The Stanley Cup playoffs are finally here after qualifying and round robin play concluded in Toronto and Edmonton on Sunday.
Five months after the season paused for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the NHL has whittled 24 teams down to 16. The Capitals will play the New York Islanders and old coach Barry Trotz in the first round. They celebrated winning the Stanley Cup together two years ago.
Trotz left to take the job in New York and famously said after receiving his championship ring in an emotional meeting with his former players that he wished them well and that they could win it all again "but you'll have to go through the [explitive] Island, OK?"
So 24 teams are down to 16 with games set to continue in Toronto and Edmonton. The first round begins on Tuesday. This year's road to the Cup will look significantly different than past seasons, but it won't be any less meaningful to the players pushing for the Cup.
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RELATED: 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs opponent set: How Capitals fared vs. ex-coach Barry Trotz and Islanders
How does the bracket look?
Well, you see....there is no bracket. Not in the traditional sense. The NHL has re-seeded teams No. 1 through No. 8. So the Chicago Blackhawks, the No. 12 in the qualifying round, upset the No. 5 seed Edmonton Oilers in their home city and are now listed as the No. 8 seed.
None of it really matters. Whichever four teams advance to the Eastern and Western Conference semifinals will be re-seeded again. If No. 4 Boston is the best seed remaining after the first round, it would play the lowest-seeded remaining team. In this case, No. 8 Montreal.
But we are back to a best-of-seven format. The qualifying round was best-of-five - except for the top four teams in each conference who played round-robin games against each other for seeding. That's how Presidents' Trophy-winner Boston ended up No. 4 in the Eastern Conference.
What does this mean for the Capitals?
The Capitals finished the regular season with a 41-20-8 record and 90 points. They barely claimed the Metropolitan Division title for the fifth consecutive year, edging out the Flyers by one point. They rank third in the Eastern Conference behind the Bruins and Tampa Lightning.
But they weren't playing well in February and March and looked suspect during round-robin play. Norris Trophy finalist John Carlson is injured and missed the final two round-robin games, third-line center Lars Eller left the Toronto bubble for the birth of his son and has to quarantine at least until Wednesday.
But re-seeded tournaments are inherently unpredictable and beating the Islanders could suddenly mean a second-round series against a beatable opponent instead of another date with the No. 2 Lightning.
Where will the Stanley Cup Playoffs take place?
Eastern Conference games will continue to be held at Scotiabank Place in Toronto while Western Conference games will still take place at Rogers Place in Edmonton. These two hub cities will serve as respective bubbles for each conference. The Stanley Cup Final will join the conference champs together in Edmonton
Who is here?
The 2019 champions (St. Louis Blues), the 2018 champs (Capitals), a Bruins team that came within a game of the title last season and a Tampa Bay squad that just never can get over the hump in the playoffs. Oh – and the fading dynasty that is the Chicago Blackhawks still has some fight left in it. The Philadelphia Flyers are a legitimate darkhorse despite being the top seed. The Colorado Avalanche have so much talent just hitting its prime. There’s tons of intrigue with this tournament and it could easily go haywire. Just the way we like it.
Who is missing?
Sideny Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins for one. They went out in the qualifying round to Carey Price and the Canadiens. The Pens might have a 12.5% chance at the No. 1 overall pick, but the NHL loses a meal ticket.
Also gone is superstar Connor McDavid and the Oilers. All the NHL wants is its most dynamic player on its biggest stage and it just rarely seems to happen.
And say goodbye to the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose fans face a long, cold Fall for once instead of summer. The 1967 champions and their star-studded roster will have to wait until next year. Again.
Who never made It
Twenty-four teams took part in the expanded postseason. The seven that did not make the cut were the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings.
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(No. 1) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (No. 8) Montreal Canadiens
Wednesday, Aug. 12: Canadiens vs. Flyers, 8pm
Friday, Aug. 14: Canadiens vs. Flyers, 3pm
Sunday, Aug. 16: Flyers vs. Canadiens, 8pm
Tuesday, Aug. 18: Flyers vs. Canadiens, 3pm
Wednesday, Aug. 19: Canadiens vs. Flyers, TBD*
Friday, Aug. 21: Flyers vs. Canadiens, TBD*
Sunday, Aug. 23: Canadiens vs. Flyers, TBD*
(No. 2) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (No. 7 ) Columbus Blue Jackets
Tuesday, Aug. 11: Blue Jackets vs. Lightning, 3pm
Thursday, Aug. 13: Blue Jackets vs. Lightning, 3pm
Saturday, Aug. 15: Lightning vs. Blue Jackets, 7:30pm
Monday, Aug. 17: Lightning vs. Blue Jackets, 3pm
Wednesday, Aug. 19: Blue Jackets vs. Lightning, TBD*
Friday, Aug. 21: Lightning vs. Blue Jackets, TBD*
Saturday, Aug. 22: Blue Jackets vs. Lightning, TBD*
(No. 3) Washington Capitals vs. (No. 6) New York Islanders
Wednesday, Aug. 12: Islanders vs. Capitals
Friday, Aug. 14: Islanders vs. Capitals
Sunday, Aug. 16: Capitals vs. Islanders
Tuesday, Aug. 18: Capitals vs. Islanders
Thursday, Aug. 20: Islanders vs. Capitals, TBD*
Saturday, Aug. 22: Capitals vs. Islanders, TBD*
Sunday, Aug. 23: Islanders vs. Capitals, TBD*
(No. 4) Boston Bruins vs. (No. 5) Carolina Hurricanes
Tuesday, Aug. 11: Hurricanes vs. Bruins, 8pm
Thursday, Aug. 13: Hurricanes vs. Bruins, 8pm
Saturday, Aug. 15: Bruins vs. Hurricanes, 12pm
Monday, Aug. 17: Bruins vs. Hurricanes, 8pm
Wednesday, Aug. 19: Hurricanes vs. Bruins, TBD*
Thursday, Aug. 20: Bruins vs. Hurricanes, TBD*
Sunday, Aug, 23: Hurricanes vs. Bruins, TBD*
(No. 1) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (No. 8) Chicago Blackhawks
Tuesday, Aug. 11: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights, 11:30pm
Thursday, Aug. 13: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights, 5:30pm
Saturday, Aug. 15: Golden Knights vs. Blackhawks, 8pm
Sunday, Aug. 16: Golden Knights vs. Blackhawks, 6:30pm
Tuesday, Aug. 18: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights, TBD*
Thursday, Aug. 20: Golden Knights vs. Blackhawks, TBD*
Saturday, Aug. 22: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights, TBD*
(No. 2) Colorado Avalanche vs. (No. 7) Arizona Coyotes
Wednesday, Aug. 12: Coyotes vs. Avalanche, 5:30pm
Friday, Aug. 14: Coyotes vs. Avalanche, 2pm
Saturday, Aug. 15: Avalanche vs. Coyotes, 3pm
Monday, Aug. 17: Avalanche vs. Coyotes, 5:30pm
Wednesday, Aug. 19: Coyotes vs. Avalanche, TBD*
Friday, Aug. 21: Avalanche vs. Coyotes, TBD*
Sunday, Aug. 23: Coyotes vs. Avalanche, TBD*
(No. 3) Dallas Stars vs. (No. 6) Calgary Flames Sunday
Tuesday, Aug. 11: Flames vs. Stars, 4:30pm
Thursday, Aug. 13: Flames vs. Stars, 10:30pm
Friday, Aug. 14: Stars vs. Flames, 10:30pm
Sunday, Aug. 16: Stars vs. Flames, 2pm
Tuesday, Aug. 18: Flames vs. Stars, TBD*
Thursday, Aug. 20: Stars vs. Flames, TBD*
Saturday, Aug. 22: Flames vs. Stars, TBD*
(No. 4) St. Louis Blues vs. (No. 5) Vancouver Canucks
Wednesday, Aug. 12: Canucks vs. Blues, 10:30pm
Friday, Aug. 14: Canucks vs. Blues, 6:30pm
Sunday, Aug. 16: Blues vs. Canucks, 10:30pm
Monday, Aug. 17: Blues vs. Canucks, 10:30pm
Wednesday, Aug. 19: Canucks vs. Blues, TBD*
Friday, Aug. 21: Blues vs. Canucks, TBD*
Sunday, Aug. 23: Canucks vs. Blues, TBD*
Updated odds to win the 2020 Stanley Cup
An impressive showing in round robin play has the Golden Knights as slight favorites to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the Capitals in 2018 in five games in their first season as an expansion club, according to one sportsbook. The Caps rank seventh with +1278 odds.
Vegas Golden Knights: +606
Colorado Avalanche: +617
Philadelphia Flyers: +617
Tampa Bay Lightning: +667
Boston Bruins: +747
St. Louis Blues: +956
Washington Capitals: +1278
Dallas Stars: +1600
Carolina Hurricanes: +1678
Calgary Flames: +1978
Vancouver Canucks: +2389
New York Islanders: +2611
Arizona Coyotes: +3078
Chicago Blackhawks: +3167
Montreal Canadiens: +3233
Columbus Blue Jackets: +3911
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