NHL's Top Stats, Best Highlights, Updated Playoff Picture from Aug. 9 ResultsAugust 10, 2020
Welcome to 2020, where NHL games have no fans and the Philadelphia Flyers are apparently the best team in hockey.
As the qualifying round and the round robin wrapped up Sunday, the NHL playoff picture looks nothing like it did when play stopped on March 12 due to the coronavirus.
At that time, the Boston Bruins were looking untouchable atop the Eastern Conference as the first team to 100 points and the presumptive No. 1 seed. The second team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, sat eight points behind them.
In the West, the reigning Stanley Cup champions, St. Louis Blues, occupied a more hotly contested first-place position, with 94 points. The Colorado Avalanche were breathing down their necks at 92 points.
Now, heading into first-round play, which begins Tuesday, the seeding has gone haywire.
In the East, it's the Philadelphia Flyers who have clinched the top seed after sweeping the round robin, including taking down the Lightning on Saturday. When regular season play was suspended, the Flyers were fourth in the East with 89 points. It is the first time since 2000 they have earned the No. 1 seed.
The Presidents' Trophy–winning Bruins, thanks to going 0-3 in round robin play and losing 2-1 to the Capitals on Sunday, ended up as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference
In the West, the Blues don't look primed to make a run at a second straight Cup, going 0-2-1 in the round robin and losing to the Dallas Stars 2-1 in a shootout Sunday.
By the end of the qualifying round, the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs were eliminated.
The full first-round matchups are as follows. The teams will be reseeded after each round, and the remaining rounds will be a best-of-seven format.
1. Vegas Golden Knights vs. 8. Chicago Blackhawks
2. Colorado Avalanche vs. 7. Arizona Coyotes
3. Dallas Stars vs. 6. Calgary Flames
4. St. Louis Blues vs. 5. Vancouver Canucks
1. Philadelphia Flyers vs. 8. Montreal Canadiens
2. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. 7. Columbus Blue Jackets
3. Washington Capitals vs. 6. New York Islanders
4. Boston Bruins vs. 5. Carolina Hurricanes
Top Stats and Best Highlights
The Stars managed four goals in their first two round-robin games before meeting the Blues on Sunday, and they scraped by with a win thanks to a shootout to secure the third seed in the first round.
Though the Blues held a 1-0 lead for most of Sunday's game, Joe Pavelski tied things up with 31.4 seconds to go, forcing the shootout that the Stars eventually won.
Dallas' big win came without center Tyler Seguin and starting goaltender Ben Bishop, whom the team deemed unfit to play.
As for notable stats, Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen had an assist on Pavelski's goal and five shots in Sunday's win. Through the three round-robin games, Heiskanen had four total assists. With his contract set to expire in 2021, he's making a solid case for a nice raise.
Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin made 12 saves in regulation and overtime, stopping all three shots he faced in the shootout.
Over in the East, Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby was on fire, making 30 saves and being recognized as the first star in the Capitals' 2-1 win over the Bruins to secure the No. 3 seed in the first round.
T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson scored the two goals, in the first and third periods respectively, for each of their first scores of the postseason. Washington managed only two shots on goal in the first period, but Oshie's found the back of the net.
Earlier in the postseason, NHL Twitter got a kick out of a tweet sent by Bruins top winger David Pastrnak calling Wilson "the best goal scorer in the league." Unfortunately for Boston, Pastrnak's opinion proved prophetic on Sunday when Wilson flipped one in at 2:49 of the third to give the Caps a 2-0 lead.
In the late game on Sunday, despite their late surge in Game 4 to triumph over the Blue Jackets, the Maple Leafs couldn't muster the same heroics. Columbus blanked Toronto 3-0, sending the Leafs packing in yet another series-deciding game.
Toronto has still not won an NHL postseason series since 2004.
Zach Werenski got the Blue Jackets on the board unassisted in the first. There was no scoring to speak of in the second period, but Columbus placed its stamp on the game in the third, with Liam Foudy and Nick Foligno (unassisted) both finding the net.
Proving that it's goaltenders who win postseason series, Joonas Korpisalo earned the first star of the game with his 33-save shutout.
Even with all their goal-scoring prowess, the Lighting, who will face the Blue Jackets in the first round, have surely taken note.