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NHL Playoffs 2020: Updated Stanley Cup Schedule and Championship Picks

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistAugust 18, 2020

Philadelphia Flyers' Carter Hart, left, blocks a shot by Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, in Philadelphia. Boston won 2-0. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

The top contenders to hoist the Stanley Cup have begun to emerge from the two NHL hub cities. 

Five teams are one win away from securing a berth in the second round, and there is still a possibility for one sweep to occur.

Vegas came close to sweeping Chicago in the Western Conference, but a Game 4 defeat should not deter it from achieving the lofty goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Final.

The Golden Knights carry some of the best depth and experience of the 16 teams left fighting for a championship, and that could be their X-factor moving forward after they dispense of Chicago.

Boston fits a similar mold, as it has strengths up and down the roster and is starting to receive more contributions from its star players while it pulls away from Carolina. 

         

Updated NHL Schedule

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Tuesday, August 18 

Game 4: Philadelphia vs. Montreal (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Game 5: Calgary vs. Dallas (5:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Game 4: Washington vs. New York Islanders (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Game 5: Vegas vs. Chicago (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

      

Wednesday, August 19

Game 5: Columbus vs. Tampa Bay (Noon ET, NBCSN)

Game 5: Carolina vs. Boston (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Game 5: Arizona vs. Colorado (5:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Game 5: Montreal vs. Philadelphia (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Game 5: Vancouver vs. St. Louis (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

        

Championship Pick

Vegas vs. Boston

Vegas appears to be in a two-horse race with Colorado to win the Western Conference. 

Both the Golden Knights and Avalanche have looked strong in their three first-round victories, but the Golden Knights could have the edge because of their experience and depth.

The No. 1 seed in the West has not one, but two dominant goalies to call on. That was on display in Game 3, when Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves in a 2-1 victory over Chicago in place of Robin Lehner. 

Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith lead a dominant scoring line for Peter DeBoer's team, combining for nine points, but it has also received a point from 15 different players in the last four games. 

With Marchessault and Smith not at their best in Game 4, Vegas had five players attempt four or more shots on goal. 

Additionally, Vegas has the experience of reaching the Stanley Cup Final from 2018 that it can bank on as it goes deeper in the postseason. 

If Vegas continues to flex that depth and receives strong performances from Fleury and Lehner in net, it should weather anything Colorado, or any future opponent, throws at it in a potential Western Conference Final. 

All four of the teams ahead in the East first-round series could make the championship round, but Boston may have an edge over Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and the New York Islanders. 

The Bruins are starting to show why they earned the most regular-season points after a disappointing set of round-robin games. 

Boston pounced for four goals in a seven-minute span in Monday's Game 4 win over Carolina to prove its offense can be explosive even in a game where it struggled to create chances for two periods. 

Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have recovered from their round-robin struggles with 10 points in four games. Marchand leads the team with three goals and four assists. 

Most importantly, the Bruins have not skipped a beat in net after Tuukka Rask opted out of the postseason.

Jaroslav Halak has turned away 45 of the 49 shots the Hurricanes have sent in his direction to record a better save percentage over two games than Rask. 

If they use the momentum gained from the third-period surge in Game 4 to close out the series in Game 5, Boston should have plenty of time to rest up for a potential second-round meeting with Philadelphia. 

Although the Bruins have a losing record this season against the Flyers, they have the experience and talent to match their strengths. 

Halak is capable of matching Carter Hart's strong showings in net, and the Bruins have enough scoring to go around to challenge the Flyers with all four lines.

If Vegas and Boston reach the Stanley Cup Final, we could see an incredibly close series. Both of their regular-season meetings were determined by one goal.

             

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from Hockey Reference.

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