• Chris Larson

NHL Covid-19 2020 Playoffs - Qualifying Round Predictions and Analysis

Updated: Sep 9, 2020

With the NHL set to return in the very close future, sports will soon be back in full swing. It will be a very eventful July and August for sports fans and it could honestly be the best time of the year at this point. In light of these events, I wanted to take a look at the first-round matchups in the NHL’s 24-team playoff format. Personally, I think these playoffs will be some of the most entertaining hockey we will see. The additional variables of having no fans, jumping from a training camp into playoffs, as well as living in the “hub bubble,” we will see how players adjust to these circumstances. Obviously these are professional athletes and they will figure shit out on their own and with their teams but it really adds a surprise element to the whole 7 game series (or 5 game like it is in the first round) and in such a short tournament like playoff, as much as we’d like the favourites to come out on top, maybe we’ll see an incredible Cinderella Story.

Western Conference

No. 5 Oilers vs. No. 12 Blackhawks

McDavid and Draisaitl are seemingly unstoppable. Despite the long pause, these young legs will be fresh and I got to ask, who’s going to lock them down? Old ass Toews? Kirby Dach is for sure too young. Patty Kane ain’t playing no defence but he has the potential to dominate Edmonton’s defense. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook that’s where the Oilers will fall into trouble. I see this series being a shootout – a complete bloodbath on offence. This will be a series to watch for sure. Also, given that the losing team will have chance of the first overall draft pick, one of these sick teams will have an opportunity to get that pick. The Blackhawks championship presence will grab them a couple of games but I can’t see how they contain McDavid and Draisaitl.

-Oilers in 5 (3-2)

No. 6 Predators vs. No. 11 Coyotes

To be honest I could give less of a shit about this matchup. Here’s what I’ll say. Despite having guys like Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall on a team together, the Preds defence will keep them in check and guys like Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene should make a statement offensively. One guy on the Preds I want to see have a great series is Dante Fabbro, I believe that he will show up to play and produce for them.

-Predators in 4 (3-1)

No. 7 Canucks vs. No. 10 Wild

For me, this series is a no brainer. No chance the Wild take this one. The only reason I give them one game is because this is the first rodeo for these young bucks on the Canucks (little rhyme for the kids). For real though, the Canucks are loaded with sick players and despite their lack of playoff experience they will make it up with the insane amount of skill and speed they have. Elias Petterson, Brock Boeser, and J.T. Miller will be plenty of offence and you add Quinn Hughes and Bo Horvat into the mix and we have some deadly weapons. Finally, Jacob Markstrom will be more than solid for the Canucks. One of the best goalies this year and he will continue that play throughout playoffs. For the Wild, I mean Devan Dubnyk stinks, at least this year he did. Zach Parise and Kevin Fiala are around but they can only do so much. The Wild do have a solid D group led by Suter, Dumba and Spurgeon but the Canucks offense will be too much. The Wild will be on their way out hoping they can pick up Alexis Lafreniere as the first overall pick.

-Canucks in 4 (3-1)

No. 8 Flames vs. No. 9 Jets

An all-Canadian match up. You hate to see it. For me, I always want to see as many Canadian teams in the mix but at least we will be getting one through for sure. The Flames have a very skilled core which includes Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Scrappy players like Matthew Tkachuk might be something that Flames have been missing in the past. I fully expect these guys plus Mark Giordano to have a monster series. When I look at this series, I really see Winnipeg coming out with this. With the playoff experiences they have as well as those big-bodied studs they have up front, I think it will be a tight series but it’s going to the Jets. On the back end, both teams are very similar and I wouldn’t give anyone an edge and I think guys like Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler will be taking over on both sides of the ice and will be moving their team to the next round.

-Jets in 5 (3-2)

Eastern Conference

No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens

Lol. Unless Carey Price goes on a tear, no chance the Canadians take a game.

-Penguins in 3 (3-0)

No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers

This could be an interesting take by me but I stand by it. The Rangers will be moving on to the next round. The seeding in this series is very deceiving, the Rangers were only 2 points behind the Hurricanes despite being 5 seeds ahead of them. So, if we consider that, it isn’t much of an upset if it happens. I really like the offence the Rangers bring. Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad had crazy good years and they will be leading that charge with a strong supporting cast. I expect Adam Fox to have a really good series, his 42 points in the regular season should translate into production for the playoffs. As for the Hurricanes, they will be getting great production from Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov, but they still have a very young team. I don’t think they have the leadership to win them the series, plus their goaltending sucks. I honestly didn’t know that a team would ever want James Riemer back in net. The EBUG Dave Ayres would probably give them a better chance of winning.

-Rangers in 5 (3-2)

No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers

Another series I don’t really have much of a care for. To me, there are no good storylines and no very exciting players. As the team’s matchup is very similar on offence and defense. This series will be determined by the goalies. Semyon Varlamov is poised to have a great series but I think Bobrovsky will bring home the W for the Panthers.

-Panthers in 5 (3-2)

No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets

Finally, we will give some good news for Leafs fans. What a crazy year it has been for them as they went from firing Mike Babcock to kind of playing better and then eventually losing to a 40-year-old Zamboni driver. But, this break in the season will help the Leafs and it will help them move onto the next round. This format can be very beneficial for the high-powered offence that is the Leafs. Not much to say about guys like Matthews, Marner, Tavares, and Nylander – these guys are sick. Will the Blue jackets be able to hold them off? I don’t give them a chance. I do believe they can pick up a game due to some inconsistent play that will occur with the Leafs but that is about it. The Blue Jackets have seen a lot of injuries throughout their lineup and that has not helped and whether they will be ready and in game shape for when the time comes, we’ll see but in reality the Leafs are due to make something happen and this short format could be their chance right now.

-Maple Leafs in 4 (3-1)

Comment what your predictions are down below and I'll be coming back to this once the first round is over.