NHL Playoffs 2020: Updated 1st-Round Schedule, Dates, Times and Predictions

Jake RillSenior Writer IAugust 16, 2020

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner (90) plays against the Buffalo Sabres in an NHL hockey game Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher/Associated Press

On Sunday, the first team could secure its spot in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. And it should come as little surprise that it's the Vegas Golden Knights.

Since the postseason began earlier in August, the Golden Knights have been unbeatable. They won all three of their round-robin seeding games to secure the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference for the first time in the franchise's brief history. Now, they are out to a 3-0 lead against the No. 8-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in the opening round and could complete a sweep in Sunday's Game 4.

Vegas reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2017-18, its inaugural season, and has made the playoffs in each of its first three years of existence. Early on this postseason, the Golden Knights are proving they could are a good bet to go on to win it all.

Not every series has been as lopsided as Vegas-Chicago, though, and there are some critical contests Sunday. Here's a look at the upcoming schedule, followed by predictions.


Upcoming Schedule

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

Complete playoff schedule can be found at NHL.com.


Updated Series Predictions

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers over No. 8 Montreal Canadiens in five games.

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning over No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets in seven games.

No. 6 New York Islanders over No. 3 Washington Capitals in five games.

No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes over No. 4 Boston Bruins in seven games.


Western Conference

No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights over No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks in four games.

No. 2 Colorado Avalanche over No. 7 Arizona Coyotes in five games.

No. 6 Calgary Flames over No. 3 Dallas Stars in six games.

No. 4 St. Louis Blues over No. 5 Vancouver Canucks in seven games.


Sunday Predictions

Islanders, Flames Move Closer to Upsets

The New York Islanders and Calgary Flames are both No. 6 seeds, and they have gotten off to strong starts in their respective series. New York leads the Washington Capitals 2-0, while Calgary is ahead of the Dallas Stars 2-1. On Sunday, both will move another win closer to completing first-round upsets.

Through the first two games of their series, the Islanders have outscored the Capitals 9-4. Washington goaltender Braden Holtby, who had a tough regular season, has had trouble keeping New York off the board late, with the Isles scoring all nine of their goals in the second period or later.

New York has already shown it can handle adversity, as it's trailed in each of the first two games (including a 2-0 deficit in Game 1) yet came back to win. The Islanders will ride this momentum to a Game 3 victory Sunday, maintaining control of the series.

The Flames and Stars have gone back and forth in their series. Calgary won 3-2 in Game 1, but Dallas bounced back with a 5-4 victory in Game 2. But the Flames defense got back on track in Game 3, as goaltender Cam Talbot had 35 saves for his second shutout of the postseason in a 2-0 win.

That was closer to the type of play Calgary showed in its qualifying-round series against the Winnipeg Jets, and that should continue in Game 4 as it moves a win closer to eliminating Dallas.


Both No. 1 Seeds Victorious; Vegas Advances

The Golden Knights shouldn't be feeling the pressure entering Game 4, as they have a 3-0 lead against the Blackhawks, who need to win four straight games against the hottest team in the NHL to advance. That's not going to happen, and Vegas will put them away Sunday, likely with its offense having another big showing in a favorable matchup.

Things are a bit tighter for the Philadelphia Flyers, who jumped out to a series lead against the Montreal Canadiens with a 2-1 win in Game 1. However, Montreal responded in Game 2 with an impressive 5-0 victory. Philadelphia had allowed only four goals in its previous four postseason games combined (helping it go 3-0 in round-robin seeding play), so it was surprising to see the East's No. 1 seed have such a lapse.

"We've got guys that are hungry for success," Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen said, according to Jordan Hall of NBC Sports Philadelphia. "I like our group. We believe in our abilities. ... We had a bit of a blunder [in Game 2]. We'll learn from it quickly and get excited and get our energy up for the next game. I know we'll play better."

That's exactly what Philadelphia will do, bouncing back with a Game 3 win to regain the series lead.


Blues Finally Notch 1st Win of Postseason

The reigning Stanley Cup champions are facing major adversity. The St. Louis Blues are 0-5 this postseason, going 0-3 in their round-robin seeding games and dropping the first two games of their first-round series against the Vancouver Canucks. It's only Game 3 on Sunday, but it feels like a must-win contest for St. Louis.

On Saturday, Blues coach Craig Berube was "noncommittal" about whether he might swap in goaltender Jake Allen for Jordan Binnington, who has struggled in the playoffs, according to NHL.com's Dan Rosen. Binnington has an .862 save percentage and 4.27 goals-against average in four games this postseason.

Whichever goaltender starts, St. Louis knows time is running out for it to get back on track if it hopes to follow up the first Stanley Cup in franchise history with another this postseason. And because of that, the Blues will show a sense of urgency and win Game 3.

St. Louis played better on the offensive end in Game 2, scoring three goals, including a game-tying score by Jaden Schwartz with seven seconds to go in regulation to force overtime. There's now a quick turnaround coming, with the Blues and Canucks set to play Game 4 on Monday. This could be the momentum shift St. Louis needs to get back on track.