The Stanley Cup bracket is now set. After a four month layoff, you get the feeling that this will be one of the most unpredictable Stanley Cup playoffs in history. Vegas oddsmakers have the Philadelphia Flyers and Vegas Golden Knights as the leading favorites to win the Stanley Cup at 6/1 odds.
Normally I would make my Stanley Cup champion prediction at this point but I will wait until after the first round. I liked the Boston Bruins before the long layoff. I am now teetering towards the Vegas Golden Knights. There are a lot of unknowns but one round of hockey should clarify a great deal.
I have teamed up with former San Jose Shark/Kansas City Blade J.F. Quintin to handicap these playoffs. Here is our predictions for the first round:
#8 Montreal vs #1 Philadelphia
Commentary: The Montreal Canadiens raised many eyebrows by eliminating the talented Sid Crosby-led Pittsburgh Penguins from the playoffs. Canadiens goaltender Carey Price shined in the series. Unfortunately, the Canadiens have to meet one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now in the Flyers. The Philadelphia Flyers have depth and a great young goaltender in Carter Hart. J.F and I are in complete agreement on this one, just differing in how many games it will take.
- My prediction: Philadelphia in 6 games
- J.F’s prediction: Philadelphia in 5 games
#7 Columbus vs #2 Tampa Bay
Commentary: This is a rematch of first round from last year’s playoffs in which Columbus swept Tampa Bay in four games. Tampa Bay will be without forward Steven Stamkos and possibly defenseman Victor Hedman who is day to day. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper’s job will be on the line. Another early exit will likely lead to his firing. With this in mind, I think the Lightning pull this out in seven games. J.F. likes the Blue Jackets to once again eliminate the Lightning.
- My prediction: Tampa Bay in 7 games
- J.F’s prediction: Columbus in 6 games
#6 NY Islanders vs #3 Washington
Commentary: The Washington Capitals had less than stellar goaltending from Braden Holtby prior to the layoff. Watching the Capitals this year and during the Round Robin, I just don’t see the fire in the eyes of this group that I did in 2018. I think Barry Trotz’s defensive system will prevail in this series. J.F. likes the Capitals.
- My prediction: New York in 7 games
- J.F’s prediction: Washington in 6 games
#5 Carolina vs #4 Boston
Commentary: After amassing the best record in the NHL before the layoff, the Boston Bruins stumbled in the Eastern Conference seeding round robin going 0-3. They will face a dangerous opponent in the first round with the Carolina Hurricanes. This series could go either way but I will side with the Bruins experience to get through the first round. Once again, J.F. are in agreement on this series, just differing in how many games it will take.
- My prediction: Boston in 7 games
- J.F’s prediction: Boston in 6 games
#8 Chicago vs #1 Vegas
Commentary: If you took a poll on which 5 through 8 seed that you would least like to face in the 1st round, the Chicago Blackhawks would be near the top. The Blackhawks took down the Western Conference host Edmonton Oilers and seem to have found new life in the expanded playoffs. The Vegas Golden Knights looked sharp in the Round Robin format going 3-0-0 and they are the most talented of the two teams. I’ll go with Vegas here but watch how the Golden Knights goaltending situation plays out. Will it be Lehner or the experienced Fleury to guide them through the playoffs? J.F. and I both like the Golden Knights in this series.
- My prediction: Vegas in 7 games
- J.F’s prediction: Vegas in 5 games
#7 Arizona vs #2 Colorado
Commentary: After an seven seasons of failing to qualify for the playoffs, the Arizona Coyotes made it into the bracket of 16 by knocking off the Nashville Predators in the qualification round. Unfortunately for Coyote fans, I believe their run will be short-lived. The Avalanche are young, fast and too talented to not to get past the Coyotes. J.F. disagrees and likes the Coyotes to spring the first round upset.
- My prediction: Colorado is 5 games
- J.F’s prediction: Arizona in 7 games
#6 Calgary vs #3 Dallas
Commentary: This series could go either way. I don’t think either team is a serious Stanley Cup threat. Dallas has trouble scoring goals at times but have the better goaltender in Ben Bishop. I’ll go with the Stars in seven games. J.F. likes the Flames in five.
- My prediction: Dallas in 7 games
- J.F’s prediction: Calgary in 5 games
#5 Vancouver vs #4 St Louis
Commentary: After producing the best record in the Western Conference before the layoff, the defending Stanley Cup champion St Louis Blues wobbled in the Round Robin going 0-2-1. Vladimir Tarasenko is back after missing all of the regular season up to the layoff. This team still has the talent to win another Cup but I question whether they are hungry enough. The Vancouver Canucks are young, fast and have a great power-play. They will test the Blues but I think the Blues respond and get through the first round. J.F. likes the upset special with the Canucks.
- My prediction: St Louis in 6 games
- J.F’s prediction: Vancouver in 6 games
Looking for their first Stanley Cup
With a pandemic that forced the NHL into a bubble system, I thought it would be interesting to note which teams in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs that have never won the Cup. It would really stink if one of these teams wins the Stanley Cup as their fanbase won’t be able to experience it live. And a parade afterwards would probably be ill-advised due to social distancing standards. However, I am sure that these four franchises would grateful to win the Stanley Cup anyway they can:
- Vancouver Canucks – Three Stanley Cup appearances, no Stanley Cup championships in 49 seasons
- Arizona Coyotes – No Stanley Cup appearances in 23 seasons
- Columbus Blue Jackets – No Stanley Cup appearances in 19 seasons
- Vegas Golden Knights – One Stanley Cup appearance, no Stanley Cup championship in 3 seasons