• Gabe S-Fu

NHL Covid-19 2020 Playoffs | First Round Predictions and Analysis

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

Rogers Place modified for the NHL Playoffs Image

Ok so, I know I’m doing this a day late and it might seem a little biased to make some of these predictions after seeing the result of 3 games already but honestly it’s not a big deal. What a crazy game though between the Jackets and the Lightning in a 5OT battle. Props to Seth Jones and Zach Werenski who basically played full games. Going back to the qualifiers, what a great period of hockey. So many exciting moments and the Leafs, while being able to make miraculous comebacks, not able to seal the deal. Anyways, here are my predictions for the First Round matchups in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Western Conference

No.1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No.12 Chicago Blackhawks

So yes, this is one of the matchups that has already begun. Vegas took the first game 4-1 and looked pretty dominant doing so. Some questioned if the return of Max Pacioretty would ruin the Knights momentum they created from the round robin, that theory was sure put into the ground. The key for the Golden Knights is their goaltending duo of Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury. Lehner took over in the first game against his former team and he showed up and I expect him to do the same for the rest of the series. On the other side, Chicago came to play in the qualifying round and looked really good taking down the Oilers. McDavid who... All jokes aside, the Hawks will be facing a real team now and not just a two headed monster. The vets on the team showed that they still have gas in the tank and their playoff experience can win them games. But, will it translate into this round, no. The Hawks don’t have the depth that the Knights do and it will hurt them. It will be a competitive series for sure thought.

Golden Knights in 6

No.2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No.11 Arizona Coyotes

This will be an interesting series but I already have my winner in mind. The Coyotes played a good qualifier round and took down the Preds. They got outstanding goaltending from Darcy Kuemper and they actually produced a decent amount of offense. Will it be good enough against the high powered Avalanche, no chance. I love MacKinnon, Landeskog and especially Maker. I don’t think Phill Kessel and Taylor Hall will have enough in them to carry the offense. If Kuemper can continue to play unreal, it might give them a chance to steal a few games but the Avs have it in the bag.

Avalanche in 6

No.3 Dallas Stars vs. No.8 Calgary Flames

The Flames took game one here and personally I’m not surprised. After taking down a heavy team in the Jets, they are built for these playoffs and they will continue to play well. Tkachuck has proved to be a force in the playoffs and the Stars will be sure to keep him in check and not let his antics get to them. Johnny Gaudreau is always gonna be sick as well as Monohan. Sam Bennett and Milan Lucic also had very good series and if they continue to contribute the Flames should come out on top. For the Stars, it will be up to Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin to finally show up in the playoffs. They have not been what they needed to be for the Stars in key times and now they have to do it. On the backend, I like Calgary’s defense a lot more and it will help them to win this series. Cam Talbot, I expect him to carry his play over and be better than Ben Bishop.

Flames in 7

No.4 St. Louis Blues vs. No.7 Vancouver Canucks

Let’s go Canucks am I right? I’m a little biased but I mean, I predicted the Canucks to win and they won. What a great series for the young Canucks and what a clinching game. They showed heart and were able to pull it out in game 4. But now they face an even taller task going up against the defending Stanley Cup Champions. The Canucks will have their hands full but I believe that their studs will be able to do the job. Quinn Hughes is as legit as it gets and for the Miller, Boeser, Petterson line, I only expect them to produce more. For the Blues to move onto the next round, they need to play a heavy and physical style of game. The depth of the Blues might be too much for the Canucks but I believe they will be able to handle it. Regardless, it will be more experience for the core Canucks and it will only help them as they play more playoff games. I do think it is very possible for the Canucks to win this series and that’s my pick.

Canucks in 7

Eastern Conference

No.1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No.12 Montreal Canadiens

This series is actually a lot harder to pick than you might think. The Canadiens really surprised everyone by taking down Pittsburg. I said it before, the only way the Canadiens have a shot of winning is if Carey Price plays out of this world and he did so. Once again the same theory applies, if Carey Price can steal the series, the Habs will win. That won’t happen this time around. The Flyers have looked unreal and have been a well-oiled machine. So dangerous and with their young stud, Carter Hart in net, they should be able to take this round with a little bit of resistance.

Flyers in 7

No.2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs No.9 Columbus Blue Jackets

What a first game and after so long, what an ending. Brayden Point was able to seal the deal in the 5th overtime and now everyone is tired. Let’s talk about the Jackets first. John Torterella has done such a good job with this team and I can really see them taking this series potentially. Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, and Pierre-Luc Dubois will be pushing this team forward and if they aren’t able to play well, the series will be quick. The Lightning, while missing Stamkos, are still firing from all cylinders. There was speculation that Victor Hedman wouldn’t be able to play but he was there for game 1 which makes my pick a little easier. I don't really have much else to say, this series is talent vs hard work and structure and I think talent will be taking this one. The Jackets will put up a very good fight so this series will go the distance.

Lightning in 7

No.3 Washington Capitals vs. No.7 New York Islanders

With all these series being so tight in my mind, I have all of them either going 6 or 7 games and it applies for this series too. The Islanders were able to take care of the Panthers while producing a lot of offense. Anthony Beauviller produced secondary scoring for the Islanders which was huge. I expect Mathew Barzel to really pick it up for the next round and take over. In net, Varlamov has been strong and will be key if the Islanders want to take this round. On the other side of things, the Capitals looked average in their round robin and they hope to step on the gas when the time comes. Eyes will be on Norris nominee John Carlson to see if he’ll be playing in game 1. I expect him to be back for the series at some point regardless. Everything we know about the Caps stays true, Ovi is sick, Kuznetsov is sick, and Holtby will be strong between the pipes. With that being said, I believe the Islanders are in playoff mode and the Caps won’t be able to just flip the switch and play a lot better. Another tight series but this one is going to the underdog.

Islanders in 7

No.4 Boston Bruins vs. No.6 Carolina Hurricanes

No matter how well the Bruins did in their round robin, I believe they always have the tools to be competitive. The Canes are no pushovers themselves. They made quick work of the Rangers by taking them down in 3 and you can tell that the Canes are going to be hard to beat. Rod Brind’Amour has a squad that will buy into everything that he preaches and it has been paying off. As much as the Canes are strong up front and on D, my main issue is the goaltending situation. Will Reimer and Mrazek continue to exceed their expectations or go back down to how they normally play? Only time will tell but this ultimately decides the series in my mind. The Bruins, like the Caps, have studs that you will never forget. Bergeron, Marchand, Pasternak will continue to produce no matter what. For the Bruins it will come down to secondary scoring and who can help the top line. Defensively they will be sound and as long as they have that extra scoring, they will be taking this series. Another series I have going to the distance and a fun one to watch for sure.

Bruins in 7

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