The 2019-2020 NHL Season is underway after a hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some teams were benefitted from the time off and other teams struggled mightly after the restart. Twenty-two teams made it to the bubble and now sixteen teams remain alive as the playoffs start. Here’s how those sixteen teams stack up.
16. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks pulled off an upset in the qualifying round despite playing mediocre on offense and defense. Kirby Dach had an excellent series, and Corey Crawford had an excellent couple of games in net. But they have face a huge test in the first round against the Golden Knights
15. Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes are another surprise team to make the playoffs after upsetting the Predators in the qualifying series. They managed to overcome the loss of Nick Schmaltz, their leading scorer during the regular season. The Coyotes had solid production by nice depth contributions from the bottom half of the lineup and Darcy Kuemper was very strong in net. They will need the bottom half of the lineup and Kuemper to play well again if they want to overtake the high-powered Avalanche.
14. Montreal Canadiens
Montreal barely made it into the qualifying round but managed to knock off the experienced and dangerous Penguins. Carey Price stole the series against the Penguins, and they will look to the hot hand goaltender. However, they do not posses a good enough team to compete in a seven-game series.
13. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets goaltending duo of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins propelled them to the first round of the playoffs. The Blue Jackets will probably be overlooked in the playoffs. However, they shouldn’t be underestimated because they’ve reminded us in each of the past two years that sometimes hard work can beat talent.
12. Vancouver Canucks
Despite some initial trouble against a tough Wild defense, Vancouver’s young core had somewhat of a postseason coming out party against Minnesota. Quinn Hughes was spectacular and guys like Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, and Brock Boeser showed why the Canucks’ future might be very bright. The Canucks will need the young core to keep up their play and hope that goaltender Jacob Markstrom steps up his play in the first round.
11. Calgary Flames
Calgary certainly benefited from the misfortune suffered by the Jets, who lost top forwards Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine one game into the series. But they showed blimps of play that could propel them to a deep playoff run. They’ll have a much tougher test against Dallas next round. The Flames will need their high-powered offense and strong goaltending to show up against Dallas.
10. New York Islanders
The Islanders used a very solid, structured defensive game against a good Panthers offense to advance to the first round of the playoffs. Their offense was quiet in the series but eventually scored enough to move on. However, they will need to keep up the stellar defensive play against the Capitals, while also getting a higher output from the offense.
9. Dallas Stars
The Stars used their same formula of solid defense and excellent goaltending play from the beginning of the season in the first part of the NHL restart. The Stars will need a higher offense output to make a serious run in the playoffs. They will need veteran players like Tyler Seguin and Jaime Benn to step up offensively in the next couple of rounds.
8. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes steamrolled the New York Rangers in the qualifying series. The Hurricanes are armed and very dangerous and will look to upset the Bruins in the first round. My big concern for Carolina was the goaltending but both Petr Mrazek and James Reimer looked solid in the qualifying round.
7. Boston Bruins
The Bruins looked like sure-fire champions before the coronavirus shut down the season. Since the restart the Bruins have looked like a completely different team, going 0-3 in the qualifying round. Their middle-six is in flux and, largely, ineffective. The back end of their defense has looked shaky and the compete level/intensity as a whole just wasn’t really there. The Bruins have the firepower and talent to win the Stanley Cup but they will need to turn things around quickly or they could be an early exit.
6. Saint Louis Blues
The Blues are in the same boat as the Bruins. They looked like sure-fire Western Conference champions before the hiatus. However, St. Louis can’t be underestimated but they didn’t look very impressive at all over the round-robin stage, especially offensively
5. Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay had a solid round robin (2-1-0) and showed that they’re a bit tougher and scrappier than Lightning teams we’ve seen in the past. They still have one of the best rosters in hockey but they may have some really key injuries to overcome already.
4. Washington Capitals
The Caps haven’t seemed to hit their stride just yet and they’re going to need to clean up a bit once the games truly start to matter. They’ve looked a little loose defensively and undisciplined at times but that also can be expected after a long layoff. If the Capitals can clean some things up they will be a force in the playoffs.
3. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers arguably had more momentum than any other team when the league went into shutdown in March, but they were able to continue that momentum into the restart. They’re skilled, deep, and tough but the most impressive aspect of their game might be how hard they work and how the foot never seems to come off the pedal. The Flyers are no joke and they are a scary team that is poised to make a deep playoff run.
2. Colorado Avalanche
The Avs had a successful round-robin as they looked to get ready for a deep playoff run. The Avs have high-end talent upfront and are capable of being a dominant force offensively, especially when Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar are at their best.
1. Las Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas looked like a juggernaut toward the end of the regular season and they picked up right where they left off in the round-robin stage. They went undefeated against the West’s top teams, scoring 15 times in three games. They did all of this without top-scorer Max Pacioretty. Vegas looks like the favorite to win the Stanley Cup heading into the first round of the playoffs.