The first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs start today so it seems fitting for me to preview the match ups and pick winners.
All the graphics in this article are comparing the expected goal value by each team thus far in the 2020 playoffs, so either from the play in rounds or from the round robin seeding.
I’ll start with the Western Conference.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vegas Golden Knights
The Blackhawks are without a doubt the underdog here, even after they pulled off the upset of the 5 seed Oilers. The Hawks have the advantage in front of the net and between the blue line and the right circle. While the map may suggest the Hawks have an advantage, there is no question the Golden Knights are the better team.
I hope I am wrong, but Vegas Golden Knights in 6.
Arizona Coyotes vs. Colorado Avalanche
I think the Colorado Avalanche will ultimately win the Stanley Cup. Arizona looked good at times when they pulled off the upset over the Predators, but they were lucky in that series. They will need that luck to continue if they want to pull off another upset. Colorado is the better team and I expect them to win, but if the Coyotes can keep playing scrappy and get lucky, they could win.
Colorado Avalanche in 5.
Calgary Flames vs. Dallas Stars
Calgary looked pretty good in the qualifying rounds vs the Jets. They play hard and have a good offense, thus the higher than normal expected goal values seen above. So far, Dallas has not put up the kind of offense they will need to beat the Flames and I don’t think that will change. I expect the Flames to pull off the upset.
Calgary Flames in 7.
Vancouver Canucks vs. St. Louis Blues
Excluding game 1, Vancouver looked good against the Minnesota Wild and won three games in a row to win the series. The Blues lost some tough games in the round robin part of the playoffs. The Canucks have the advantage in the center of the ice, but the Blues tend to have the advantage outside of that. The Blues are a good team and I don’t think this comparison shows this well – I think they should win this series.
St. Louis Blues in 6.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Philadelphia Flyers
I was surprised (as I’m sure almost everyone was) the Canadiens were able to beat the Penguins. Carey Price really stood on his head and led them to victory. While it was a nice Cinderella story I don’t think it continues. The Flyers are the best team in the East and I think will go on all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
Philadelphia Flyers in 4.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
We all remember what happened to the Lightning last year when they were swept by the Blue Jackets. In the previous round I don’t think Columbus beat the Toronto Maple Leafs as much as Toronto lost to Columbus. The Lightning are by far the better team and should pull this off.
Tampa Bay Lightning in 5.
New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals
This should be a very interesting and good series and to be honest, I don’t feel very confident in either team. I think the Islanders played well and the play in round definitely put them in a better position to win this series, but the Caps are good. Really good. I think their better defense and goalie will be tough for the Islanders to overcome.
Washington Capitals in 7.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Boston Bruins
Carolina should win this series. They have a great team and were playing in mid-season form through the qualifying rounds. Boston, on the other hand, has not (although their games didn’t really matter). Boston just didn’t look like they wanted to be there. If Carolina keeps playing like they did, they will be hard for any team to beat.
Carolina Hurricanes in 6.