*Because of lockdown madness, the 2020-21 NHL season will have the four divisions playing against each other in their regions. This is a breakdown of my prediction for the Stanley Cup Playoff participants for the 2020-21 season. The top 4 teams from each division will play each other in the first two rounds. Then what would be the Conference Finals, the four remaining teams will be ranked 1-4 on their regular season point totals. The one-seed will play the fourth-seed and the second-seed will play the third-seed.
1. Philadelphia Flyers
Last year might not have ended the way they hoped, but they are far too talented to not make another run.
2. Boston Bruins
Their defense took a hit in free agency. Their depth on offense should help offset any issues on the blue line.
3. New York Islanders
The Barry Trotz system is working to near perfection on Long Island.
4. New York Rangers
This is their chance to show a quick turnaround in their rebuild to become contenders.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins
It would be shocking to see them miss the playoffs, but there are too many holes that could be hard to overcome down the stretch.
6. Washington Capitals
The cap crunch is coming and some players are starting to show their age on the ice.
7. Buffalo Sabres
If they weren’t playing in a stacked division like this one, they could be contending for a Wild Card spot.
8. New Jersey Devils
They fell flat on the ice last year and this season won’t be any better for them.
1. Philadelphia Flyers vs. 6. New York Islanders
Players to Watch: G Carter Hart and G Semyon Varlamov
Who Wins: Islanders in 6 games
2. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. 4. Boston Bruins
Players to Watch: F Nikita Kucherov and G Jaroslav Halak
Who Wins: Lightning in 6 games
1. Vegas Golden Knights vs. 5. Vancouver Canucks
Players to Watch: F Mark Stone and D Quinn Hughes
Who Wins: Canucks in 6 games
2. Colorado Avalanche vs. 3. Dallas Stars
Players to Watch: F Nazem Kadri and D Miro Heiskanen
Who Wins: Avalanche in 5 games
1. Philadelphia Flyers vs. 8. Montreal Canadiens
Players to Watch: G Carter Hart and G Carey Price
Who Wins: Flyers in 5 games
2. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. 7. Columbus Blue Jackets
Players to Watch: F Nikita Kucherov and D Seth Jones
Who Wins: Lightning in 6 games
3. Washington Capitals vs. 6. New York Islanders
Players to Watch: G Braden Holtby and D Ryan Pulock
Who Wins: Islanders in 7 games
4. Boston Bruins vs. 5. Carolina Hurricanes
Players to Watch: F David Pastrnak and F Sebastian Aho
Who Wins: Hurricanes in 7 games
1. Vegas Golden Knights vs. 8. Chicago Blackhawks
Players to Watch: G Robin Lehner and G Corey Crawford
Who Wins: Golden Knights in 6 games
2. Colorado Avalanche vs. 7. Phoenix Coyotes
Players to Watch: D Cale Makar and F Taylor Hall
Who Wins: Avalanche in 6 games
3. Dallas Stars vs. 6. Calgary Flames
Players to Watch: G Ben Bishop and F Sean Monahan
Who Wins: Flames in 6 games
4. St. Louis Blues vs. 5. Vancouver Canucks
Players to Watch: D Alex Pietrangelo and D Quinn Hughes
Who Wins: Blues in 7 games
1. Washington Capitals
With a few tweaks on defense this is still the best team in a stacked division.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
Even without Phil Kessel, the Pens have plenty of scoring potential.
3. Carolina Hurricanes
Their playoff run last year wasn’t a fluke and they should be contenders again.
4. New Jersey Devils
A healthy Taylor Hall with their off-season additions has them primed for playoff contention.
5. New York Rangers
Their rebuild got a big boost with the signing of Artemi Panarin.
6. Philadelphia Flyers
They finally have a franchise netminder, but who will be the focal point on offense?
7. Columbus Blue Jackets
A lot of changes, but that doesn’t mean they won’t compete and surprise some.
8. New York Islanders
The only reason they’re at this spot is because so many other teams made improvements.