The 2020 NHL playoffs will begin with the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in the first week of August. Of course, that’s if all goes well and the pandemic crisis doesn’t escalate. The best 24 teams from the entire league will play in two hub cities, while the clubs should open their training camps on July 10.
The top four teams from each conference will play a round-robin tournament to determine the seeders. The rest of Stanley Cup Qualifiers partakers will battle in eight best-of-5 series to reach the official first round of the playoffs.
Therefore, I want to take a closer look at all eight matchups and see who will clinch the playoff spot. Also, you need to know that the seeders won’t be determined by a set bracket, which means the highest remaining seed will play the lowest remaining seed in each conference.
This makes the 2020 Stanley Cup really tough to predict, but some of the odds available at NHL betting sites are very attractive.
Each conference will have a round-robin tournament, and the best four teams will play against each other once to determine the top seeders. It’s really hard to say who will finish atop each tournament’s standings, while the ultimate round will bring a ton of excitement, for sure.
Therefore, I suggest you be patient. Don’t risk too much money, as all teams will enter the qualifiers with pretty equal chances to earn the No. 1 seed. Wait to see what will happen in Round 1 and try to anticipate what will come in the next two rounds.
I think the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning will clinch the top two spots in the Eastern Conference. These two teams are listed as the strongest favorites to win the 2020 Stanley Cup at +500 odds.
On the other side, the Western Conference Tournament will be a joy to watch, but I wouldn’t bet on the results even with your money.
Carolina Hurricanes (-140) vs. New York Rangers (+120)
These two Metropolitan Division foes met each other four times this past regular season. The Rangers won all four matchups, and three of four wins came by two or more goals. So I’m a bit surprised by the odds in this one.
The Hurricanes had a lot of ups and downs, finishing at the fourth spot of the Metropolitan Division standings. They earned only a couple of points more than the Rangers, but New York played two games more than Carolina.
Anyway, I think the bookies have underestimated the Rangers, who possess some terrific players. Artemi Panarin tallied 95 points in 69 appearances, while Mika Zibanejad added 75 points in just 57 games. The Rangers had the fifth-best offense in hockey, netting 3.33 goals per game; they certainly stand a chance against the Canes.
Carolina, on the other side, was 11th in the league in goals per game (3.19). The Canes are a better defensive team than the Rangers, no doubt, and that’s their main advantage coming into this series. I hope to see all five games here, looking for some memorable clashes between divisional foes.
- My Pick: New York Rangers
New York Islanders (-105) vs. Florida Panthers (-115)
Surprisingly, the Florida Panthers are slight favorites to win this series, despite finishing the regular season two points behind the New York Islanders. Also, the Islanders have defeated the Panthers in all three of their encounters.
This will be the clash of two completely different teams. The Islanders lean on their defense a lot. They were ninth in the league in goals against (2.79). On the other side, the Panthers had the third-worst defense in the NHL, allowing 3.25 goals per contest.
Still, the Panthers’ offense has been one of the best in the league all season long, finishing at the sixth spot with 3.30 goals per game, which is far better than the Islanders’ 2.78 goals per contest (22nd in the league).
We should see at least four games in this series, and the Panthers will have to improve defensively a lot if they want to satisfy the odds. For those who love betting on the totals, the under is 12-5-3 in the last 20 meetings between the Islanders and Panthers and is 7-0-1 in their previous eight matchups.
- My Pick: New York Islanders
Pittsburgh Penguins (-235) vs. Montreal Canadiens (+195)
With the odds at -235 to beat the Montreal Canadiens in the best-of-five series, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the strongest favorites in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers. These two conference foes met three times in the regular season, and the Penguins have been victorious twice.
On paper, the Penguins are a far better team than the Canadiens. Although the upsets are a common thing in the NHL Playoffs, I expect the Pens to easily outlast the Habs. Pittsburgh has a pair of excellent goaltenders, while their offense looks just fine.
The Penguins were 10th in the league in goals per game (3.20) and tied 11th in goals against (2.84). On the other side, the Canadiens were 19th in goals scored (2.93) and tied 19th in goals against (3.10). Pittsburgh is 10-4 in its last 14 meetings with Montreal.
- My Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins
Toronto Maple Leafs (-165) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (+145)
The Blue Jackets have been struggling with injuries through the 2019-20 season. They were hapless away from home (13-21-11) and had the fourth-worst offense in the league with 2.57 goals per game. At least they were tied third with Arizona for the least goals conceded per game (2.61).
Having a good defense is a big deal in the postseason, but the Blue Jackets will need more from their offense. And I’m not sure they have quality options. However, they meet the Maple Leafs, whose defense has been terrible, so the Blue Jackets’ fans hope for the best.
Toronto has been surrendering a whopping 3.17 goals per game (26th in the NHL), scoring 3.39 in a return (3rd). The Maple Leafs’ D is a massive issue, and Frederik Andersen will have to play at his best to help his teammates beat Columbus.
Offensively, the Maple Leafs are undoubtedly among the most talented teams in the league. I expect them to reach the next round, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see all five games in this series. Toronto and Columbus split their two-game series in the 2019-20 regular season.
- My Pick: Toronto Maple Leafs
Calgary Flames (-115) vs. Winnipeg Jets (-105)
The Flames are coming off quite a disappointing season. They finished third in the Pacific Division with a 36-34-7 record, and the Flames have dropped nine of their last 18 games overall. The Jets earned one point more than Calgary, wrapping up the regular season as the fourth-best team in the Central Division.
The Jets should be grateful for having such a talented goalie in Connor Hellebuyck. They were 10th in the league in goals against (2.83), and Hellebuyck tallied six shutouts along with a 2.57 GAA and a .922 save percentage.
Hellebuyck will be a key guy for the Jets in the postseason, but I’m not sure he’ll be enough for greater success. The Flames, on the other side, are pretty unpredictable. Their defense could be a problem, while Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, and Elias Lindholm make a huge force upfront.
Calgary and Winnipeg met only once in the regular season, and the Jets beat the Flames 2-1 in overtime. Since the start of the 2017-18 NHL season, Winnipeg has won four of its seven encounters with Calgary. I’m looking for a tremendous battle in this series, and if you’re looking for a matchup to avoid, this is the one.
- My Pick: Calgary Flames
Edmonton Oilers (-160) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (+140)
The Oilers went 37-34-9 in the regular season, finishing at the second spot of the Pacific Division table. They were tied 14th in the league in goals per game (3.14), but with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl upfront, the Oilers were capable of scoring against anyone in the NHL.
This duo led the league in points, as Draisaitl delivered 110 (43 goals and 67 assists), while McDavid added 97 (34 goals and 63 assists). On the other side, Patrick Kane tallied 33 goals and 51 dishes for the Blackhawks, who sneaked into the qualifiers despite a poor performance in the regular season.
The Oilers have lost two of their three matchups with Chicago, but they should have enough fuel in their tank to outlast the Blackhawks in the best-of-five series. Both teams will struggle defensively, and the Oilers’ offense should be a decisive factor.
- My Pick: Edmonton Oilers
Nashville Predators (-130) vs. Arizona Coyotes (+110)
Both Nashville and Arizona have been struggling with their performance for most of the 2019-20 season. The Predators finished at the fifth spot of the Central Division standings with 78 points (35-34-8), while the Coyotes were fifth in the Pacific Division with 74 points (33-37-8).
This should be a wonderful matchup. The Predators mostly rely on their offense, scoring 3.07 goals per game (16th in the league) while surrendering 3.10 in a return (tied 20th). The Coyotes are well-known as a tremendous defensive team, allowing only 2.61 goals per contest (tied 3rd) while netting 2.71 in a return (23rd).
Arizona’s D could be a key factor in this series. Darcy Kuemper is one of the best goalies in the NHL, while Antti Raanta is an excellent backup. The Predators will have a lot of problems finding the net against the Coyotes, while their defense seems fragile.
These two teams met twice in the regular season. They split the series, while the Coyotes won seven of their previous 13 encounters with the Predators. Everything points to a very interesting series with five games on a horizon.
Vancouver Canucks (-135) vs. Minnesota Wild (+115)
The Canucks lost two of their three meetings with the Wild this past regular season and are just 1-4 in their previous five games against Minnesota. Still, Vancouver is a firm fave to eliminate the Wild in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
Vancouver finished the regular season in a bad mood thanks to 11 losses in its ultimate 17 outings. On the other side, the Wild won 12 of their last 18 contests, including a 4-2 home victory over the Canucks and a 4-3 shootout win in Vancouver.
The Canucks are should be a better team on paper than the Wild, but their defense will have to step up in order to eliminate Minnesota. Centers J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson combined for 138 points, but Jacob Markstrom will need more help at the back.
The Wild have been very inconsistent for most of the 2019-20 season. They were 12th in goals scored (3.16) and 24th in goals against (3.14). As both teams have defensive issues, I expect to see a bunch of goals in each game of this series, while the over is 12-5-2 in the last 19 meetings between Vancouver and Minnesota.
- My Pick: Vancouver Canucks