NHL Playoff Bracket 2020: Complete 1st-Round Schedule and Series Predictions

Jake RillSenior Analyst IIIAugust 11, 2020

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, right, of Russia, celebrates his game-winning goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets with teammate defenseman Victor Hedman, of Sweden, during overtime of an NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. The Lightning won 2-1. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
Paul Vernon/Associated Press

Anything can happen in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Just look at what happened last year, for example: The Columbus Blue Jackets became the first No. 8 seed to sweep a No. 1 seed as they took down the Tampa Bay Lightning in four straight games.

Not only could there be similar upsets this year, but there could also be one featuring the same teams. The Lightning are the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and will be opening against the No. 7-seeded Blue Jackets. That's one of four games that will kick off the start of the first round Tuesday.

It's not the official start of the postseason, though, as eight of the 16 teams in the first-round field needed to win best-of-five qualifying-round series to reach this point, while the top four teams from each conference played round-robin seeding games.

The revised format, which took place in the bubble cities of Edmonton and Toronto, was implemented after a four-and-a-half-month hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Here's a look at the complete first-round schedule, followed by predictions for each series.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

            

Complete 1st-Round 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

           

Thursday, Aug. 13

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

Game 2: No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks at No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights, 5:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 2: No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes at No. 4 Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 2: No. 6 Calgary Flames at No. 3 Dallas Stars, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

            

Friday, Aug. 14

Game 2: No. 7 Arizona Coyotes at No. 2 Colorado Avalanche, 2 p.m. ET, NHL Network

Game 2: No. 8 Montreal Canadiens at No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers, 3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 2: No. 5 Vancouver Canucks at No. 4 St. Louis Blues, 6:30 p.m. ET, NHL Network

Game 2: No. 6 New York Islanders at No. 3 Washington Capitals, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 3: No. 3 Dallas Stars at No. 6 Calgary Flames, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

           

Saturday, Aug. 15

Game 3: No. 4 Boston Bruins at No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes, noon ET, NBC

Game 3: No. 2 Colorado Avalanche at No. 7 Arizona Coyotes, 3 p.m. ET, CNBC

Game 3: No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning at No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 3: No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights at No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks, 8 p.m. ET, NBC

          

Sunday, Aug. 16

Game 3: No. 3 Washington Capitals at No. 6 New York Islanders, noon ET, USA Network

Game 4: No. 3 Dallas Stars at No. 6 Calgary Flames, 2 p.m. ET, CNBC

Game 4: No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights at No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks, 6:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 3: No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers at No. 8 Montreal Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET, NBC

Game 3: No. 4 St. Louis Blues at No. 5 Vancouver Canucks, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

          

Monday, Aug. 17

Game 4: No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning at No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets, 3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 4: No. 2 Colorado Avalanche at No. 7 Arizona Coyotes, 5:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

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

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

           

Tuesday, Aug. 18

Game 4: No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers at No. 8 Montreal Canadiens, 3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 4: No. 3 Washington Capitals at No. 6 New York Islanders, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 5: No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks at No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights (if necessary)

Game 5: No. 6 Calgary Flames at No. 3 Dallas Stars (if necessary)

          

Wednesday, Aug. 19

Game 5: No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets at No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning (if necessary)

Game 5: No. 8 Montreal Canadiens at No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers (if necessary)

Game 5: No. 5 Vancouver Canucks at No. 4 St. Louis Blues (if necessary)

Game 5: No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes at No. 4 Boston Bruins (if necessary)

Game 5: No. 7 Arizona Coyotes at No. 2 Colorado Avalanche (if necessary)

            

Thursday, Aug. 20

Game 5: No. 6 New York Islanders at No. 3 Washington Capitals (if necessary)

Game 6: No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights at No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks (if necessary)

Game 6: No. 4 Boston Bruins at No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes (if necessary)

Game 6: No. 3 Dallas Stars at No. 6 Calgary Flames (if necessary)

            

Friday, Aug. 21

Game 6: No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning at No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets (if necessary)

Game 6: No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers at No. 8 Montreal Canadiens (if necessary)

Game 6: No. 4 St. Louis Blues at No. 5 Vancouver Canucks (if necessary)

Game 6: No. 2 Colorado Avalanche at No. 7 Arizona Coyotes (if necessary)

           

Saturday, Aug. 22

Game 6: No. 3 Washington Capitals at No. 7 New York Islanders (if necessary)

Game 7: No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets at No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning (if necessary)

Game 7: No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks at No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights (if necessary)

Game 7: No. 6 Calgary Flames at No. 3 Dallas Stars (if necessary)

         

Sunday, Aug. 23

Game 7: No. 8 Montreal Canadiens at No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers (if necessary)

Game 7: No. 6 New York Islanders at No. 3 Washington Capitals (if necessary)

Game 7: No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes at No. 4 Boston Bruins (if necessary)

Game 7: No. 7 Arizona Coyotes at No. 2 Colorado Avalanche (if necessary)

Game 7: No. 5 Vancouver Canucks at No. 4 St. Louis Blues (if necessary)

            

First-Round Series Predictions

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers over No. 8 Montreal Canadiens

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning over No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets

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

No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes over No. 4 Boston Bruins

While most of the favorites should come out on top in the Eastern Conference, one upset to watch for is a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Finals. Although Boston swept Carolina in the 2019 postseason, this year's series should be a lot more competitive, especially considering the recent play of these two teams.

The Hurricanes are 3-0 since the expanded postseason began earlier this month, as they were the only team to earn a qualifying-round sweep when they took down the New York Rangers. Meanwhile, the Bruins are 0-3, losing to the Flyers, Lightning and Capitals in their round-robin seeding games.

Before losing to Boston, Carolina made an impressive playoff run last year, defeating the Capitals and Islanders in the first two rounds. The strong showing may also be beneficial for the team this postseason.

"I just think for our group, since we're pretty young, last year was a huge step for all of us that haven't experienced the playoffs," Hurricanes left winger Warren Foegele said, according to NHL.com. "Just having that experience and everyone just growing their game will be a lot better for our group."

It'll be a tough task to beat the Bruins, who won the Presidents' Trophy with 100 regular-season points and were one win away from winning the Stanley Cup last year, but the Hurricanes will do it, carrying over their momentum from the qualifying round and finding ways to score against Boston's strong defense.

If there's another upset in the first round, it could be the Islanders taking down the Capitals. It's a series that's likely to go six or seven games, and Washington has had its share of playoff struggles, outside of winning the Stanley Cup in 2018.

However, expect the Capitals to beat their former head coach, New York's Barry Trotz, and win their first playoff series under their current head coach, Todd Reirden.

        

Western Conference

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

No. 2 Colorado Avalanche over No. 7 Arizona Coyotes

No. 6 Calgary Flames over No. 3 Dallas Stars

No. 4 St. Louis Blues over No. 5 Vancouver Canucks

The Flames haven't advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2015, and prior to the qualifying round, they had only one postseason series victory since reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004. But Calgary could be poised for a deeper playoff run this year, and it has a chance to upset Dallas in the first round.

In the qualifying round, the Flames defeated the Winnipeg Jets in four games, scoring 16 total goals. They have momentum after winning the last two games by a combined score of 10-2. They're also playing well defensively as 33-year-old goaltender Cam Talbot had a .945 save percentage and 1.51 goals against average in the series.

"We're ready for sure," Calgary center Sean Monahan said, according to NHL.com. "We just went through a pretty intense series. We know what's coming."

Because the Flames are a young team, it may help them to stick with Talbot in the net rather than David Rittich, who started more games during the regular season.

Talbot is in his first season with Calgary, but he has previous playoff experience from his time with the Rangers and Oilers. Expect him to be a key reason that the Flames' defense shuts down the Stars, who have struggled to score recently, and lead them to an upset series win.

The other playoff series in the Western Conference should have the favorites winning. The Blues could be a dangerous No. 4 seed, as they're the Stanley Cup champions and were first in the Western Conference before going 0-3 in their round-robin seeding games.

St. Louis should get back on track against Vancouver, and it could make a statement by winning the series in quick fashion. Although the Blues didn't win any of their four postseason series last year in fewer than six games, they'll take care of the Canucks in five, bouncing back in an impressive way after their slow start to the postseason.