Given the crazy turn of events the year 2020 has continued to throw at the world, it is no surprise that the qualifying round of the NHL playoffs wasn’t any different – symbolic, if you will.
The qualifying round consisted of 16 teams that were seeded 5-12 based on regular season standings when it was halted back in March. The top 4 seeded teams from each division were given bye’s for this round, meaning they all automatically advanced to the first round. The teams included the Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, Vegas Golden Knights, and St. Louis Blues.
The rest of the 16 teams battled it out in the qualifying round in order to determine who would continue on to the playoffs and who would get placed in the lottery for the first overall draft pick.
Pittsburgh Penguins (5) vs Montreal Canadiens (12)
The Pittsburgh Penguins were the top seed coming into the qualifying round while the Montreal Canadiens were the bottom seed. The Canadiens were the obvious underdog as Sidney Crosby and the Penguins were expected to prevail in the series and make another cup run.
However, plans quickly changed when the Canadiens took game one in overtime and held a series lead. While the Penguins won game two, the Canadiens managed to overpower the Penguins and win the series 3-1.
The Canadiens managed to prevail due to the young guys stepping up and creating opportunities offensively, while veterans like Shea Weber managed to clean up and hold strong defensively. The Penguins unexpectedly headed home after the qualifiers and the Canadiens were set to the play the Philadelphia Flyers in round one.
Carolina Hurricanes (6) vs New York Rangers (11)
The series between the Hurricanes and Rangers went as expected: the Hurricanes dominated and were the first team to move on to the first round.
The Rangers struggled defensively and allowed the Hurricanes to capitalize on their chances. The Rangers were the only team to have been swept in the qualifying round and will head to the draft lottery as they hope to receive the first overall pick.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes are set to play the Boston Bruins in round one and look to make another cup run, similar to last year.
New York Islanders (7) vs Florida Panthers (10)
Once again, the Islanders and Panthers series went as expected with the Islanders prevailing 3-1 and sending Florida to the draft lottery.
Islanders captain Anders Lee continues to be quite prominent in the lineup and have a heavy impact on the outcome of games. The Islanders are to face the 2018 Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals.
Toronto Maple Leafs (8) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (9)
This matchup was expected to be the closest as both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets are evenly matched teams. Given Toronto’s history of losing in the first round, the Leafs were hoping to overcome that and move on to make a cup run. The Blue Jackets, however, were looking to be as dominant as they were in round one of last years playoffs.
After a thrilling game four where the Leafs scored three goals in the last three minutes to send the game to overtime and winning in overtime, Columbus prevailed in game five, eliminating the Leafs from playoff contention.
The Blue Jackets were set to the play the Tampa Bay Lightning in round one, just like last year.
Edmonton Oilers (5) vs Chicago Blackhawks (12)
This series seemed to mirror the Penguins vs Canadiens series, as the top seeded Oilers were expected to move on while the Hawks were expected to be entered in the draft lottery.
However, the Hawks came ready to play and compete. The Hawks ended up winning the series 3-1, eliminating Connor McDavid and the rest of the Oilers.
Just like the other teams, the Oilers were to be entered in the lottery for first overall and the Hawks look to continue their underdog story by facing the Vegas Golden Knight in round one.
Nashville Predators (6) vs Arizona Coyotes (11)
While neither had the perfect regular season, the Nashville Predators and Arizona Coyotes were expected to have an eventful and intense series. While the Predators were expected to move on, the Coyotes managed to continue alongside the Canadiens and Blackhawks in creating an underdog story.
The Coyotes ended up winning the series 3-1, and the Predators were headed to the golf course, hoping to receive the first overall pick. The Coyotes will play the Colorado Avalanche in round one.
Vancouver Canucks (7) vs Minnesota Wild (10)
The Vancouver Canucks were expected to prevail in this series against the Minnesota Wild and they definitely delivered.
Stars such as Horvat and Boeser helped pave the way to the win as they are set to face off against the defending cup champions, the St. Louis Blues.
The Wild will be entered in the lottery for the first overall pick. The Wild would greatly benefit from selecting first overall, as they could use a dominant powerhouse like Lafreniere in order to boost their neutral franchise.
Calgary Flames (8) vs Winnipeg Jets (9)
Being the only Canadian matchup in the qualifiers, many were on their seats to watch this series unfold. There were bets on both sides as it was anyones game.
However, the Flames managed to climb their way to the top in a 3-1 series win. The Jets struggled as they were without super stars Laine and Scheifele. They looked to add to their roster as they hope to receive the first overall pick.
While many matchups went as expected, there were a few upsets that shocked the hockey world. The Canadiens, Blackhawks, and Coyotes look to push an underdog story and make a playoff run – which wouldn’t shock anyone anymore the way 2020 is going.
The matchups for round one are set and are ready to be underway. Can we expect more upsets? What do these NHL teams have in store for us?
There’s no way for us to tell. It is 2020 after all.