With the NHLPA voting for a 24-team tournament format for 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the NHL’s return, there are many different ways this bracket can look. The NHL has never seen this NCAA-style bracket before in its rich and long history, and this season will certainly be one that goes in the record books.
Every year, fans love to fill out brackets to predict who will take home the Stanley Cup. So, I polled the majority of our writers on Drive4Five round by round to see who we think is taking home the greatest trophy in all of sports.
Keep in mind, the top four seeds in each conference will be playing a mini-tournament to determine seeding. For our purposes, we are going to assume the seeds will stay how they are currently. In the east, it would be Boston (1), Tampa Bay (2), Washington (3) and Philadelphia (4). In the west, St. Louis (1), Colorado (2), Vegas (3), and Dallas (4).
One final note before we get into the results. The vote for this bracket occurred prior to the announcement that the teams will be reseeded after each round, so it was based on the bracket that was released to start.
The Play-In Round
Toronto Maple Leafs (8) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (9)- Toronto Maple Leafs
In a close vote, our team has the Toronto Maple Leafs edging out the Columbus Blue Jackets in a tight series. The Leafs have much more offensive talent than the Jackets, and that is what gives them the advantage.
Pittsburgh Penguins (5) vs. Montréal Canadiens (12)- Pittsburgh Penguins
In a pretty one-sided vote, our writers picked the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Montréal Canadiens. While Carey Price may be able to steal a couple games for the Habs, his team has won 17 regulation games in 70 matches and appear to be far inferior to an experienced Pittsburgh squad.
New York Islanders (7) vs. Florida Panthers (10)- New York Islanders
The Islanders have the Panthers’ number, sweeping them in the regular season this year and defeating them in a 6-game playoff series in 2016. While Florida has much more offensive skill, our crew gave a decisive advantage to the superior defensive team.
Carolina Hurricanes (6) vs. New York Rangers (11)- Carolina Hurricanes
Despite the Hurricanes going winless against the Rangers this year, our team chose Carolina to emerge victorious. The Canes had a lot of crucial injuries and stacked up at the trade deadline in hopes of a deep playoff push. The Canes shocked a lot of people in the playoffs last year, and are more than capable of doing it again.
Calgary Flames (8) vs. Winnipeg Jets (9)- Winnipeg Jets
The Jets have surprised a lot of hockey fans this year as they lost most of their defensemen last offseason to free agency. With a loaded top-six and a lights-out goalie in Connor Hellebuyck, our writers believe those will be the deciding factors in defeating a solid Calgary team.
Edmonton Oilers (5) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (12)- Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers are another Western Conference team that have surprised a lot of people this year. While their offensive weapons are few, they are arguably the most explosive in the league, especially with the dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, which our writers think is enough to pass an experienced Chicago Blackhawks team.
Vancouver Canucks (7) vs. Minnesota Wild (10)- Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks have a boatload of young talent and a very good top six. Markstrom has had an unexpectedly great year and even made an all-star appearance. In a pivotal year for the franchise, our writers believe the Canucks will move past the older Minnesota Wild.
Nashville Predators (6) vs. Arizona Coyotes (11)- Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes have a lot of pieces needed to make a good playoff run. Despite their offense struggling this season, there are still many players, such as Taylor Hall, Clayton Keller, Conor Garland, Phil Kessel, among others who can step up to the plate. Nashville has been a disappointing playoff team for the past few years, and our team believes they won’t make the “Sweet 16.”
The “First Round”
Toronto Maple Leafs (8) vs. Boston Bruins (1)- Boston Bruins
If the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs were to meet for the third consecutive postseason, our writers have history repeating itself. Boston’s first line will be too much for the Toronto defense to handle and will lead Boston to victory once again.
Pittsburgh Penguins (5) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (4)- Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers are an extremely convincing team this year. Alain Vigneault has done an incredible job in Philadelphia thus far, as their offense, defense, and goaltending have all been very solid this season. The Flyers don’t have many holes in their roster and appear to be better than their cross-state rivals currently.
New York Islanders (7) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (2)- New York Islanders
The Tampa Bay Lightning are stacked on paper, but the Islanders seem to play them very well. Tampa’s mindset in the playoffs has come across as frustrated and undisciplined in the last couple of seasons. With the Islanders going 3-2-1 in their last six against the Bolts, and not letting Nikita Kucherov score a goal in six consecutive meetings, this upset is more than realistic.
Carolina Hurricanes (6) vs. Washington Capitals (3)- Washington Capitals
After a tightly contested series between these two divisional foes last year, our team of writers believes it is the Capitals’ turn to come out victorious. While these teams are quite close, the edge in goaltending goes to the Capitals, equating to an edge in the series.
Winnipeg Jets (9) vs. St. Louis Blues (1)- St. Louis Blues
The Jets will put up a difficult fight, but St. Louis was absolutely dominant in the western conference this year, even without star winger Vladimir Tarasenko healthy for most of the year. St. Louis is the more complete team with a better defense and were simply built for the playoffs.
Edmonton Oilers (5) vs. Dallas Stars (4)- Edmonton Oilers
In the closest vote of the entire bracket, our writers have the Edmonton Oilers beating the Dallas Stars. The Stars’ offense has led them to underwhelming playoff performances for half a decade. It is almost guaranteed that Edmonton’s offense will be threatening, but you can’t say the same about Dallas.
Vancouver Canucks (7) vs. Colorado Avalanche (2)- Colorado Avalanche
In a battle of high-scoring teams, our writers voted that the Avalanche will escape a young Vancouver team. In what would be a good series with lots of talent, Colorado’s offense has a real chance to explode. While Jakub Markstrom has had an excellent year, Vancouver’s defense will have a hard time keeping up with Colorado’s offense.
Arizona Coyotes (11) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (3)- Vegas Golden Knights
Despite the debates about whether the Knights should start Marc-Andre Fleury or Robin Lehner, our writers believe that Vegas will emerge victorious in either scenario. The Coyotes’ offense is far inferior to Vegas’, and it will cost them in this series.
Washington Capitals (3) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (4)- Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyer hype is real. As they were catching up to the Washington Capitals in the standings, the games the Flyers and Caps played this year were nothing short of memorable. In what should be an absolute battle, our writers have the Flyers squeezing past Washington and advancing to the semi-finals.
Boston Bruins (1) vs. New York Islanders (7)- Boston Bruins
The Islanders play their worst hockey against the Bruins. The Islanders offense would more than likely struggle to score on Tuukka Rask, and the Bruins have owned the Islanders in recent memory, going 13-2-1 in their last 16 meetings.
St. Louis Blues (1) vs. Colorado Avalanche (2)- Colorado Avalanche
With the top two teams in the West battling it out in the quarterfinals, our writers believe the defending champs will be defeated by an up-and-coming Colorado Avalanche team. They look ready for a deep playoff run, as their offense is top-notch and the goaltending has far exceeded expectations this season.
Vegas Golden Knights (3) vs. Edmonton Oilers (5)- Vegas Golden Knights
Viva Las Vegas! In a clash of Pacific division squads, our team has the Knights coming out on top, as Edmonton’s lack of depth and shaky defense can cost them in the playoffs.
Boston Bruins (1) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (4)- Boston Bruins
In what would be a fantastic series, our writers have the Boston Bruins edging out the Philadelphia Flyers and advancing to the Stanley Cup Final. Experience and defense will be the deciding factors between top teams, and the Bruins have the advantage in both of these categories.
Colorado Avalanche (2) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (3)- Colorado Avalanche
In the West, our team thinks the Colorado Avalanche will make it to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2001. While Vegas is very good, Colorado has the advantage in almost every category, except for goaltending. However, if Grubauer and Francouz stay consistent, the Colorado Avalanche should barrel their way through the Western Conference.
Stanley Cup Final
Boston Bruins vs. Colorado Avalanche- Avalanche in 6
And the winner is… the Colorado Avalanche!
In a very close vote, our writers believe that the Avalanche will defeat the Bruins in six games. There’s nothing not to like about the Avalanche this year. Their top line is lethal, depth has been contributing and defense has been solid (especially players such as Cale Makar and Ryan Graves). As long as their goaltending doesn’t become an issue, it feels like it is Colorado’s turn to hoist the Cup.
Our Finalized Bracket