Stanley Cup Playoffs 2020: Examining Latest Round-Robin Qualifying ResultsAugust 7, 2020
When the 2019-20 NHL season resumed August 1, there were eight teams guaranteed spots in the conference quarterfinals of the Stanley Cup playoffs—the top four teams from each conference when play was suspended in March.
As the other 16 teams play best-of-five qualifying-round series, those eight teams are playing round-robin games to determine the seeding at the top of each conference. Those teams have played two of their three round-robin matchups, and two showdowns with the No. 1 seeds on the line are set to take place. By Sunday, the bracket will be set for the quarterfinals.
Here's a look at the NHL playoff picture, followed by a breakdown of the final round-robin seeding matchups.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-0-0, 4 points)
2. Philadelphia Flyers (2-0-0, 4 points)
3. Washington Capitals (0-1-1, 1 point)
4. Boston Bruins (0-2-0, 0 points)
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. 9 Columbus Blue Jackets lead No. 8 Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1
1. Colorado Avalanche (2-0-0, 4 points)
2. Vegas Golden Knights (2-0-0, 4 points)
3. St. Louis Blues (0-2-0, 0 points)
4. Dallas Stars (0-2-0, 0 points)
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 lead No. 10 Minnesota Wild 2-1
No. 8 Calgary Flames defeated No. 9 Winnipeg Jets 3-1
Lightning, Flyers Set to Face Off to Be East No. 1
On Saturday, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers will play their round-robin seeding game. The winner will be the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, while the loser will fall to No. 2 (they're guaranteed to not fall any lower because the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins are both winless.
Tampa Bay had 92 points in the regular season, the second-most in the Eastern Conference, and Jon Cooper's team has been impressive during the round-robin seeding games. It opened with a shootout victory over Washington and then notched a 3-2 win over Boston, which had an NHL-high 100 points during the regular season.
Last year, the Lightning were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but they got swept by the No. 8 Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round, so they have a lot to prove this postseason.
"We're treating it as if it's do or die right now," Lightning forward Blake Coleman said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "Seeding still matters, and obviously the teams that are competing in the qualifiers are going to be ready. It's really on us to treat it the right way, and if you don't, you're going to be behind the eight ball."
Of the top four teams in the conference, the Flyers had the fewest regular-season points with 89. But they have gotten off to an impressive start in the NHL's Toronto hub, beating the Bruins 4-1 and the Capitals 3-1 in their first two round-robin games.
"I like our work ethic, I like how we're trying to play the smart way," Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com).
In order for Philadelphia to land the top seed, it will have to avenge a pair of regular-season losses to Tampa Bay. The Lightning beat the Flyers 1-0 on Jan. 11 and notched a 5-3 victory over them on Feb. 15.
Avalanche, Golden Knights Going Head-to-Head for West's Top Seed
The St. Louis Blues may be the defending Stanley Cup champions and the Western Conference's regular-season points leader, but they are not one of the two teams that still has a chance of landing the West's No. 1 seed.
Those teams are the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights, who will face off Saturday, with the winner earning the No. 1 seed and the loser falling to No. 2.
Through Colorado's first two seeding games, it's only allowed one total goal. It beat St. Louis 2-1 and then blanked the Dallas Stars 4-0. In the latter contest, goaltender Pavel Francouz had 27 saves and recorded his second career shutout.
"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," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "I like to see our team get rewarded for 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."
Meanwhile, Vegas has won its first two seeding games in a different fashion. The Golden Knights have already scored 11 goals, as they beat the Stars 5-3 and defeated the Blues 6-4. If they continue to play that well on the offensive end, it could be difficult for the Avalanche's strong defense to contain them.
Shea Theodore and Alex Tuch each scored a pair of goals in Vegas' victory over St. Louis, during which the Golden Knights outshot the Blues 38-17.
"We came into Edmonton wanting to play our best hockey, whether that got us three wins or no wins," Vegas right winger Mark Stone said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "So long as we're playing well, we feel confident against anyone."
During the regular season, the Avalanche won both their games against the Golden Knights in convincing fashion. They notched a 6-1 win on Oct. 25 and a 7-3 victory on Dec. 23. But this will be the first time the teams have played in 2020, and considering Vegas has a different head coach—not to mention the four-month layoff and hub setting—things could be different in Saturday's meeting.