NHL Playoff Picture 2020: Round-Robin Predictions and Teams to Watch

NHL Playoff Picture 2020: Round-Robin Predictions and Teams to Watch

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated PressThe two Stanley Cup Final participants from 2019 have more difficult paths to earning the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences after they were upended Sunday.The Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues were the first teams to face disadvantages in the round-robin games, which will decide the top four seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences. The teams on the other end of those results provided us with a glimpse as to how they can be successful over the next few months in Canada.The Colorado Avalanche and Philadelphia Flyers have to win two more games to secure the top seeds, but that’s attainable if their defenses continue to thrive.Round-Robin PredictionsEastern Conference1. Tampa Bay 2. Philadelphia3. Boston4. WashingtonWestern Conference1. Colorado2. St. Louis3. Vegas4. DallasTeams to WatchPhiladelphia Matt Slocum/Associated PressThe Flyers brought attention to themselves before the shutdown with a nine-game winning streak.During that run, Alain Vigneault’s side scored four or more goals in eight victories and earned seven wins against teams that ended up in the 24-team playoff format.Philadelphia showed no fear in its round-robin opener by shutting down Boston’s offense and benefiting from strong performances out of its young stars. Goalie Carter Hart made 34 saves, and the defensive pair of Philippe Myers and Travis Sanheim had plus-minuses of plus-three.If the Flyers continue to get that level of production from their young stars, they could pose a challenge to the experienced attackers from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals.Philadelphia went 3-3 against its next two round-robin opponents, with all of the victories coming against the Capitals. The Flyers did not allow more than two goals in any of their four meetings with Washington.If they limit Alexander Ovechkin in a similar manner to the way they silenced Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron, the Flyers could be the favored side to land the No. 1 going into the final set of contests.ColoradoDavid Zalubowski/Associated PressColorado’s success against St. Louis on Sunday was far less surprising than Philadelphia’s result, but it was impressive nonetheless.The last-second game-winning goal from Nazem Kadri will catch the headlines, but Colorado deserves credit for its all-around performance. The Avalanche held their Central Division rival to a single goal after the Blues had failed to score multiple goals in just eight regular-season contests.Colorado can win games in a few ways since it led the Western Conference in goals scored and ranked third in goals against behind the Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes.Nathan MacKinnon and Co. outscored the Vegas Golden Knights 13-4 in their two regular-season meetings, but they need to improve against Dallas to feel secure at the top of the round-robin standings.Jared Bednar’s side may have to beat Dallas in the same way it knocked off St. Louis. The Stars have the best defensive record in the Western Conference and could limit opportunities for MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen et al.The good news for Colorado is it already proved it can win a low-scoring contest inside the hub in Edmonton, Alberta.Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90. Statistics obtained from Hockey Reference.
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