NHL Playoff Picture 2020: Breaking Down Standings and Current Postseason BracketAugust 6, 2020
The Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks are the No. 12 seeds in the NHL's qualifying round, the final teams to be included in their respective conferences. The Arizona Coyotes were also one of the last teams to make it in as the No. 11 seed in the Western Conference. And now, all three teams are one win away from upsetting their opponents and advancing.
All three of those teams were victorious on Wednesday as the qualifying round continued to bring exciting action. The night was capped by Chicago's 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers, which gives it a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
Montreal defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 and Arizona notched a 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators as both teams are also up 2-1 in their respective series.
If the Canadiens and Blackhawks advance to the conference quarterfinals, they'll have to play the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences. However, they won't know who that will be until the round-robin seeding games (which feature the top four teams from each conference) are complete.
Here's a full breakdown of how things stand in the NHL's playoff picture.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-0-0, 4 points)
2. Philadelphia Flyers (1-0-0, 2 points)
3. Washington Capitals (0-0-1, 1 point)
4. Boston Bruins (0-2-0, 0 points)
Although the Bruins had 100 points in the regular season, the most in the NHL, they're now mathematically eliminated from the race for the No. 1 seed after losing consecutive games to the Flyers and Lightning. They also won't be able to get higher than the No. 3 seed.
"That part sucks, I'm not going to lie to you," Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "But that's the situation this year with the stoppage of play. We knew the rules going into it. We're just trying to win a hockey game right now. Would I rather be the No. 1 seed? Absolutely. But that's not going to happen."
Meanwhile, the Lightning are in control of the race, as they'll secure the top seed if they can win their final round-robin game against the Flyers on Saturday. Tampa Bay has been impressive so far in its return to the ice, notching a shootout victory over Washington and a win over Boston, both by a 3-2 score.
On Thursday, the Flyers and Capitals are set to face off in what could be a critical matchup for deciding the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds, although each team will still have one more round-robin game to play after their head-to-head meeting.
No. 12 Montreal Canadiens lead No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1
No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes defeated No. 11 New York Rangers 3-0
No. 7 New York Islanders lead No. 10 Florida Panthers 2-1
No. 8 Toronto Maple Leafs and No. 9 Columbus Blue Jackets tied 1-1
The Hurricanes made quick work of the Rangers, as they were the only team to sweep their opponent during the qualifying round. Now, they'll wait to see how the rest of the qualifying round and the round-robin seeding games unfold before knowing their next opponent.
The Canadiens aren't the only Eastern Conference team one win away from advancing, as the Islanders also hold a 2-1 lead in their series against the Panthers. New York had a chance to sweep Florida on Wednesday, but the Panthers notched a 3-2 win on Wednesday to extend the series.
"I thought the whole series we've given them some opportunities by being undisciplined. And I thought our guys worked hard. They worked for each other. They played a simpler game," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "We've had better results when we do that type of game, and against an Islanders team, that's the way you've got to play if you want to be successful."
Only one Eastern Conference qualifying-round series is currently tied, as the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets will each look to gain the advantage when the teams face off Thursday night.
1. Colorado Avalanche (2-0-0, 4 points)
2. Vegas Golden Knights (1-0-0, 2 points)
3. St. Louis Blues (0-1-0, 0 points)
4. Dallas Stars (0-2-0, 0 points)
First, the Avalanche returned to the ice with a thrilling 2-1 win over the Blues. Nazem Kadri scored the game-winning goal with 0.1 seconds remaining, with the puck just barely crossing the line in time. Things weren't as close in Colorado's second round-robin game on Wednesday, as it dominated in a 4-0 win over Dallas.
That puts the Avalanche in good position to secure the No. 1 seed after they had trailed the Blues by two points for the top spot when the regular season was suspended in mid-March.
"We're certainly trying to give ourselves every advantage we possibly can going into the playoffs and home ice is one of them, even though we're playing in Edmonton," Colorado coach Jared Bednar said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "I'd like to see our team get rewarded through all their hard work through the regular season and get the top seed, and then we reset and start over for a seven-game series."
The Blues are looking to win the Stanley Cup for the second straight season. But right now, they're aiming to bounce back from that opening loss to the Avalanche when they take on the Golden Knights on Thursday in another game that will be crucial in deciding the seeding in the Western Conference.
No. 12 Chicago Blackhawks lead No. 5 Edmonton Oilers 2-1
No. 11 Arizona Coyotes lead No. 6 Nashville Predators 2-1
No. 7 Vancouver Canucks and No. 10 Minnesota Wild tied 1-1
No. 8 Calgary Flames lead No. 9 Winnipeg Jets 2-1
The Oilers, Predators and Jets all face tough situations in their qualifying-round matchups. They'll each need to win back-to-back games to stave off elimination and advance to the conference quarterfinals.
Both Chicago and Arizona have displayed resiliency while trying to pull off big upsets in the qualifying round.
The Blackhawks nearly went down in their series Wednesday night, as the Oilers held a 3-2 lead late in the third period. However, Matthew Highmore tied the game with five minutes, 47 seconds to go, then Jonathan Toews put them ahead, scoring the game-winning goal with 1:16 remaining.
After holding off a late Predators charge in Game 1, the Coyotes lost 4-2 in Game 2. But they bounced back in Wednesday's Game 3, using a trio of third-period goals and stellar play from goaltender Darcy Kuemper to notch a 4-1 victory.
There have never been teams lower than a No. 8 seed in the playoffs, so Chicago and Arizona will both be looking to make history this postseason if it can complete these upsets and go on a run through the Western Conference.