NHL exhibition games are over and it’s time for the real thing. The Return to Play begins this weekend as 24 teams vie to be crowned the 2019-20 Stanley Cup champion.
These unique times called for unique solutions from the NHL and NHLPA — thus the 24-team format with two hub cities. After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to halt the regular season, we get to watch hockey in August. It’ll be different, and maybe a little weird with no fans in attendance, but we’ll hopefully see a completion to the season.
As the Stanley Cup Qualifiers begin Saturday, here are our picks for the eight best-of-five matchups as well as the final seeding for the round-robin. We’ll make our predictions for the NHL’s 2019-20 champion once we know what the First Round will look like.