2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round predictions

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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. 

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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. 


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.

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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.

Pezzetta scores shootout winner; Canadiens beat Sabres 4-3

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BUFFALO, N.Y. ⁠— Brendan Gallagher and the Montreal Canadiens rallied back to avoid playoff elimination with less than three weeks left in their season. The Buffalo Sabres, meanwhile, are running out of chances to stay in the Eastern Conference wild-card hunt.

Gallagher forced overtime by scoring his 200th career goal, and Michael Pezzetta scored the decisive shootout goal in a 4-3 win over the Sabres on Monday night.

“It’s one of those things I think we earned that chance. We weren’t fantastic but we did enough on the road tonight to get a win,” Gallagher said. “Smiles all around.”

The Canadiens could laugh, especially after Pezzetta celebrated his goal by putting his stick between his legs and riding it like a wooden horse — much like former NHL tough guy Dave “Tiger” Williams did during his 14-year NHL career spanning the 1970s and 80s.

“I’m not sure we’ll see that again. One of a kind,” said Gallagher. “I’d be worried about falling over.”

Pezzetta scored by driving in from the right circle to beat Eric Comrie inside the far post. Buffalo’s Jack Quinn scored in the fourth shootout round, but was matched by Montreal’s Jesse Ylonen, whose shot from in tight managed to trickle in through Comrie.

Jordan Harris and Alex Belzile also scored for Montreal, and Jake Allen stopped 30 shots through overtime, while allowing one goal on six shootout attempts.

Montreal would have been eliminated from playoff contention for a second straight season – and two years removed from reaching the Stanley Cup Final – with any type of loss.

The Sabres squandered a 3-2 third-period lead to drop to 3-6-3 in their past 12. Buffalo also blew a chance to move to within four points of idle Pittsburgh, which holds the eighth and final playoff spot.

“Just a little hesitation,” forward JJ Peterka said of the Sabres third-period lapse. “We didn’t play with much energy and we didn’t play that aggressive as we played the two periods before. I think that was the difference.”

Buffalo’s Lukas Rousek scored a goal and added an assist while filling in for leading scorer Tage Thompson, who did not play due to an upper body injury. Peterka and defenseman Riley Stillman also scored, and Comrie stopped 38 shots through overtime, and allowed two goals on six shootout attempts.

Montreal blew two one-goal leads to fall behind 3-2 on Stillman’s goal at the 8:31 mark of the second period.

Gallagher scored on the fly by using Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin as a screen to snap in a shot inside the far left post. With the goal, Gallagher tied Bobby Rousseau for 24th on the Canadiens career scoring list.

“I liked the way we corrected ourselves, it’s a sign of maturity, in the way we stayed on task,” Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis said, in recalling how the Canadiens recently unraveled in an 8-4 loss two weeks ago to Colorado, which plays a similar up-tempo style as Buffalo.


The Sabres hosted their third Pride Night, with Russian D Ilya Lyubushkin electing not to participate in warmups by citing an anti-gay Kremlin law and fears of retribution at home in Moscow, where he has family and visits in the offseason. The remainder of the team wore dark blue jerseys with the Sabres logo on the front encircled by a rainbow-colored outline.

During the first intermission, the Sabres broadcast a video in which GM Kevyn Adams said: “This is about recognizing someone’s humanity and true identity. We know there are people out there struggling with who they are, and we want them to know that they have an ally in the Buffalo Sabres.”


Canadiens: At the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.

Sabres: Host the New York Rangers on Friday night.

Flyers chairman Scott to retire; Hilferty becomes successor

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PHILADELPHIA — Dave Scott will retire as chairman of the Philadelphia Flyers’ parent company Comcast Spectacor and be replaced by Dan Hilferty.

Hilferty, who was recently named CEO of Comcast Spectacor, will succeed Scott as chairman of the company on April 17 and as the team’s governor on July 1.

Scott joined Comcast Spectacor in December 2013 and the Flyers have struggled under his reign. They will miss the playoffs for a third straight season and haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975.

“Our number one goal for the Flyers will be to consistently compete for the Stanley Cup,” Hilferty said. “It is going to be a process that will take time to get on that path, but I’m confident we are headed in the right direction with Danny Briere as interim GM, Coach Tortorella, and our hiring of a President of Hockey Operations soon. Our leadership team will be fully focused to deliver on this for our fans while also continuing to make the sports complex the best location for sports and entertainment in the nation.”

As Chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, Hilferty will lead the company’s entire portfolio, including the Philadelphia Flyers. Spectacor Sports and Entertainment CEO Valerie Camillo will continue to work directly with Hilferty, overseeing the Wells Fargo Center, including its continued transformation, and lead the Flyers’ business operations.

Pastrnak scores twice, Bruins top Hurricanes 4-3 in shootout

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RALEIGH, N.C. — David Pastrnak’s milestone performance with the Boston Bruins came with additional responsibility.

Minus a couple of key players, Pastrnak moved to the forefront and eclipsed the 50-goal mark by scoring twice and the Bruins won their seventh game in a row by defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in a shootout Sunday.

Forwards Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand didn’t make the trip with the NHL-leading Bruins, so Pastrnak boosted his contributions.

“I’ve been learning from those guys,” Pastrnak said. “You recognize when they’re not here that you have to take a step forward.”

Pastrnak posted the 12th 50-goal season in Bruins history.

“With Bergeron and Marchand back at home, you can see his leadership skills really come out,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said. “I think he put the team on his back and played the right way.”

Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk scored in the shootout in a matchup of Eastern Conference division leaders.

Jakub Lauko also scored for the Bruins, who earned their 57th victory and are five wins shy of matching the all-time NHL record with nine regular-season games to play. Charlie McAvoy had two assists and Jeremy Swayman made 34 saves.

“We’ve had a lot of character wins in a lot of different fashions,” Montgomery said.

Boston tied the franchise record for wins in a season. That’s special in Montgomery’s opinion.

“Especially when you think about all the great Bruins teams,” he said.

Jack Drury, Brady Skjei and Sebastian Aho scored for the Hurricanes, who won three of their previous four games. Brett Pesce had two assists and Frederik Andersen stopped 35 shots.

Carolina wiped out a two-goal deficit to secure a team point.

“It wasn’t our best game, but I thought the third period we certainly came on,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It’s one of those games where you say it’s probably a good point to get considering how it was looking.”

Pastrnak’s 50th goal of the season came 4:43 into the game. He received a pass from McAvoy and skated half the length of the ice on a breakaway, though lost full control of the puck and still beat Andersen.

Pastrnak was on track for 50 goals in March 2020, but he ended up with 48 when the COVID-19 pandemic caused an early end to the regular season.

“You never know what can happen,” Pastrnak said.

Drury, set up in the slot, scored his second goal of the season off a pass from Jalen Chatfield at 7:44 of the second.

Just 1:28 later, Pastrnak’s second goal came on a power play when he blasted a shot from the left side just inside the post. Lauko’s fourth goal extended the lead at 11:46 of the second.

Carolina pulled even at 3-3 when Skjei and Aho scored in the first four minutes of the third period.

“We knew that was coming,” Montgomery said. “There’s no need to panic. We knew they were going to come with a push.”


Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm was scratched along with Bergeron and Marchand with what Montgomery referred to as nagging injuries. The trio has accounted for 57 goals this season.

“It shows the depth that we have,” Swayman said. “I think all of us thrive on the energy in a building like this.”

Carolina’s only significant lineup adjustment came with center Paul Stastny in the lineup in place of Jesse Puljuharvi, who had played in eight straight games since making his debut with the Hurricanes. Puljuharvi arrived in a trade from Edmonton in late February.

NOTES: The Bruins won two of three meetings with the Hurricanes, securing the first victory in overtime. Carolina eliminated Boston in last spring’s playoffs in seven games. … The Hurricanes maintained their string of securing a point in all seven games across different seasons while wearing green Hartford Whalers-inspired jerseys. The franchise began as the Whalers before relocation in 1997.


Bruins: Host Nashville on Tuesday.

Hurricanes: Host Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

Malkin’s late goal lifts Penguins past Ovechkin, Capitals 4-3

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PITTSBURGH — Evgeni Malkin remains a live wire. Even now, 17 seasons into a career that is likely destined for the Hall of Fame, there’s an unpredictability the Pittsburgh Penguins star plays with that can be both endearing and exasperating to teammates and coaches alike.

The latest proof came against Washington on Saturday.

An untimely roughing penalty in the third period helped spark a Capitals’ rally from a three-goal deficit. Malkin made up for it by burying a breakaway with 1:20 left in regulation that lifted the Penguins to a 4-3 victory.

“His care factor and his compete level for me is off the charts and that’s what I love about him and usually when the stakes are high that’s when he’s at his best,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “He gets a huge goal for us tonight at a key time.”

Malkin’s 25th goal of the season – a low wrist shot to the far post – helped the Penguins avoid a potentially messy collapse. Pittsburgh appeared to be ready to cruise to victory after Jake Guentzel‘s power-play goal 27 seconds into the third period made it 3-0.

Washington instead stormed back, with Alex Ovechkin right in the middle of it. Ovechkin scored his 42nd goal of the season and 822nd of his career from his favorite spot in the left circle with 6:42 to go in regulation. Washington drew even when Dylan Strome flipped the puck into an open net with 2:44 to go in regulation.

Yet instead of sagging, the Penguins surged. Malkin stripped Washington’s Anthony Mantha near center ice and broke in alone on Kuemper. Seconds later, the puck was in the net and Malkin was on one knee celebrating while pumping his fists, the kind of display of raw emotion that’s become one of his trademarks.

“It’s a huge goal for me, and two points for the team,” Malkin said.

Pittsburgh moved three points clear of Florida after the Panthers lost to the earlier Saturday. Both teams have nine regular-season games left.

Ryan Poehling and Chad Ruhwedel scored a little over two minutes apart in the second period for Pittsburgh. Jake Guentzel added his team-high 32nd goal early in the third before Washington scrambled back. Casey DeSmith played spectacularly at times while finishing with 31 saves.

Tom Wilson started the Capitals’ comeback with his ninth goal of the season 5:19 into the third. Kuemper stopped 36 shots, but was outplayed by DeSmith as Washington’s hopes of making a late push for a playoff berth took a serious hit. The Capitals are six points behind Pittsburgh with only eight games remaining.

“It’s a tough one,” Washington center T.J. Oshie said. “I don’t think that last play was the only thing that lost the game for us. I know that (Mantha) feels terrible about it, but we trust him with the puck. It just wasn’t a good enough 60 minutes against a good hockey team over there.”

It felt like old times for much of the night for teams that usually enter late March battling for a spot near the top of the Metropolitan Division.

Not this season.

While the 35-year-old Crosby is averaging over a point a game as usual and the 37-year-old Ovechkin is steadily making inroads on Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record, their teams have spent most of the year skating in place.

Pittsburgh has been wildly uneven thanks in part to goaltending that has fluctuated between solid and shaky, the main reason a 17th straight playoff appearance is hardly assured. Washington, meanwhile, appears to be pointing toward the future after injuries and a small sell-off at the trade deadline.

Pittsburgh put itself on slightly firmer footing with DeSmith making a compelling case that he should supplant Tristan Jarry as Pittsburgh’s top goaltender down the stretch.

DeSmith was spectacular at times, including stoning Ovechkin on a breakaway near the end of the second period in which Ovechkin deked DeSmith to his knees, only to see DeSmith extend his left leg just enough to knock the puck out of harm’s way.

“I’m not very tall,” the 6-foot DeSmith said. “But I had that one inch that I needed.”


Capitals: Host the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Penguins: Visit Detroit on Tuesday.