NHL Playoffs Daily 2020 – Let the First Round Begin!

Playoffs? Yes, you can now actually say that these are the 2020 NHL playoffs.

The tournament is now officially in its first round, with only 16 teams left. Day 1 brings us a list of four games, though none before 3 pm ET. We already miss morning / afternoon hockey.

Watch the ESPN Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily every day of the postseason until the Cup is released in October.

Games of today

All times Eastern

Game 1: No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 9 Columbus Blue Jackets, 3 p.m.

While there are plenty of new faces on both teams, there is one storyline that dominates this series: in 2019, the record-breaking Lightning were beaten in the first round by the Blue Jackets and their dirty defensive game plan. And now the Lightning is seeking revenge. The Blue Jackets are riding high after smashing the NHL’s highest paid offense in the qualifying round (the Maple Leafs scored just three 5-on-5 goals against the Blue Jackets in five games). Does not sound like Steven Stamkos is ready to go yet, and we’re also waiting to hear about Victor Hedman’s status. It would be a loss for Tampa Bay, but not unmanageable; the Lightning sometimes looked dominant in the round-robin stage without both stars.

Game 1: No. 3 Dallas Stars vs. No. 8 Calgary Flames | 5:30 p.m.

The Stars technically had not won a game since Feb. 25 – a slide of eight games – before winning their round-robin final against the Blues. That’s a good boost to morale in the first round, but Dallas (as usual) needs more offense. The Stars scored just four goals in three round robin games, which is what the Flames have averaged per game in their qualifying game victory over the Jets. And they’re pretty much amped up after a feisty series against Winnipeg. “We’ve had chances in the playoffs before and we’ve been embarrassed and apparently cut out a few times,” said center Sean Monahan. “Right now you’re looking at our team, every man has bought in and every man wants it. I think the character of our team is stepping up.”

Game 1: No. 4 Boston Bruins Vs. No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes | 8 pm

The top line of The Bruins is called ‘The Perfection Line’, but they did not see the part quite in the sleeping round robin. Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak were all scoreless through three games. Boston has to snap out of its round-robin malaise – which the Bs saw from no. 1-seed to no. 4 – because the Canes get hot. Carolina’s first tandem of Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov shook the Rangers for six goals and 13 points in three games. Dougie Hamilton, who was a Norris Trophy announcer before suffering a broken leg in January, would have to dress for Game 1. Carolina’s goals are too many, with a 5-on-5 save percentage of .971 in ‘ the qualifying round, a major improvement from their combined .912 in the regular season.

Game 1: No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 12 Chicago Blackhawks | 10.30am

This series has the most sizzle in the Western Conference thanks to this storyline: the Blackhawks traded Robin Lehner by the deadline for trade, not believing they would go to the playoffs. Not only are they here, but they will face Lehner and his new team in the first round. Blackhawks rookie Kirby Dach said on Monday that his team is envious of proving that they are not only happy to be here; they want to continue. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights welcome Max Pacioretty back into the lineup (he came late in the bubble and had to quarantine). It does not look like they will cut his minutes in Game 1.

Theme of the day

Are the round robin teams a disadvantage? In the first week of the tournament, there was a noticeable difference between qualifying match games (playoff intensity) and the round robin (glorious exposures). “Those are games for press season,” Brad Marchand said in a Zoom call on Monday. “I mean, let’s call it what it is.” So can the round-robin teams that just skated through the motions – like Boston – turn the switch?

About last night …

The New York Rangers won the NHL draft lottery, and the right to select Alexis Lafreniere on October 1 in October.

The Reconstruction of the Rangers has not only been remarkably fast, but also gave them a No. 2 pick (used on Kaapo Kakko in 2019) and a No. 1 pick – and in the meantime, they also have one of ‘ the best free agents signed in franchise history, MVP candidate Artemi Panarin. The NHL is obsessed with expanding its U.S. reach, but it’s no secret that it’s good for the league if its big-market teams do well. So since the league stands to lose millions of dollars in the coronavirus pandemic, it’s not exactly the worst thing that the Rangers will become relevant again.

What about Lafreniere? Here’s his reaction, in an interview on NHL Network moments after the ping pong ball was revealed: “Really good news. Rangers are an unreal team with really good players and a very nice city. That for sure is really good news, and I am really happy. “

Greg Wyshynski and I have plenty more to say about the 2020 draft lottery here.

Social post of the day

This age just too good:

Rant of the day

Columbus coach John Tortorella went out of his way Monday defend Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe. Tortorella does have a point. While fans of Maple Leafs are frustrated about their team, criticism of Keefe is misplaced. He has been on the job for nine months. The Leafs have not won a playoff series since 2004. (Heck, even the Sabers have won one since). There is a fundamental issue here.