Back in July, 24 teams entered the NHL’s bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto. A few weeks later, 16 of them remained, and the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs officially began. And then, there were eight.
After an action-packed first round of the NHL’s postseason, the field for the second round of the playoffs is set and has been re-seeded accordingly. Now, the real fun begins as teams look to make the final push to their respective Conference Finals, before hopefully appearing in the Stanley Cup Final in September.
As the amount of games fans are able to watch dwindles down, the intensity will surely ramp up, and it may get tough to follow all of the madness despite the smaller number of teams left in the bubbles.
But, to help you keep everything straight, here is a breakdown of each series taking place in the second round, complete with both analysis and a full schedule.
No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 5 Vancouver Canucks
While it may not be the first Western Conference Semifinal to hit the ice over in Edmonton, the series between the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks will feature the top seed in the Western Conference, and one of the more shocking teams to make a run out of the bunch.
After a dominant run in the conference’s Round Robin, the Golden Knights are in hot pursuit of another chance at a Stanley Cup Final appearance, looking to replicate the result of two years ago when they took home the Campbell Bowl in their inaugural season.
Meanwhile, the Canucks are coming off a stellar performance against the reigning Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues, and have the momentum of a 6-2 win in a series-clinching Game 6 on their side as they head into the Western Conference Semifinals.
Can hard-hitting Canucks forward Tyler Motte (four goals in his last two games) ride his scoring wave, and can goalie Jacob Markstrom (.929 save percentage) stay strong to keep the upset train moving for Vancouver?
Or, will Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner (five wins in his six postseason starts this summer) and forwards Mark Stone (eight points in his last eight postseason games) and Max Pacioretty (two points in his last four postseason games) help Vegas make quick work of the Canucks to advance to the next round?
Prediction: Golden Knights win in six games
Game 1: Sunday, August 23 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Game 2: Tuesday, August 25 at 9:45 p.m. ET
Game 3: Saturday, August 29 at 9:45 p.m. ET
Game 4: Sunday, August 30 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Game 5: Tuesday, September 1 at 9:45 p.m. ET
Game 6 (if necessary): Thursday, September 3, time TBD
Game 7 (if necessary): Friday, September 4, time TBD
No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 3 Dallas Stars
Arguably the best series to watch from an offensive standpoint, the second-seeded Colorado Avalanche and third-seeded Dallas Stars are surely set to put on a fireworks show when the series begins the bracket’s second round on August 22.
Both teams dispatched of their first-round opponents rather easily, with the Avalanche eliminating the Arizona Coyotes in a 7-1 shellacking in Game 5 of their series, and the Stars putting up seven goals of their own in a 7-3 Game 6 win against the Calgary Flames.
Now, these two offensive powerhouses are set to square off in the second round with a spot in the Western Conference Final waiting in the wings for the winner.
The Stars will need continued production from players like 21-year-old Miro Heiskanen (12 points in his last nine postseason games) and Joe Pavelski (eight points and six goals in his last nine postseason games).
On the other end, the Avalanche will need peak performances from superstar Nathan MacKinnon (13 points in his last eight postseason games) and a fresh face in the Avalanche’s postseason quest in Nazem Kadri (11 points with six goals in his last eight postseason games) to keep the pressure on Stars goalies Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin.
Those manning the net in this series are surely losing sleep at night in anticipation of the offensive prowess that’s set to hit the ice in this series, and it’ll be up to Bishop/Khudobin and Avalanche goalies Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz to block out the pressure if either team wants to advance in this one.
Don’t be surprised if this series exceeds 50 goals scored throughout its entirety, and don’t be shocked if it reaches a pivotal Game 7, either.
Prediction: Avalanche win in seven games
Game 1: Saturday, August 22 at 8 p.m. ET
Game 2: Monday, August 24 at 9:45 p.m. ET
Game 3: Saturday, August 29 at 9:45 p.m. ET
Game 4: Sunday, August 30 at 6 p.m. ET
Game 5: Monday, August 31 at 9:45 p.m. ET
Game 6 (if necessary): Wednesday, September 2, time TBD
Game 7 (if necessary): Friday, September 4, time TBD
No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 6 New York Islanders
When the Eastern Conference Round Robin first began, not many expected the Philadelphia Flyers to be the team to come out on top in a group that also included the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals. But, they powered through and took home the conference’s top seed as a result.
They took advantage of that placement by defeating the Montreal Canadiens in a six-game series, albeit taking longer than their Eastern Conference counterparts as far as how long it took to advance to the Second Round.
Meanwhile, the sixth-seeded New York Islanders pulled off a shocker of their own, also proving their worth against the Capitals and upsetting the former Stanley Cup Champions in a five-game series.
Both teams playing against one another guarantees an “underdog” type of story come the Eastern Conference Final, but the two teams don’t exactly look like Cinderella stories when you see them out on the ice. Both squads look like they’re exactly where they’re supposed to be.
The Flyers pulling out consistently close victories against the Canadiens due to clutch goaltending from Carter Hart, who just recently turned 22 years old while in the bubble. Meanwhile, key cogs in the offensive machine like Jakob Voracek (eight points in his last eight postseason games) and Kevin Hayes (seven points in his last nine postseason games) kept the pace up throughout the series’ six games.
The Islanders make it look easy against a powerful Capitals attack, outscoring the Caps 11-5 through the series’ first three games, and finishing the series out with a 4-0 shutout in Game 5 to send Washington packing. Semyon Varlamov has been strong in the Islanders net throughout those games, with seven wins and a .934 save percentage in his nine postseason starts this year.
Both of these squads are incredibly well-rounded, and it’s tough to choose a side when evaluating both teams. Expect a close series here, and potentially another one that could take seven games to decide.
Prediction: Flyers in seven games
Game 1: Monday, August 24 at 7 p.m. ET
Game 2: Wednesday, August 26 at 3 p.m. ET
Game 3: Saturday, August 29 at 7 p.m. ET
Game 4: Sunday, August 30 at 8 p.m. ET
Game 5: Tuesday, September 1 at 7 p.m. ET
Game 6: (if necessary): Thursday, September 3, time TBD
Game 7 (if necessary): Saturday, September 5, time TBD
No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 4 Boston Bruins
Simply put, the hockey gods did not disappoint with this one.
Yes, if the regular season standings had held up like they usually do, the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning likely would’ve met in the Eastern Conference Final, with a spot in the Stanley Cup Final on the line. The two top teams in the Eastern Conference standings, both looking to finally prove who would come out on top in a seven-game series.
Fans of the Bruins may have been upset by the round-robin format that the league decided to go with for its resumption of play, considering the fact that they fell to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference as a result. But, they didn’t let that, or the fact that star forward David Pastrnak was forced to miss three games, deter them from their ultimate goal. They stifled the Hurricanes’ hopes, and advanced to the second round in just five games.
Meanwhile, the Lightning looked for revenge against the Columbus Blue Jackets after the latter sent Tampa Bay home early last summer in a massive upset in the first round. And, if the Lightning needed to, it looked like they were ready to play the equivalent of 10 games to make it happen.
It took five overtimes for Brayden Point to finally end Game 1 and give the Lightning an early series lead, and head coach Jon Cooper’s players didn’t let up from there. After losing 3-1 in Game 2, the Lightning stormed back to rattle off three straight wins, clinching the series with a 5-4 overtime victory in Game 5.
Now, both teams enter their truest test. The best two teams in the Eastern Conference, both equipped with some of the best offensive stars in the game, ready to do battle midway through the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Bruins will need to put together three periods of good hockey, which they struggled to do against the Hurricanes in their opening round series. Sure, they bounced back in a big way with stellar second or third periods, including a four-goal third period in Game 4.
Jake DeBrusk netted two in that one, Connor Clifton added another and a beautiful one from Brad Marchand was the icing on the cake, proving that the Bruins can score with anyone on any of their lines. If Pastrnak is healthy and players like Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci can keep up their veteran leadership and strong play, then watch out for another potential run to the Stanley Cup Final for the B’s.
But, the Lightning won’t be going down that easily. Victor Hedman is still a superstar, and Point turned into a hero for Tampa Bay throughout the duration of that series against the Blue Jackets. Expect physical play to counteract the Bruins’ top two lines, and stellar goaltending from Andrei Vasilevskiy (.927 save percentage and six wins this postseason) to top it off.
This one will come down to the wire, but expect the Bruins’ postseason experience to foil the Lightning’s plans and empty up the bubble in Toronto a little bit more.
Prediction: Bruins in six games
Game 1: Sunday, August 23 at 8 p.m. ET
Game 2: Tuesday, August 25 at 7 p.m. ET
Game 3: Wednesday, August 26 at 8 p.m. ET
Game 4: Saturday, August 29 at 12:00 p.m. ET
Game 5: Monday, August 3 at 7 p.m. ET
Game 6: (if necessary): Wednesday, September 2, time TBD
Game 7 (if necessary): Thursday, September 3, time TBD