, this series will go the distance to game seven where it will be a battle but ultimately, the Flames will come out on top due to a dynamic offense they possess.
Lightning Beat Blue Jackets
Last year, the Blue Jackets shocked the hockey world and swept the first seeded Lightning who were arguably the best hockey team put together in history. This time around, that isn’t happening. Last year, the Blue Jackets had the talents of Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene, Artemi Panarin and others in which they no longer do. Meanwhile, the Lightning have remained largely the same and added veterans to aid in avoiding last year’s disappointment. The Blue Jackets are known for their defense but the Lightning will be too heavy upfront for them to contain. Also, the Blue Jackets below average offense will not be able to get by a strong Lighting defense as they are much stronger defensively than the Maple Leafs with the likes of Norris candidate Victor Hedman, veteran Kevin Shattenkirk and youngster Mikhail Sergachev. While the Lighting shouldn’t take Columbus for granted, especially after what happened last time around, they should be able to advance with relative ease.
Two upsets Occur in Round One
In the qualifying round, both 12 seeds advanced to the first round of the playoffs as the Blackhawks beat the Oilers and the Canadiens beat the Penguins. If the Blackhawks pull off another upset over the first seed Golden Knights, they’ll have a tough time doing so but the Habs will pull off another shock and beat the Flyers to get to round two. While the Habs lost the season series against the Flyers 2-1, the two losses came in overtime and the game they won was a 4-1 defeat. The Flyers don’t have a significantly strong offense and their defense isn’t that special either. They claimed the first seed by luck as anything can happen in one game but they won’t be able to keep up in a seven game series, even against a team like the Montreal Canadiens who weren’t supposed to be in the playoffs.
Despite finishing the regular season with the best record in the Western Conference, the Blues claimed the fourth seed after the round robin play-in and are set to take on the Canucks. They only played each other twice during the regular season splitting the series with the Blues getting their win in overtime. The Blues looked rusty during the round robin series and that especially goes for their star player Vladimir Tarasenko who only took five shots on net without recording a point in two games. The mix of young and veteran players on the Canucks is what will ultimately get them through to the second round and send the Blues home packing.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will be where they were supposed to be last season and will reach the Stanley Cup finals to face the Calgary Flames. The Lightning will have to get through the Blue Jackets, Canadiens and Capitals whereas the Flames will play spoiler all throughout the playoffs and beat the Stars, Golden Knights and Avalanche in which all are ranked higher than the sixth seeded Flames.
The Lightning are the most complete team in the NHL with a superstar forward trio of Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, a defensive corps that features Shattenkirk, Hedman and Sergachev and a superstar goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Flames strength comes from upfront in Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm. They also have veteran Mark Giordano quarterbacking the blue line who is one of the more accomplished defenceman across the league.
It will be a fun series to watch as both teams battle it out for a chance to bring a shine of light to their city from the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and host the Stanley Cup but it will be Stamkos being given the cup from commissioner Gary Bettman after the Lightning defeat the Flames in six games.
Featured image credit: NHL
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