NHL Playoff Preview
Photo Credit: ABC7 New York

FSM Essential NHL Playoff Predictions



It has been over four and a half months since the NHL pressed pause on the 2019-2020 campaign. Saturday, August 1st the NHL will press play after a hiatus of over four and a half months. Below you will find my predictions for who will win each “play in” round, Conference Championship, and Stanley Cup.


Before the predictions, let us review precisely how the NHL will resume the 2019-2020 campaign.


  • The top twelve teams based on regular-season standings qualify for postseason play.


  • The postseason is divided into two parts –
    • Part one is the round-robin games with the top four teams in each conference plus the “play in” round where the fifth through twelfth seeds will compete against each other in a five-game series. Round robin games will determine seeding with regular-season scoring used, meaning two points awarded for a win and one point awarded for an overtime or shootout loss. In the event two or more teams earn the same amount of points in the round-robin games, the tiebreaker will be the team that had the higher seed entering the round-robin games.
    • Part two is the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The four teams advancing from the “play-in” series will compete against one of the top four teams that competed in the round-robin games with the highest seed playing the lowest seed. That process will be repeated throughout each round.


  • Each team will be designated as the home or away team for each game, which is extremely important for the last change.


Photo Credit: Elite Sports NY


There you have it!  Now let us dive into each “play in” series.


Eastern Conference “Play-In” Predictions”


#5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #12 Montreal Canadiens

Scoring, in general, is predicted to be down in the early games. That does not bode well for the Pittsburgh Penguins facing an elite netminder in Carey Price. A hot goalie can take a team on a deep playoff run. I believe a short series favors the elite goalies of the NHL. Crosby and Malkin will have to be at their absolute best from the first puck drop. Can Tatar, Domi, and Weber offer enough support to Carey Price?

Prediction – Montreal over Pittsburgh in five games.


NHL Playoff Preview
Photo Credit: Canes Country

#6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. #11 New York Rangers

I am predicting the Rangers to make a splash. Panarin was one of the keys to the Blue Jackets upsetting the Lightning in the 2019 Playoffs. Zibanejad and Strome performed exceptionally well in the regular season. If rookies Fox and Kaako can find their playoff legs, the Rangers will be tough to beat. Expect the Rangers to have elite goaltending from Lundqvist and rookie Shesterkin. Hurricanes coach, Rod Brind’Amour, may be the best motivator in the league. Can Brind’Amour say the right things to keep up Rangers?

Prediction – New York over Carolina in four games.


#7 New York Islanders vs. #10 Florida Panthers

This series will be a chess matchup of two elite coaches with plenty of playoff and Stanley Cup Finals pedigree. As mentioned earlier, the last change is critical in the playoffs. The nod goes to the team who gets last change for three of the five games.

Prediction – New York over Florida in five games


#8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. #9 Columbus Blue Jackets

Toronto had an emotional year with the coaching change of Mike Babcock to Sheldon Keefe. Stories came out from the toxic environment that former Coach Babcock created. Those days are past. In a short series, I believe the elite players can take over. Matthews, Tavares, Marner, and Nylander will own this series. Can perhaps the grumpiest coach in all professional sports, John Tortorella, get the most out of the Blue Jackets?  Toronto is playing in their barn with a positive locker room.

Prediction – Toronto over Columbus in three games.



Western Conference “Play-In” Predictions


#5 Edmonton Oilers vs. #12 Chicago Blackhawks

There will be enough skill on display to fill nearly an entire all-roster. The marquee matchup is McDavid / Draisaitl vs. Kane / Toews.  A very slight nod goes to the Oilers in the marquee battle. The second-tier players and goaltending will determine which team advances. Chicago goalie, Corey Crawford, has made the trip to Edmonton after a scare with COVID19.

If deemed healthy enough to play, the two-time Stanley Cup Champion gives the Blackhawks a considerable advantage. Chicago players Kubalik, DeBrincat, Strome, Saad, and Keith are an upgrade over NugentHopkins, Ennis, and Klefbom on Edmonton. Chicago coach, Jeremy Colliton, needs to keep things simple and let Captain Toews lead the Blackhawks to battle.

Prediction – Chicago over Edmonton in four games.


NHL Playoff Preview
Photo Credit: YouTube

#6 Nashville Predators vs. #11 Arizona Coyotes

In Vegas, we all follow hunches from time to time. When passing by the roulette wheel, we drop a few red chips on double-zero for no good reason at all. At the dice table, it makes no sense to hop sixty-one, but if I am feeling it, I am betting it! Arizona is a hunch play for me.

Free-agent Phil Kessel and trade acquisition Taylor Hall have been underperforming; I get it. Goalies Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta are far from the best goaltending duo in the playoffs. I have to Google the rest of the Coyotes roster… like I said, I have a hunch. Roman Josi, a defenseman, was the team leader in points for Nashville. Not the best formula for winning playoff hockey.

Prediction – Arizona over Nashville in four games.


#7 Vancouver Canucks vs. #10 Minnesota Wild

Vancouver has built a great foundation through the last three drafts with Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, and Quinn Hughes. Minnesota is one of those teams that always get a taste of the playoffs and is out in the early rounds—not digging too deep into this one. The youngsters in Vancouver will get the job done.

Prediction – Vancouver over Minnesota in three games.


#8 Calgary Flames vs. #9 Winnipeg Jets

How does a coaching staff prepare for an opponent when they have two months to do so? This is where experience becomes paramount.  Coach “A” has coached fifty-seven games at the NHL level. Coach “B” has coached nearly double that many games…in the playoffs!  Coach “B” also has one thousand six hundred regular-season games coached. Coach “A” is the Calgary Flames coach, Geoff Ward.  Coach “B” is the Winnipeg Jets coach, Paul Maurice.

Prediction – Winnipeg over Calgary in four.


Now we will fast-forward to my predictions for the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup winner.  Without knowing who seeds one through four will be in each conference, it will be extremely difficult to offer any predictions for rounds one and two.


Eastern Conference Final – New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins

I am very bullish on the Rangers as they have some great scoring and great goaltending. But the Boston Bruins will be hungry to avenge their game seven Stanley Cup defeat from last year… which occurred on home ice. The Bruins will do what the Bruins do. Zdeno Chara will average fifty-seven minutes of ice per game, Brad Marchand will break all sorts of social distancing protocols during scrums, and David Pastrnak will score a ton of goals. The Rangers were a sweet story, but this is where their run ends.

Prediction – Boston over New York in five games.


Western Conference Final – Colorado Avalanche vs. Vegas Golden Knights


NHL Playoff Preview
Photo Credit: The Athletic

Colorado owned Vegas in the regular season by winning both of their tilts in T-Mobile Arena by a combined score of 13-4. However, both of those games occurred before VGK’s coaching change and roster updates. Colorado is loaded with talent; MacKinnon, Makar, Burakovsky, and Landeskog, just to name a few players that will lead the AvsVGK has plenty of talent to match in Stone, Smith, Marchessault, Karlsson, and Pacioretty. It is worth noting that Pacioretty did not make the initial trip to Edmonton as he is dealing with a hopefully minor injury. The goaltending duo of Marc Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner is what gives the Golden Knights the edge in this one.

Prediction – Vegas over Colorado in six games.


Stanley Cup Final – Boston Bruins vs. Vegas Golden Knights

Both teams have plenty of skill, toughness, and experience to hoist Lord Stanley. It is difficult to find the one intangible that will help me to pick a side. So many great players, solid goaltending, and great leadership in both locker rooms. Neutral arena so the fans will not be able to support their teams in a live setting. I am searching for that one thing that will help me pick a winner. I know what it is!  I am a homer! Vegas is my team! Yes, I am biased, but you know what?  It is my article, and I can be biased if I want to!


NHL Playoff Preview
Photo Credit: NHL

Prediction – Vegas over Boston in seven games.

Bonus Prediction – Robin Lehner starts games seven, which goes to overtime.

Bonus Prediction part II – Jonathan Marchessault wins the Conn Smythe.

Bonus Prediction part III – Robin Lehner is a member of the Golden Knights in the 2020-2021 season.





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-Chris Gawlik – Franchise Sports Media

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