NHL Playoffs 2020: Schedule, Odds and Predictions for Thursday's Round 1 Games

Jake RillSenior Analyst IIIAugust 13, 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

Each of the eight first-round series in the Stanley Cup playoffs has now completed its opening game. And so far, it appears we're in store for an exciting postseason.

There's been a five-overtime game, with the Tampa Bay Lightning outlasting the Columbus Blue Jackets for a marathon win. That late finish caused Game 1 of the Boston Bruins-Carolina Hurricanes series to be pushed back a day—and then that game went to double overtime on Wednesday, with Boston notching the victory.

Both No. 6 seeds opened with wins in their quests to pull off first-round upsets, as the New York Islanders rallied for a come-from-behind victory over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, a day after the Calgary Flames edged the Dallas Stars.

And the Game 1 action concluded Wednesday night with the St. Louis Blues, the reigning Stanley Cup champions, starting off with a loss to the No. 5-seeded Vancouver Canucks.

What surprises and action are up next? We'll find out Thursday, when there will be four Game 2 matchups taking place as the Stanley Cup playoffs continue.

               

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Thursday Schedule, Odds

Game 2: No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets at No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning (-1.5), 3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 2: No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks at No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights (-1.5), 5:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 2: No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes at No. 4 Boston Bruins (-1.5), 8 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network

Game 2: No. 6 Calgary Flames at No. 3 Dallas Stars (-1.5), 10:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network

Odds obtained via Caesars Palace

            

Thursday Predictions

Lightning win again, but in quicker fashion this time

In Game 2, the Lightning and Blue Jackets are unlikely to play five overtimes again. Their marathon clash on Tuesday was the fourth-longest game in Stanley Cup playoffs history, not ending until Brayden Point finally scored 10 minutes, 27 seconds into the fifth OT, lifting Tampa Bay to a 3-2 win.

While the second contest of this series won't be as long, the Lightning will ensure it has the same result and jump out to a 2-0 series lead in what will likely be another competitive contest.

Last year, Columbus became the first No. 8 seed to sweep a No. 1 seed in Stanley Cup playoffs history when it took down Tampa Bay in four games. The Lightning will be motivated to try to return the favor this season, and they'll make sure to never lose control of the series by winning the first two games.

Tampa Bay outshot Columbus 88-63 in Game 1, so expect it to keep the pressure on offensively once again, even if Steven Stamkos remains out with a lower-body injury. The Lightning have proved they can still play well offensively in his absence.

            

Golden Knights continue to roll offensively in Game 2

Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

After going 3-0 and scoring 15 total goals in their round-robin seeding games, the Golden Knights continued to be an offensive force in their Game 1 matchup against the Blackhawks, cruising to a 4-1 win. Don't be surprised to see more of the same in Game 2.

Reilly Smith scored a pair of goals in Game 1, while Shea Theodore and William Carrier also found the net for Vegas, which outshot Chicago 34-20. And although the Golden Knights are only in their third season in franchise history, they seem to have found a team approach that works in the postseason already.

"We get pucks on net and try to crash it," Smith said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "Playoffs, this is where you score dirty goals, so we've got to continue to do that."

The Blackhawks are an experienced team, but the Golden Knights are the better one. They should win the series handily, and they'll continue to build on their early lead Thursday.

               

Hurricanes bounce back from 2OT loss in Game 2

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

In last year's Eastern Conference Final, the Bruins swept the Hurricanes to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Although Carolina had an impressive postseason run, taking down New York and Washington, it ended in disappointing fashion as it tallied only five total goals while losing in four games to Boston.

In Game 1 of this year's first-round matchup between the two teams, the Hurricanes have already shown they're a better team than the one that lost in lopsided fashion three times in last season's conference finals. They answered back twice after the Bruins took the lead in the second and third periods, and they played 21:13 of OT before Boston's Patrice Bergeron finally ended it.

Although it was another playoff loss to the Bruins, the Hurricanes played a competitive game. Now, playing on back-to-back days, it'll be important for them to bounce back and even the series, which they'll do in a competitive Game 2 on Thursday.

Carolina played a physical contest in Game 1, recording 51 hits. If it can play a bit better defensively and turn that into more shots at the other end, it should be able to swing the result the other way.

So, the prediction here is the Hurricanes respond and make this one of the most competitive series of the opening round.

             

Flames get another win closer to a series upset

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

The Stars may be running into the Flames at the wrong time. Not only has Dallas been struggling offensively (three goals over its last three games), but veteran goaltender Cam Talbot and the Calgary defense have also been playing well, allowing eight goals over its first five postseason games.

Talbot provides some veteran leadership and postseason experience to the Flames, who had won only one playoff game over the previous four seasons heading into this year. He had 24 saves in the Game 1 win over Dallas, and both goals he allowed came in a nine-second span in the second period. Take that momentary lapse away, and the 33-year-old was nearly perfect.

Although the Flames are the No. 6 seed in this series, they could be poised to take control. They'll jump out to a 2-0 lead with a Game 2 victory, again relying on strong defense and some solid offense to earn the win.

After scoring one goal in Calgary's qualifying-round series win over the Winnipeg Jets, Dillon Dube had a pair of goals against Dallas in Game 1. Expect him to tally another in Game 2, carrying over the momentum to lead the Flames' offense.