NHL Playoff Picture 2020: Updated Bracket Results and Predictions

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2020

Edmonton Oilers forward Conor McDavid (97) skates during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

The New York Rangers made the postseason and were eliminated before the playoffs.

If that makes sense.

With the 2019-20 season cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Hockey League decided to implement a system of qualifying-round series to make the traditional 16-team playoffs. The Nos. 5-12 seeds in each conference were slated to play each other in best-of-five series for the right to advance to the playoffs while the top four seeds squared off in round-robin play for seeding purposes.

New York was the first team to be eliminated when the Carolina Hurricanes finished their quick sweep of Artemi Panarin and Co. on Tuesday.

Here is an updated look at where the bracket stands, as well as predicted winners for each remaining series. Predicted winners are in bold.

            

Eastern Conference

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  • No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 12 Montreal Canadiens: Series tied 1-1
  • No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. No. 11 New York Rangers: Hurricanes win 3-0
  • No. 7 New York Islanders vs. No. 10 Florida Panthers: Islanders lead 2-0 
  • No. 8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Columbus Blue Jackets: Series tied 1-1

           

Western Conference

  • No. 5 Edmonton Oilers vs. No. 12 Chicago Blackhawks: Series tied 1-1
  • No. 6 Nashville Predators vs. No. 11 Arizona Coyotes: Series tied 1-1
  • No. 7 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 10 Minnesota WildSeries tied 1-1
  • No. 8 Calgary Flames vs. No. 9 Winnipeg Jets: Flames lead 2-1

          

Wednesday Matchup to Watch: Blackhawks vs. Oilers

Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

Want star power that can turn a short series at a moment's notice? Then the battle between the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks is the one for you.

On the one side is Connor McDavid, who already has a Hart Memorial Trophy and may be the best player in the league at 23 years old. He is far from a one-man show, as Leon Draisaitl was named a Hart Trophy finalist this season and led Edmonton with 110 points, 67 assists and 43 goals in 71 games before play was suspended.

On the other side is the legendary trio of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith, who won three Stanley Cups together during Chicago's stretch of dominance from 2010 through 2015 and have already cemented their place in NHL history regardless of how the rest of their careers on the ice unfold.

The veterans struck first with a 6-4 victory in Game 1, as Toews scored twice and notched an assist. Keith and Kane combined for three assists as well, but it was Dominik Kubalik who played the starring role with five points behind two goals and three assists.

McDavid was not going to fade away easily.

The superstar countered with a hat trick in Game 2, leading the Oilers to a 6-3 victory in a back-and-forth contest that saw them relinquish a two-goal lead just to score the final three goals.

That sets the stage for a swing game Wednesday.

Whichever defense sets the tone will likely come away with the victory considering there has been no shortage of offensive firepower with so many playmakers on the ice. Predicting which defense that will be is a guessing game considering neither has provided reason for confidence, so the thought here is the experience of Chicago will come through with a chance to seize control of the series.

After all, what is the pressure of a qualifying series for a core that has won three Stanley Cups together?