Over the last couple of prediction pieces, we’ve pictured what the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs would look like after the play-in, round-robin, and quarter-final series. Now, we are getting down to the truly elite teams in the NHL. After the quarter-final rounds have played through, it’s time for the semi-finals. Four teams remain in the east and four teams remain in the west. Which teams will have the opportunity to leave it all on the to faceoff in the conference finals?
- (1) Tampa Bay Lightning vs (4) New York Islanders
In the NHL’s Eastern Conference, the true underdog story in 2020 could be the one told by the New York Islanders. The only time the Islanders have been favored up to this point was during the play-in series against the Florida Panthers. Not only do I have them defeating the Panthers in the play-in, but New York has a very realistic chance of toppling the Washington Capitals in the quarter-finals.
My predicted opponents in the semi-finals for the New York Islanders have a conflicting story. The Tampa Bay Lightning are the top dogs of the NHL’s Eastern Conference. Of the top four teams battling for top seeding in the round-robin series, the Lightning very well could be the cream of the crop. To this point, they are the favorites in every possible match-up.
Call me crazy, call me what you will. I predict a deep playoff run for the New York Islanders and it doesn’t stop with the Tampa Bay Lightning. During the 2019-2020 regular season, the Islanders were 2-1-0 against the Lightning with a plus-five goal differential. New York has their number and has shown that they win decisively. Both Islanders goaltenders have turned in strong performances against Tampa Bay, but I believe Anders Lee will be the player of this series. I give this series six games.
- (2) Philadelphia Flyers vs (3) Boston Bruins
Oh wow, the Boston Bruins ought to have a huge chip on their shoulder throughout the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. Imagine being on a team that has an eight-point lead on the second strongest team in the conference just for it to not matter at all. That’s what the round-robin tournament says. In fact, one team that I predict seeding better than the Bruins are the Washington Capitals, who don’t even make it past the quarter-finals. Although I predict Boston defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the quarter-finals, their road doesn’t get any easier in the semi-finals.
This match-up, in particular, is an interesting one. Just before the pause of the 2019-2020 NHL regular season, the Philadelphia Flyers challenged the Boston Bruins. Shayne Gostisbehere returned and the Flyers were buzzing. It just wasn’t Philadelphia’s night as the Bruins played a complete game, earning the shutout win. If anyone knows that the Flyers are always a threat, it’s Boston.
Expect this series to go the full-length. An exhausting seven-game series between the rivals with overtime periods will be had. The exclamation point will be put on the case for Sean Couturier and the Frank J. Selke Trophy. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Philadelphia Flyers will face the New York Islanders.
- (1) St. Louis Blues vs (4) Minnesota Wild
Through this point, the St. Louis Blues are the unstoppable force in the NHL’s Western Conference. They were the top team in the west before the round-robin series and I predicted that won’t change. In the NHL quarter-final round, my prediction shows the Blues sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks. St. Louis has the easiest path through the playoffs, including the Eastern Conference franchises, per my predictions.
The NHL’s Western Conference is shaping out to be “the wild west” if these predictions are to be taken as gospel. When the 24-team playoff format was released, I didn’t think there would be a true play-in team that would be in the semi-finals. Yet, here I am after predicting the Minnesota Wild to advance past the Vancouver Canucks and the Vegas Golden Knights. Are the Wild a “trap opponent” for the St. Louis Blues?
After consulting the oracle, my reply is no. Jordan Binnington is the driving force behind the St. Louis Blues success this series. Overall, the Blues just have more weapons and depth which will overpower the Minnesota Wild. The Wild will put up a better fight than the Chicago Blackhawks did, per my predictions. That doesn’t say a lot, but I’m taking St. Louis in five.
- (2) Colorado Avalanche vs (3) Winnipeg Jets
Ladies and gentlemen, I present exhibit “B” of “the wild west.” Just like the Minnesota Wild, the Winnipeg Jets are another true play-in team that I have making a deep playoff run. The Jets are no pushover. I believe they will handle the Calgary Flames and be victorious in a gutsy series performance against the Dallas Stars. Could the underdog story have more pages?
When the round-robin series is complete in the west, the Colorado Avalanche have a bit in common with the Boston Bruins. I have the Avalanche as the lowest seed of the round-robin teams in the NHL’s Western Conference. Unlike the Bruins, Colorado finds a way to be the higher seed in the NHL semi-finals. In the quarter-finals, I have the Avalanche controlling the Nashville Predators. So, does their success continue?
If you are here for the underdog story, I apologize. That claim through the semi-finals belongs exclusively to the New York Islanders. If this is a series match-up in the semi-finals, expect it to be competitive. I’ll admit that I see an opportunity for the Winnipeg Jets to steal a series win, but my prediction goes to the Colorado Avalanche in six games. For the Avalanche to advance, a superstar performance from Nathan MacKinnon is vital.
Next up, it’s all down to four teams. In the east, it boils down to the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers. For the west, it’s all about the match-up between the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche. When the smoke has cleared and the Stanley Cup Finals are set, we could be talking about a championship series that is worth the wait!
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