Looking at the 2020 NHL playoffs, this is going to be one of the most difficult playoffs in recent memory to predict the winner. With 24 teams coming into their respective bubbles, players are rested, healthy, and chomping at the bit to get underway. With reseeding coming after the qualifying round, the team that can gel the quickest, find the emotion the fastest, and have the hottest goaltending will make a deep run into the late summer early fall and win the Covid Cup.
It’s tough to say whether the 24 teams’ performances back in March will have a strong indicator with what takes place in the bubble. Therefore after analyzing the odds and roster makeup, there are a few teams I like that may yield high returns.
To kick it off, looking out west, the Colorado Avalanche +650 and the Vegas Golden Nights +700.
Starting with Vegas, the goaltending tandem of Fleury and Lehner is one of the best of the respective 24 teams. As stated above, having hot goaltending is going to play a major factor in how the NHL playoffs shape up. If Fleury is shaky, Vegas has full trust in Lehner. He has proven over the previous two seasons to be a legitimate 1B option.
Looking at their 18 skaters, they have a great mix of veterans, many of whom are still seeking that elusive ring. With a highly skilled and deep roster they are a very safe and popular pick.
Switching over to the Avalanche, they have a very exciting roster with a top five NHL player leading the way. The lengthy pause may have been a blessing in disguise for this team. A few key players were able to recover from injuries, allowing them to potentially fire on all cylinders.
Offensively the Avalanche can push the pace against any other team in the league. With the return of Rantanen and rookie sensation Cale Makar making his second playoff appearance, their top five offense will be on display. What scares me is historically in the playoffs there is less time to operate, defenses tighten up, and gaps are closed much faster. In the regular season the Avalanche had a +46 goal differential, if they can mimic these same statistics look for them to make a deep run.
Looking out east, now the two teams that catch my eye are the Philadelphia Flyers +900 and the Carolina Hurricanes +1900.
Starting with the Flyers, I have been high on them since the season kicked off back in October. Top to bottom they have constructed one of the deepest teams around the league. The Flyers have a great mix of youth and veterans with a very solid goaltending tandem to back them up. To top things off, the coaching staff the Flyers have assembled is top notch. In this historic tournament that could prove more important than ever.
Changing gears over to Carolina, the Hurricanes enter the playoff at +1900. I love this team, they are well coached and have great depth top to bottom. With the acquisition of Trocheck and Justin Williams returning, I would not be surprised if we see the Hurricanes find their way back in the Eastern Conference Finals. With more games taking place this post season due to the round robin tournament as well as the play-in round, a two-goalie tandem is more viable this year than ever. If the Hurricanes can stay healthy, look for them to make a deep run.
Lastly, there are two sleepers I like for this Covid Cup both coming out of the east. These high-risk, high reward picks could turn this postseason on its head.
To start, the Columbus Blue Jackets are coming in at +4000 with John Torterella leading the way. He has made diamonds out of mud. Having the second most games missed due to injury, he’s perfected a shutdown system against any teams’ offensive threats. In addition, Zack Werenski and Seth Jones are arguably one of the best one-two punches on the back end league wide.
Finally the last sleeper pick is the New York Islanders at +2900. This team fits like puzzle pieces into Barry Trotz system, with the only outlier being their offensive catalyst Mathew Barzal. Barzal thinks about the game at a high level and has the speed to back it up. Apart from this, the Islanders show a strong defensive core and a ton of veteran leadership.
I’m very excited to get the playoffs started, it’s been a tough few months for the world, having the greatest sport return to action battling over the greatest trophy in sports, this is going to be a very positive and uplifting time.