NHL Playoffs 2020: Latest Stanley Cup Predictions and Schedule Info

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistAugust 31, 2020

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) celebrates with the bench after scoring a goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
Josie Lepe/Associated Press

Picking a Stanley Cup favorite from the four teams with 3-1 second-round leads is a difficult task. 

Dallas, Vegas, Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders have all looked dominant in their respective series and could ride their long list of strengths to the championship. 

The Golden Knights and Lightning could have the slight edge over the Stars and Islanders because of how well their offenses are clicking.

The two teams also have recent experience reaching the Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning achieved that feat in 2015, while Vegas is two years removed from a defeat at the hands of Washington. 

With the slightest of differences expected to play a major role in advancing, Tampa Bay and Vegas could bank on their previous experiences in this position to set up a Stanley Cup matchup.


Latest Stanley Cup Playoff Schedule

Monday, August 31

Game 5: Boston vs. Tampa Bay (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Game 5: Dallas vs. Colorado (9:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN)


Tuesday, September 1

Game 5: New York Islanders vs. Philadelphia (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Game 5: Vancouver vs. Vegas (9:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN)


Stanley Cup Prediction

Vegas vs. Tampa Bay 

A case could be made for the Stars and Islanders to be playing for the Stanley Cup, but the Golden Knights and Lightning have been too strong in the second round. 

Vegas is the deepest of the four teams with second-round advantages, as it has consistently received two-way production from each of its lines. 

In Game 4 against Vancouver, Max Pacioretty produced two goals and an assist, and Mark Stone had three helpers. 

But the key numbers did not come from the top forwards. Four of Vegas' six defensemen recorded a point, and Chandler Stephenson chipped in with a rare goal. 

Vegas has had trouble containing Vancouver's top line. J.T. Miller was involved in all three Canucks goals Sunday, which were netted by Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat and Tyler Toffoli.

After falling behind, Vegas showed the resiliency of a champion by outscoring the Canucks 3-0 in the third period. 

In nine of their 10 victories at Rogers Place, Vegas has scored at least three goals. The lone exception was a 2-1 Game 3 win over Chicago in the first round. 

Tampa Bay flexed similar offensive firepower in its second-round series with Boston, as it has 14 goals in its three-game winning streak.

Eight Lighting forwards have at least three points, and five of those players have totaled a dozen or more shots on target. 

Nikita Kucherov filled the starring role with seven points, while Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Blake Coleman have also performed at a high level. 

Tampa Bay's defense has also kicked up a notch against the Bruins, who have two goals in the last 120 minutes of the series. 

Andrei Vasilevskiy's play in net could be the difference-maker in Game 5 and in a potential Eastern Conference Final against the Islanders. 

Vasilevskiy has a .927 save percentage against the Bruins and has conceded more than three goals in a single start at Scotiabank Arena.

Since it is hard to pick out flaws in Vegas and Tampa Bay's games at the moment, they have to be viewed as the front-runners to reach the championship round. 

Dallas and New York have impressive goalies and defenses that could limit the scoring potential of Vegas and Tampa Bay in a seven-game series, but that is something no team has been able to do yet in the hub cities.


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Statistics obtained from Hockey Reference