With the primary spherical now full, the second spherical of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs begins Saturday.
Eight groups have punched their ticket to the subsequent stage and are one step nearer to successful the sports activities world’s biggest trophy. Remaining within the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles are six of the highest eight groups when the coronavirus pandemic hit final March, a crew you may by no means depend out (the Islanders), and a darkish horse that stands because the final remaining Canadian crew (the Canucks).
The qualifying spherical was wacky; the first spherical was simply good outdated playoff hockey with plenty of motion, together with loopy last-second objectives and big-time saves, and one of many longest additional time video games in NHL historical past.
What is going to occur within the second spherical and past is anybody’s guess. Will Vegas lastly get its Cup? Can Boston avenge final 12 months’s Recreation 7 loss? Or will a dark-horse squad take hockey’s high prize? The reply is, no person is aware of — and that is much more evident this 12 months.
As a result of something goes in bubble hockey.
MORE: Full TV schedule for Spherical 2
NHL playoffs bracket 2020
NHL playoff predictions: Japanese Convention
Philadelphia Flyers (1) vs. (6) New York Islanders
This will probably be a tactical matchup of mastermind coaches. The Islanders’ Barry Trotz is aware of learn how to squeeze the perfect out of gamers up and down his roster, and the identical is true of the Flyers’ Alain Vigneault. In the event you go all the way in which again to the 2019-20 common season, the season sequence belonged to the Islanders, who gained all three conferences (a scheduled fourth matchup was canceled after the league shut down due to the pandemic). However the previous is previous.
Thought-about a defensive-minded crew underneath Trotz, the Islanders dominated the Capitals on the scoreboard within the first spherical, scoring three.40 objectives per recreation whereas additionally sustaining what they do finest — holding the puck out of their very own internet (1.67 objectives in opposition to per recreation). For comparability’s sake, they scored 2.78 GF/GP and allowed 2.79 GA/GP within the common season.
For the Flyers, this sequence will probably be all about quick begins: They’ve led after the primary interval in six of their 9 postseason video games, they usually’ve gained all six. They’re outscoring opponents Eight-Four within the opening body. Philadelphia options balanced scoring and one of many league’s finest younger netminders in Carter Hart, who simply occurred to beat his childhood idol, Carey Value, within the first spherical.
MORE: Hart caps first playoff sequence win with ‘particular’ second
If the Islanders wish to advance previous the Flyers, then their finest participant, Mat Barzal, will must be their finest participant. Anthony Beauvillier has been a vivid spot, however Barzal must step up his recreation. In 5 video games in opposition to the Capitals, he had two objectives and two assists and an Anticipated Targets For Share (xGF%) of 53.41 at 5v5 (per Pure Stat Trick), which put him beneath the likes of J.G. Pageau, Anders Lee and Josh Bailey. He’ll must deliver his velocity and scoring contact on this spherical.
The large quantity
Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux has zero objectives by way of 9 postseason video games, though it hasn’t been for a scarcity of making an attempt; he has 20 photographs on internet, one behind Kevin Hayes, who notched his first objective of the postseason in Recreation 6 in opposition to the Canadiens. Giroux scored 21 objectives throughout the common season, together with a team-leading seven power-play objectives (tied with Ivan Provorov). Think about how deadly this Flyers lineup could possibly be if their captain can get going, too.
SN’s prediction: Flyers in 7.
Tampa Bay Lightning (2) vs. Boston Bruins (Four)
Two of the league’s finest groups will meet in an Atlantic Division rivalry sequence. The final time they noticed one another within the common season, a full-on line brawl broke out. Good instances. Their round-robin matchup was extra subdued, however anticipate this sequence to be a dogfight.
It will likely be an evenly matched tilt between veteran rosters. They’re mirror photographs, in actual fact: Boston averaged three.00 GF/GP and allowed 2.20 GA/GP within the first spherical, whereas the Lightning averaged 2.80 GF/GP and allowed 2.40 GA/GP. Every crew has depth scoring, function gamers, stable goaltending — Andrei Vasilevskiy is a Vezina Trophy finalist — and veterans on the blue line who cannot solely cease the opposition but in addition put factors on the board.
This sequence can even be a chess match between Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper and Boston coach Bruce Cassidy, the boys behind the final two groups to win the Presidents’ Trophy.
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With Tuukka Rask leaving the bubble, all eyes will probably be on veteran netminder Jaroslav Halak, who shared the 2020 Jennings Trophy with Rask because the league leaders in fewest objectives allowed.
In three first-round begins, Halak posted a formidable .932 save proportion, and amongst 16 goalies who began a minimum of three video games, he ranked fourth with a 1.67 goals-against common. He posted a .929 save proportion at even power, stopping 52 of 54 photographs. If he can keep this in opposition to the Lightning’s offense, then the sequence may tilt the Bruins’ manner.
The large quantity
However Halak will face an enormous take a look at at even power. The Lightning’s Anticipated Targets For (xGF) by way of their first eight postseason video games at 5v5 was 17.88 (in response to Pure Stat Trick). Boston’s xGF was 12.87. Of their first-round assembly with the Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay posted a 12.46 xGF, second-best within the league. Boston’s was solely Eight.14 within the first spherical in opposition to the Hurricanes. Tampa Bay even had a greater xGF within the round-robin assembly (2.72-1.53).
And take a look at this heatmap from that recreation (Pure Stat Trick). The Lightning dominated in entrance of the Bruins’ internet at 5v5. If they’ll do this once more in Spherical 2, then this could also be a brief sequence.
SN’s decide: Lightning in 6.
Philadelphia Flyers (1) vs. Montreal Canadiens (Eight)
SN’s decide: Flyers in 5Sequence end result: Flyers in 6
Tampa Bay Lightning (2) vs. Blue Jackets (7)
SN’s decide: Blue Jackets in 7Sequence end result: Lightning in 5
Capitals (three) vs. Islanders (6)
SN’s decide: Islanders in 6 Sequence end result: Islanders in 5
Bruins (Four) vs. Hurricanes (5)
SN’s decide: Hurricanes in 7Sequence end result: Bruins in 5
MORE: Every little thing to know in regards to the NHL’s bubble cities
NHL playoff predictions: Western Convention
Vegas Golden Knights (1) vs. Vancouver Canucks (5)
The Canucks dismantled the defending champion Blues in spectacular style; now they face a fair more durable take a look at within the Golden Knights. Whatever the final result, this sequence will probably be fairly enjoyable to observe.
Vegas has the perfect 1-2 punch in internet with Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury; on the different finish, Vancouver netminder Jacob Markstrom is constructing fairly the resume following a formidable common season with ridiculous acrobatic, diving saves within the playoffs.
Each groups have depth scoring, velocity, stable protection — Quinn Hughes continues to point out maturity past his years, one of many causes he is a Calder Trophy finalist — and savvy bench bosses in Travis Inexperienced (Vancouver) and Pete DeBoer (Vegas). Vegas’ ability and measurement push it over the sting
Travis Inexperienced. In his third season behind the Canucks’ bench, Inexperienced has proven an uncanny knack for getting the perfect out of his gamers. Not afraid to place his traces in a blender, he discovered the correct mixtures on the proper instances in pushing his crew to knock off the Blues.
The large quantity
60.6 p.c: That is the Golden Knights’ Scoring Possibilities For proportion (per Pure Stat Trick). Principally, they’ve gotten far more scoring possibilities for than in opposition to: 209 Scoring Possibilities For to 139 Scoring Possibilities In opposition to, to be actual. On the flip facet, Vancouver has allowed 215 SCA, which may harm it in opposition to the extremely expert crew from Nevada. Markstrom must be on high of his recreation much more than he was in opposition to St. Louis if the Canucks are to preserve the Golden Knights from shifting on.
SN’s decide — Vegas in 6.
Colorado Avalanche (2) vs. Dallas Stars (three)
The Avalanche are rolling alongside. They gained two of their three round-robin video games, with the lone loss being in additional time to the No. 1-seeded Golden Knights, after which simply dominated the Coyotes in a five-game first-round victory. Dallas is coming off two beautiful comebacks of their sequence in opposition to the Flames. They will positively be flying excessive after successful Recreation 5 in additional time after scoring the game-tying objective with 12 seconds left in regulation after which successful Recreation 6 in a blowout after taking place by three within the first seven minutes.
It appears to be like as if Anton Khudobin will probably be within the crease for Dallas going ahead as 2019 Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop has been unfit to play for a variety of video games. Khudobin, who led the league with a .930 save proportion throughout the common season, was in internet for the Stars’ round-robin matchup with the Avs, which Colorado gained convincingly Four-Zero. As for the Avs’ goaltending state of affairs, coach Jared Bednar has relied closely upon Philipp Grubauer, who was in internet for all 4 wins in opposition to Arizona and posted a glowing .953 save proportion.
In fact, it does not harm that Grubauer has a few of the most dynamic gamers within the recreation in entrance of him — reminiscent of 2020 Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon — and different gamers who can bury the puck at a second’s discover. Colorado gained 4 of its first eight video games by three or extra objectives. Dallas is getting its offense from the likes of Joe Pavelski, Denis Gurianov and sophomore defenseman Miro Heiskanen. If they’ll get Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin going, then this could possibly be a barnburner of a sequence.
Nazem Kadri has lastly arrived. He is recognized to place up numbers within the common season, however the middle has struggled to remain in postseason lineups, though not due to coaches’ choices or harm. The earlier two postseasons, Kadri watched from the press field after being suspended by the league.
A 12 months faraway from his second suspension and with a new franchise, a extra mature Kadri has develop into a dominating determine for the Avalanche. He has 11 factors (six objectives, 5 assists) in eight postseason video games, and his two markers within the sequence clincher in opposition to the Coyotes gave him back-to-back multigoal video games. He’s tied with 4 others atop the NHL’s postseason goal-scoring record and leads the league with 5 power-play objectives.
“Reflecting on the time I spent in Toronto, simply trying again, clearly you wish to be taught out of your errors and simply making an attempt to mature as an individual and as a participant and as a teammate,” Kadri mentioned after Recreation 5. “I believe I am no extra invaluable on the ice than I’m within the penalty field or within the press field. So, simply making an attempt to remain calm on the market and composed and, like I mentioned, I simply wish to assist my crew win and I believe staying in video games would do this.”
MORE: Ex-Leaf Nazem Kadri exhibiting maturity, main Avs playoff push
The large quantity
The Avalanche’s energy play is clicking, to say the least. Colorado is at a whopping 30.6 p.c effectivity with the person benefit. Among the many 16 groups that performed bubble hockey within the first spherical, Dallas’ penalty kill is tied for 13th (with Vancouver) at 72.2 p.c. Evidently, Stars coach Rick Bowness wants to ensure his guys keep out of the field, or else it will be a brief sequence.
SN’s decide: Avalanche in 6.
Vegas Golden Knights (1) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (Eight)
SN’s decide: Golden Knights in 5Sequence end result: Golden Knights in 5
Colorado Avalanche (2) vs. Arizona Coyotes (7)
SN’s decide: Avalanche in FourSequence end result: Avalanche in 5
Dallas Stars (three) vs. Calgary Flames (6)
SN’s decide: Flames in 5Sequence end result: Stars in 6
St. Louis Blues (1) vs. Vancouver Canucks (5)
SN’s decide: Canucks in 7Sequence end result: Canucks in 6
NHL playoff odds to win Stanley Cup
Courtesy of Sports activities Insider, listed below are the 2020 Stanley Cup Ultimate odds for the remaining eight groups within the NHL playoff bubbles:
Vegas Golden Knights
Tampa Bay Lightning
New York Islanders
Stanley Cup Ultimate picks
Japanese Convention champion: Philadelphia Flyers
Western Convention champion: Vegas Golden Knights
Stanley Cup champion: Philadelphia Flyers in seven video games
Conn Smythe Trophy: Carter Hart