2020 NHL "Playoffs" Preview
First I would like to start off by saying I am so excited hockey is coming back!!! With that being said I don’t like this whole 24 team “playoff” thing but understand why it had to happen. Hey at least it’s not the NBA and we can get some competitive games not the Bealless Wizards, the no-name Nets, and the collection of other uninspiring “playoff” teams. What I’m saying is there will be some upsets unlike the NBA IMO.
I know it has been a long time since the NHL season so let’s do a quick recap. My Wings were horrendous but apparently not horrendous enough to land the #1 pick!!! Instead they pick 4th (boo!!!). The #1 went to whatever team gets bounced first (likely CHI). The #2 goes to LAK and the #3 to OTT. So we’ll see how the draft goes. As for the playoffs we start with 8 series. The top 4 teams from each conference are not in the opening series and they play round robins against one another. It’s confusing so let me just get to the matchups.
#12 CHI vs #5 EDM – Honestly this could be a more exciting showdown than people are expecting. BUT that all depends on if Crawford returns to the team. Update: Apparently Crawford is back so I feel more “comfortable” with him in net. The Blackhawks still have some inexperienced playoff goaltending starting with Malcomb Subban so let’s hope Crawford stays healthy. I bet they are wishing they kept Robin Lehner right now! They should have Seabrook back so that helps on D a little (unfortunately he is not back). It’s gonna be damn near impossible to shut down McDavid, Draisaitl, and friends. There are a couple worries for EDM though. They do not have the forward depth and it’s hard to trust their goaltending. Oilers 3-1 series win.
#11 ARI vs #6 NSH – Based upon this year of play to me this looks like one of the more subdued series. The Predators have struggled this year and even went through a mid-season coaching change. Their dynamic #1 line of Forsberg, Arvidsson, and Johansen from last year has been quiet. Matt Duchene is struggling. For a while I was even playing their L3 (Smith, Bonino, and Grimaldi). This is good depth to have in the playoffs. As much as I want the Yotes to do well, they have a big problem scoring. They were only able to average 2.71 goals per game! That was 22nd in the NHL. I thought they would be the worst n the playoffs but the Stars & Blue Jackets are worse. What I think gives ARI a chance is “Hot Dog” Phil Kessel in “playoff mode” and their outstanding goaltending tandem of Kuemper & Raanta. Oh no ARI is in disarray as their GM “quit”… I’ll wait to hear the story but apparently ownership had something to do with it. That group has not been great so right now I lean on Chayka’s side. It migh have no effect to the team though. I think NSH gets the better of them so 3-2 Preds.
#10 MIN vs #7 VAN – For me this is another series I least look forward to watching. It is mostly MIN because they are just such a boring team to me. I really don’t have too much to say about the team as a whole. It is a lot of other team’s castoffs that are doing well here. Zuccarello has struggled and they don’t have a lot of offensive firepower. No to mention goaltending has been a struggle. I’m not sure if it will be Dubby or Stalock. If there’s one area the MIN are decent it’s on the blueline. Now VAN is a more young and exciting team but it is still pretty early for them. Give them a couple more years and they could be one of the top teams. They have 2 very dangerous lines with Pettersson and Boeser leading the way. This team also has a great blueline with Edler, Hughes (likely the Calder winner for ROTY), and Myers. And Markstrom has been great in net. This is pushing it but give me VAN 3-0.
#9 WPG vs #8 CGY – What can I say here? This one truly feels like a “play in” as both teams have had their good and bad stretches. On one hand both teams are pretty good offensively. On the other hand WPG “suffers” defensively and only has Connor Hellebuyck to bail them out. The Flames at least have Gio and Hanifin so they get the nudge there. At forward I think the first two lines are a wash with CGY being a bit “dangerous”. I think the Flames have more depth too. It’s times like these the Jets wish they had Big Buff. Unless Helle steals the series (which could happen) give me CGY 3-2.
#12 MTL vs #5 PIT – Here is a matchup I’m not looking forward to breaking down. I’m not a fan of either of these teams. With that being said I think I like PIT a little less. What does that mean? Nothing really lol I see this series being over pretty quick. The big question is whether Crosby will be ready. He’s listed d2d so I think he’ll play. On top of that they get Guentzel back. Their top two lines and Letang are tough to compete with. MTL is coming close to turning the corner. I am not exactly sure where the Habs are helthwise as I think Tatar will still be out. Domi is back and Weber looks to be playing. Even having a majority of their guys healthy I just don’t see a way they can keep up. If they do it’s because of Price. PIT 3-1.
#11 NYR vs #6 CAR – This might be the series I am most looking forward to watching. Maybe I am giving the Rangers too much credit or the Hurricanes not enough (as I tend to do). The Rangers were hot coming into the COVID stoppage. Panarin has wasted no time to getting acclimated with the Rangers and was nominated for the Ted Lindsay award (player voted MVP) and Hart Trophy (MVP). There are no shortage of goal scorers and playmakers on this team. The question is King Henry or Igor Shesterkin? My vote goes for Lundqvist and I imagine that will be the direction they go. Well I guess I have to talk about CAR. On the positive side they get Dougie Hamilton back, who if healthy was a likely Norris finalist and possible winner. No there is a ? if he’s ready so bump them further down if so. Update: It looks like he will miss the first few games and be evaluated again. CAR has some talent I just don’t know if they can matchup with the Rangers. I typically doubt CAR, so no surprise here Rangers 3-2.
#10 FLA vs #7 NYI – I am not exactly sure what to expect out of this series. I think it begins and ends with what Sergei Bobrovski we get. Do we get the current “pay me” Bob or the one where he kept the Blue Jackets in the swing of things? I am going somewhere in the middle so he will have to rely on his talented lines of forwards. The Panthers have some scary matchups. Haula will have to pickup the old Trocheck line. A sleeping playoff giant (Brian Boyle) is in the picture too. I like the Panthers D offensively but defensively they will give up some opportunities. Now we have the Islanders. This team has some trouble scoring (2.79 GF/game 21st in the NHL). They are a defense first team with a previously dangerous 4th line. When it’s all said and done they are going to need to find some goals. I think they can do it and the L3 of Brassard, Pageau, and Kuhnhackl is going to have to contribute. I’d be a tiny bit concerned of goaltending here with Varlamov (likely) & Greiss. I’m not sure FLA can keep it out of the net enough. I’ll take the NYI 3-1.
#9 CBJ vs #8 TOR – I don’t really know how to describe this one. On paper (at the beginning of the year) you would have said TOR 3-0 most likely. Now here we are in July with TOR being a “bubble” (literally and figuratively) team. Surprisingly the Leafs not having Johnsson will hurt. I could see the lines more dangerous with him in. The Leafs also struggle keeping the puck out of the net. All their D like to have an offensive role. I don’t trust Andersen making 35+ saves a game. The Blue Jackets have been truly remarkable this year. They lost just about everything (Duchene, Panarin, Bobrob, and others) and are still right in the swing of things. Personally I love Torts and think he has something to do with it. It helps to have one of the best in the league on D in Jones. Werenski has come onto his own this year too. Their ragtag bunch of forwards has been pretty good too. And how could it be a preview without our favorite shutout master Elvis Merzlikins?! You would think with the way I’m hyping up CBJ that they would be my favorite but that’s not the case. TOR comes back fresh and takes it 3-1. Not what I’d like to happen but it’s been too long that CBJ have “kept up” when they should really be falling down. Prove me wrong. Also random but the Leafs winning the Cup is the big joke this year, since it’ll likely have an asterisk.
#1 STL – Defending champs getting Tarasenko back. Watch Out
#2 COL – High expectations with a good chance to win.
#3 VGK – Good team just not as good as those above. I expect a round 2 loss for them. I could be surprised by what they do
#4 DAL – How are they 4th? Ben Bishop that’s how! If they can can score like they are capable with Seguin, Benn, and Radulov other teams could be in trouble. And father time has been cruel so maybe he gives Pavelski and Perry a kick in the ass. Either going far or getting bounced quickly IMO.
#1 BOS – My betting favorite. I just don’t know how to stop them and don’t see a Lightning collapse. They’ve been here before and backed it up.
#2 TB – Stamkos likely back and could see a conference final appearance.
#3 WSH – I’m not concerned with their forwards but their D besides Carlson are a little iffy. I’ve trusted Holtby in the playoffs but he does make it scary at times. It will be tough to beat BOS or TB.
#4 PHI – I just think they flew too high this year. Maybe they can prove me wrong but I don’t see it. Future looking bright though.
This will be just a little section where I talk out of my ass for the guys I think live for playoff hockey. I’m gonna skip some obvious ones so bear with me.
I am excited for this playoffs, even if done in an undesirable manner (too many teams and lots of confusion). I will be excited to have hockey on all day!!! Now that is the dream if I do say so myself. Nothing is like playoff hockey. Is it Saturday yet?!!!