NHL Playoffs 2020: Updated Bracket, Preview for Saturday's Matchups

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistAugust 29, 2020

Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 3, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Lightning reside in a familiar position against the Boston Bruins.

Jon Cooper's team reeled off its fifth and sixth wins over the Bruins this season to pull ahead in the teams' Eastern Conference second-round series. If Tampa Bay extends its terrific form against Boston into Saturday, it would be the first franchise to win three games in the second round of the NHL postseason and leave itself one win away from the Eastern Conference Final.

Game 4 between the Lightning and Bruins kicks off a three-game slate Saturday in the NHL's Canadian hub cities that also features a pair of Game 3s.

The Philadelphia Flyers are looking to bank off their Game 2 overtime win over the New York Islanders to take a lead in their series, while the Vancouver Canucks will try to earn the rare achievement of back-to-back wins against the Vegas Golden Knights.

                     

Updated Stanley Cup Playoff Bracket

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Eastern Conference

Philadelphia is tied with New York Islanders, 1-1.

Tampa Bay leads Boston, 2-1.

        

Western Conference

Vegas is tied with Vancouver, 1-1.

Dallas leads Colorado, 2-1.

             

Preview for Saturday Matchups

Tampa Bay vs. Boston (Game 4; Noon ET, NBCSN)

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Tampa Bay comes into Game 4 off one of its most successful two-game offensive stretches of the season.

The Lightning beat Jaroslav Halak on four occasions in Game 2 and then chased the Boston goalie from the net in the middle of a seven-goal onslaught in Game 3.

The Atlantic Division side has outscored Boston 29-19 in their eight meetings this season, four of which have come inside the Toronto hub.

At Scotiabank Arena, the Lightning are 3-1 against the Bruins and have scored at least three goals in all but one of those contests.

In Game 3, Nikita Kucherov led the Lightning with four points, while three other skaters contributed three points each. Tampa Bay may not receive such a high level of production in Game 4, but the confidence gained by forwards on the lines beneath Kucherov and the top unit could be massive moving forward.

The most impressive part of the Game 3 performance was the defense holding Boston to 24 shots and restricting Brad Marchand to a single shot on target. If the Lightning blueliners keep a leash on the production of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, who have three of Boston's top four shot totals in the series, they could be on the path to seal this series in five games.

The key for Boston on Saturday could be something as simple as getting more shots on goal from its top line. In Game 3, the trio managed six of Boston's 24 shots on target, and all but one of them were denied by Andrei Vasilevskiy.

                 

Philadelphia vs. New York Islanders (Game 3; 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

John Minchillo/Associated Press

The offenses in the Philadelphia-New York series have been streaky.

The Islanders put four tallies past Carter Hart in Game 1. The Flyers returned fire with three goals to open Game 2 before New York forced overtime with three of its own.

Both sides have shown they are capable of getting out to fast starts. The Islanders opened the series with a first-period goal, and the Flyers scored three times in the opening 20 minutes of Game 2. An early one-goal lead could be enough for either side to generate the momentum needed to stay ahead for the rest of the contest.

Philadelphia may have the edge in goalie confidence since Semyon Varlamov was pulled by Islanders head coach Barry Trotz after conceding three goals on 10 shots to start Game 2. Conversely, Hart turned away 31 of the 34 shots he faced Wednesday, meaning he now has three 30-save performances in Toronto.

Hart is 5-4 this season in games after he makes 30 saves, so there is a chance the Islanders could rattle him early and rebound from Game 2.

Also worth noting is that New York has not lost back-to-back games since arriving in Toronto and has not lost more than once to a postseason opponent.

                    

Vegas vs. Vancouver (Game 3; 9:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

John Locher/Associated Press

Vegas and Vancouver used similar paths to victory in the first two games of their series.

Both teams put five goals past the opposing goalie in their respective victories and employed strong defense to quell the threat coming from the other direction.

The defeat Vegas suffered in Game 2 was just its second in 10 games at Rogers Place, and it could help the young Canucks team gain confidence in the series.

In Game 1, Vegas smothered Vancouver's offense by holding it to 26 shots, all of which were turned away by Robin Lehner. But the Canucks found a way to break the deadlock despite putting the same amount of shots in Lehner's direction in Game 2.

Although Vegas lost the series' second game, it produced more offensive pressure. Jacob Markstrom turned away 38 of Vegas' 40 attempts.

Max Pacioretty and Shea Theodore have been the most active players in the offensive zone for the Golden Knights, as they have combined for 23 shots. Seven other skaters have put at least five shots in Markstrom's direction. If they keep that up, it could lead to more goals in Game 3.

But were Markstrom to marvel in net once again, Vancouver could gain the edge in the series. For now, however, it is hard to see Vegas losing two in a row with its strong offense creating an abundance of chances.

                       

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90Statistics obtained from Hockey Reference.