NHL Playoffs 2020: Stanley Cup Bracket, Schedule and Predictions

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistAugust 10, 2020

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner (90) makes a save during NHL hockey training camp, Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher/Associated Press

The four hottest teams in hockey are set to square off in two of the eight Stanley Cup playoff first-round series.

The Philadelphia Flyers and Vegas Golden Knights cruised through the round-robin phase in their respective hub cities to land the No. 1 seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences.

But earning the top seeds has not come with an easy matchup, as the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks sprung upsets as No. 12 seeds in the qualifying round.

Both underdogs have the potential to earn another series upset, but they will be much tougher tasks than downing the Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers in a shorter series.


Stanley Cup Bracket


The 2020 #StanleyCup Playoffs bracket is set‼️ https://t.co/IQPSlETG6Y



Michael Russo @RussoHockey

First round sked https://t.co/FVuVzox8cs



Philadelphia Finds Success Against Carey Price

Despite holding the No. 1 seed in the East, the Flyers face one of the most daunting first-round tasks.

The Flyers have to find a way to score in bunches during a seven-game series against Montreal goalie Carey Price, who was fantastic in his qualifying-round series against Pittsburgh.

Price averaged 31.5 saves in four games and held the Penguins scoreless in the deciding Game 4.

The Flyers split two meetings with the Canadiens when Price was in net, but in both contests, they sent an abundance of shots on net. Philadelphia scored on four of the 84 shots it sent in Price's direction.

The success rate is not ideal, but it shows the Flyers can work past the Montreal defense to get pressure on net.

Most of the Flyers' offensive success in the round-robin games came from the line of Kevin Hayes, Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton, who were responsible for all three goals in the win over Washington.

If that line continues to thrive and the Flyers receive more out of Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux, they could overwhelm Montreal.

If Philadelphia puts a few goals past Price in each game, it should end the best-of-seven series without much stress since its defense is playing at a high level. The Flyers allowed a single goal in each of their three round-robin games.


Chicago Causes Some Trouble for Vegas

Vegas' two forays in the postseason have produced a mixed bag of results.

In 2018, the Golden Knights made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, but a year ago, they failed to get out of the first round.

Vegas faces a tricky task in its third-ever first-round series against a Chicago side that is back in the round of 16 for the first time since 2017.

The Blackhawks carry some of the best experience of the lower seeds with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford still in place from their Stanley Cup title runs.

The influx of youth, led by Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik, has brought more life into the squad that dispatched the Oilers in the qualifying round.

Chicago's scoring depth, veteran presence in net and experience throughout the team could make life tough on Vegas.

Vegas can counter those strengths with things it does well and the experience its squad gained over the last two years.

The Golden Knights have a strong goalie duo in Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner and a strong defense, led by Shea Theodore, that can thwart Chicago's attacking abilities.

Since both teams do a lot of things well, the series could be decided by a fine margin and last six or seven games.

Chicago may not pull off another upset, but it might force Vegas to do more work than its fellow No. 1 seed.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.