2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round predictions

nhl seasons
Getty Images
1 Comment

The Second Round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs is here and it’s time for some predictions. We’re now down to the final eight teams as the quest for the Cup is almost halfway home. Let us know your NHL playoff predictions in the comments.

We’ll have a new champion this season after the Canucks dispatched the Blues in the First Round. Which of these eight teams will lift the Stanley Cup next month?

[NHL Second Round playoff schedule]

Flyers vs. Islanders

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Flyers in 7. If Carter Hart is going to continue his magical journey, the Islanders are going to make him work for it. New York scored the seventh-fewest even strength goals in the regular season but have found their scoring touch in the playoffs. Hart’s been good. Semyon Varlamov‘s been even better. What gives? New York’s offense dries up at the wrong time here.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Flyers in 6. The Flyers were not perfect in the First Round, and maybe a better team beats them (and they will certainly play one now), but I still like the position they are in here. Carter Hart is the goalie they needed, and I am confident that their top goal scorers are going to break through. They have to. When they do, that is going to be a lot for the Islanders to match up with and I am not sure they can. I know the Islanders just shut down the Capitals, but I like the way the Flyers have been playing a lot more than the Capitals were going into that matchup.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Flyers in 7. Woof, this one is tough, especially since the Islanders looked downright demonstrative in dismantling an almost disinterested Capitals team. But the Flyers’ versatility gives them the ever-so-slight edge, including a power play that (while struggling) seems more likely to inch Philly just-so-slightly over the finish line in this one.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/EditorIslanders in 7. I agree with James that this will be the toughest series of the second round. I love the Flyers defensemen but I think the Islanders amazing work ethic will prevail overall. Look for Semyon Varlamov to have another great series and Mathew Barzal to give New York enough offensive punch to win the low-scoring series.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Flyers in 6. We haven’t seen this matchup in the postseason since 1987, and I can’t wait. There’s intrigue abound with these two teams. The Islanders are an improved squad over last year’s version – particularly on offense – but these Flyers have earned the top seed and entered the Second Round with virtually no goal scoring from its top players. That’s bound to change. Provided Carter Hart keeps it up, I think Philly can outpace the Isles. 

Getty Images

Lightning vs. Bruins

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Lightning in 6. The Bruins are alive with Jaroslav Halak after sleeping through the Round-robin. Tampa, however, fought off a feisty Columbus team with timely scoring and superb play from Andrei Vasilevskiy. The possible return of Steven Stamkos as another weapon would pose another threat to Bruins.

Adam Gretz, NHL writerLightning in 7. Still think this is going to ultimately end up being the year Tampa does it, so I am sticking with them. This roster is just so loaded with talent — even if Steven Stamkos remains sidelined — and they still have every possible ingredient a winning team needs. With all due respect to Jaroslav Halak, the Lightning have the better goalie and I really like the way their Blake ColemanBarclay Goodrow line played against Columbus. That line just gives them another dimension and level they did not have a year ago.

James O’Brien, NHL writerLightning in 6. As mentioned before, I’m sticking as much to my preseason picks as possible, so the Lightning as champions and Brayden Point as Conn Smythe still live, while the Blues as the finalist? Erp. This hinges on the Lightning playing loose and confident after slaying that Tortorella dragon, even if the Bruins present a whole other beast. Get ready for the East’s best-on-best matchup, and maybe the NHL’s best matchup to boot.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Lightning in 5. The Bruins looked good the last three games to beat Carolina but the Lightning are a different story. Boston lost a big piece when Tuukka Rask opted out last week, and while Jaroslav Halak played well in Round 1, he is no Rask. The Lightning have a ton of firepower and still have to get Steven Stamkos back in the lineup. Brayden Point was a star last series while the Bolts boast the best goalie in the NHL in Andrei Vasilevskiy and quite possibly the best blueliner in Victor Hedman.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Lightning in 7. The Lightning were my Cup pick to start with, and I’m not changing now even though they’re going up against the defending East champion Bruins. Tampa exorcized its demons in defeating the Blue Jackets, and found different ways to win those four games. The absence of Tuukka Rask will make a bigger difference than that of Steven Stamkos. Ever so slight edge to the Lightning. 

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Golden Knights vs. Canucks

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Golden Knights in 6. Vegas is dominating even strength like no other team so far this postseason. Some time off before the Second Round will help, even as they go up against a Canucks team that will be playing pressure-free hockey. Robin Lehner vs. Jacob Markstrom will be a fun watch.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Golden Knights in 6. Think this has the potential to be a really fun series. Vegas is the better, deeper team on paper, but Vancouver has some of the most exciting young talent in the league and is playing with a ton of confidence right now. Did not expect the Canucks to be at this point right now. The Golden Knights, though, are a force and if they can get quality goaltending from Robin Lehner and/or Marc-Andre Fleury they are going to be a tough out for any opponent.

James O’Brien, NHL writerGolden Knights in 6. Wow, the Canucks looked great, but the Golden Knights are a buzzsaw. Once again, I feel like versatility matters. Vegas boasts a ferocious forecheck that can cause most teams problems. Beyond that, they have not just a skilled top line, but the pieces of what was once a very good top line to back them up. I’d be absolutely stunned if this isn’t the most purely entertaining series of the Second Round.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Golden Knights in 6. This could be an upset if it ever gets to a Game 7. The Canucks were my upset pick at the start of the post-season as I thought they could be one of the top-four seeds in the West. That they did when they knocked off the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in Round 1, but the Golden Knights seem to be just a little bit stronger than the Canucks. The Golden Knights could be suspect in net as Marc-Andre Fleury has been replaced by Robin Lehner,  but the core of the Canucks is young and may not be able to pierce the Vegas defense. Vancouver may be a year away so I ‘m going with Vegas.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Golden Knights in 6. The Canucks will bring major mojo into this series having knocked off the defending champs, scoring 22 goals in the process. The biggest difference I see between the Blues and this Vegas squad is between the pipes: I just can’t see the rockstar Robin Lehner-Marc-Andre Fleury tandem being as porous as Jordan Binnington (for three starts) and Jake Allen (for one start) were for St. Louis. Despite Vancouver’s momentum, I give Vegas the edge on paper.

Getty Images

Avalanche vs. Stars

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Avalanche in 5. Nathan MacKinnon will continue being out of this world, and the Stars will have to contend with one of the deepest teams up front in the NHL. Rantanen, Landeskog, Kadri, Donskoi, Burakovsky, Compher. Dallas may not have enough answers for what Colorado will send their way.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Avalanche in 6. The Stars offense came through in a way I did not anticipate in the First Round against the Calgary Flames, and they are probably going to find an even higher level against the Colorado Avalanche. They have the superstars at the top of the lineup and with Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, and all of their other additions from the past year now in the mix they have the secondary scoring to complement them. The forwards are as dominant as any other team in the NHL, the defense has an emerging superstar in Cale Makar and some solid pieces around him, and the goaltending is better than it gets credit for. This team is loaded. Not sure anyone in the West will beat them this season. The Stars will need a herculean effort from Miro Heiskanen and their goalies to stop this Avalanche team.

James O’Brien, NHL writerAvalanche in 6. The Avalanche have done a great job of making their team more than just “Nathan MacKinnon’s line doing amazing things,” and Nathan MacKinnon’s line is still doing amazing things. This will be a fascinating test for the rising Avs, though, because the Stars have the makeup of a team that could give them major headaches. Then again, the Stars will need to adjust to an Avalanche team that can bend and break a defense in the way that the fumbling Flames rarely could. I’ll go with the team that’s impressed me more often, even though Dallas showed me something in the First Round.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Avalanche in 4. My Stanley Cup pick, the Avs looked strong against Arizona, led by Nathan MacKinnon as well as Nazem Kadri who gives Colorado scoring and feistiness, two important ingredients in playoff hockey. The Stars have looked just okay, as they beat Calgary, but will have too tough a time with Colorado, unless Ben Bishop returns in net and stands on his head.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Avalanche in 6. The Avs steamrolled the Coyotes. They look like the complete package. But the Stars, even without Ben Bishop, are still a threat. Heck, they’ve gotten to this point without a single goal from Tyler Seguin. In the end though, I think the team with Nathan MacKinnon prevails in this series. He’s just that good.

Stars sign 41-goal scorer Jason Robertson to 4-year, $31M deal

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

FRISCO, Texas — Jason Robertson signed a four-year, $31 million contract with the Dallas Stars after the young 40-goal scorer missed the first two weeks of training camp.

The Stars announced the deal after their exhibition game in Denver, only a week before the regular season opener Oct. 13 at Nashville.

Robertson turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when the left wing had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. His 13 power-play goals led the team. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

“Jason is an integral part of the present and future of our team and we’re thrilled to have him for the next four years,” general manager Jim Nill said.

A second-round draft pick (39th overall) by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. The 6-foot-3 California native had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

“Since he was drafted by our organization, he has worked tirelessly to become a better player every day. His knack for scoring goals and seeing plays develop on the ice are just some of the tremendous assets that he brings to our team,” Nill said. “He is one of the best young players in the NHL, and we look forward to seeing him continue to progress.”

Robertson had the second-highest point total for a Stars rookie in 2020-21, when he had 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in his 51 games.

Before the start of this season’s camp, new coach Pete DeBoer said he looked forward to coaching Robertson.

“Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here,” DeBoer said then. “So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

Robertson will finally be there now.

Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
3 Comments

The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.

TORTS REFORM

Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

“I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.

BIG MO

The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

“He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”

PLAYOFF ROTATION

Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

“I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

“He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

“This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”

LAMBERT ISLAND

Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

“Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”

MORE NEW VOICES

The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

“He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.