NHL Playoff Bracket 2020: Schedule, Format and Stanley Cup Odds

Jake RillSenior Analyst IIIAugust 10, 2020

Carolina Hurricanes' Justin Williams (14) celebrates with Jordan Staal after scoring against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, March 8, 2020, in Pittsburgh. The Hurricanes won 6-2. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

While the start of this year's NHL postseason was unorthodox, everything will be relatively normal from here on out.

During the 16-team qualifying round, which featured eight best-of-five series, three teams pulled off huge upsets to advance to the first round of the playoffs. Both No. 12 seeds (the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks) moved on, as did the Arizona Coyotes, who were the No. 11 seed in the Western Conference.

Teams have been reseeded Nos. 1-8 in each conference, per usual, with the top four being decided by the round-robin seeding games that took place while the qualifying round was being played. However, there's a strong chance that, had the season not been paused for four-and-a-half months because of the coronavirus pandemic, at least one of the Canadiens, Blackhawks or Coyotes may not have reached the postseason.

But those teams capitalized on their opportunities, and now the bracket for the first round of this year's playoffs is set. Games will continue to be played without fans in the NHL's Canadian hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta.

Here's a look at the schedule before the first round gets underway, followed by current Stanley Cup odds and a breakdown of some of the most intriguing matchups.


Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday, Aug. 11

Game 1: No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets at No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning, 3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 1: No. 6 Calgary Flames at No. 3 Dallas Stars, 5:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 1: No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes at No. 4 Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 1: No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks at No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network


Wednesday, Aug. 12

Game 1: No. 6 New York Islanders at No. 3 Washington Capitals, 3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 1: No. 7 Arizona Coyotes at No. 2 Colorado Avalanche, 5:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 1: No. 8 Montreal Canadiens at No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 1: No. 5 Vancouver Canucks at No. 4 St. Louis Blues, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Complete first-round playoff schedule available at NHL.com.


Stanley Cup Odds

Vegas Golden Knights +500 (bet $100 to win $500)

Tampa Bay Lightning +500

Boston Bruins +600

Colorado Avalanche +700

St. Louis Blues +900

Philadelphia Flyers +1000

Dallas Stars +1500

Washington Capitals +1600

Carolina Hurricanes +2000

Vancouver Canucks +2500

Calgary Flames +2800

Chicago Blackhawks +3000

Montreal Canadiens +3000

New York Islanders +3000

Arizona Coyotes +3200

Columbus Blue Jackets +5000

Odds obtained via Caesars Palace.


Intriguing 1st-Round Playoff Matchups

No. 4 Boston Bruins vs. No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes

Last year, the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes faced off in the Eastern Conference Final. Although Carolina had an incredible postseason run to reach that point, it came to an abrupt end as Boston earned a four-game sweep to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. So the Hurricanes are looking for revenge in this year's first round.

Meanwhile, the Bruins are looking to get back on track quickly. They won the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL team with the most regular-season points (100) and were cruising to becoming the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference when the season was suspended. Then, after things resumed, they went a worst-case scenario 0-3 in round-robin seeding play to fall all the way to the No. 4 seed.

These are both talented teams, and whichever one advances could be set up well to make a deep postseason run. And although last year's series was over quickly, it might take a bit longer for the Bruins and Hurricanes to decide a winner this time.

Boston and Carolina met only once during the regular season, a Dec. 3 matchup that the Bruins won 2-0. However, the Hurricanes enter this series with momentum after being the only team to earn a sweep during the qualifying round, knocking out the New York Rangers in three games.


No. 3 Washington Capitals vs. No. 6 New York Islanders

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

In 2018, Barry Trotz led the Washington Capitals to their first Stanley Cup. Now, he'll be looking to knock them out of the first round as the coach of the New York Islanders, who are coming off a qualifying-round series win over the Florida Panthers.

In 13 of Washington's past 14 playoff appearances, it has lost in either the first or the second round, with its Stanley Cup-winning campaign in Trotz's final season at the helm being the lone exception. Last year, the Caps lost in seven games to the Hurricanes in the first round in Todd Reirden's first season as coach.

This is also shaping up to be an important postseason for Washington goaltender Braden Holtby. With Ilya Samsonov out injured for the rest of the season, Holtby will be relied upon heavily in the net. However, he's coming off his worst regular season in his 10-year NHL career, posting career worsts in save percentage (.897) and goals-against average (3.11). He's set to become a free agent this offseason, so there's extra motivation for him to rebound and play well.

In the four regular-season matchups between these two teams, each won twice, and all four contests were decided by two or fewer goals. 


No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks

John Locher/Associated Press

The Vegas Golden Knights are once again looking to make a deep postseason run. In only their third season of existence, Vegas is the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference for the first time after a dominant showing in its round-robin seeding games, scoring 15 total goals in its three victories against the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues.

In their inaugural season in 2017-18, the Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final. But last season, they were knocked out in the first round, losing a thrilling seven-game series to the San Jose Sharks.

If Vegas wants to return to the Stanley Cup Final, it will first need to take down Chicago, which is one of the biggest underdogs in this year's postseason. Despite going a mediocre 32-30-8 in the regular season, the Blackhawks capitalized on their opportunity in the expanded postseason, pulling off a qualifying-round upset against the Edmonton Oilers in four games.

Although Chicago may not have been a top team in 2019-20, it proved it can still be dangerous, especially because of the postseason experience it possesses on its roster. Center Jonathan Toews, winger Patrick Kane and defenseman Duncan Keith are all three-time Stanley Cup champions who know what it takes to make a deep postseason run.

Can the Blackhawks keep surprising and knock off a young franchise that has quickly become an annual postseason contender? It should be exciting to watch, for sure.