The Coronavirus pandemic has sports on pause, including different hockey leagues and events around the world. The NHL is apart of this and no one has any idea when or if it will be back. Teams had about a dozen games or so left in the regular season and that meant the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs were about to begin. We, of course, have no idea what hockey will look back when it comes back but we can only guess at this point. As we wait and see what will happen, we’ll take a look at the Eastern Conference playoff matchups as they are now.
2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Matchups As Of Now
Bruins vs Blue Jackets
The Boston Bruins and the Columbus Blue Jackets met in the second round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bruins look like they’re even better than last season. The Blue Jackets lost Artemi Panarin along with Sergei Bobrovsky and yet they are still in a playoff position. Pierre-Luc Dubois leads them in points with 49 and Oliver Bjorkstrand leads them with 21 goals. They also have a great goaltending tandem right now with Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo. Korpisalo is 19-12-5 with a 2.60 goals-against average while Merzlikins is 13-9-8 with a 2.35 goals-against average. These players have stepped up nicely but they are only one point ahead for the second wild spot. When they get back to play, they’re going to put the pedal to the medal.
The Bruins have the most points in the entire league with 100 points. The perfection line with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak is looking better than ever. All three players are over 50 points, including Pastrnak, who has a whopping 95 points. They have tremendous depth as well. Goalie Tuuka Rask is at it again and showing why he is one of the best in the game. He’s 26-8-0 with a 2.12 goals-against average. The whole team is tougher and more dangerous than last season. Columbus will be in for a tougher test than last year when they look then to six games.
Capitals vs Hurricanes
These two also met in the playoffs last year. In the first round, the Carolina Hurricanes took down the 2019 Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals in seven games. Like last year, they are the first wild card team and the Capitals are first in the Metro. The Hurricanes have a couple of different goalies in James Reimer and Petr Mrazek. They aren’t the same tandem as the team has last season but they are holding the fort down. They have three players over 60 points with Sebastian Aho having 38 goals and 28 assists. He has been great for the Hurricanes and that’s just what they needed.
The Capitals have hit a big skid leading up to the stoppage. They only have six wins in their last 16 games, including a four-game losing streak at one point. Even with the struggles as of late, they remain in first with 90 points in the division. That tells you how great they were earlier in the season. Defenseman John Carlson is having a great season as he is the favorite to win the Norris Trophy. He leads the team with 75 points. Alex Ovechkin is having another insane season as he had 48 goals on the season. If and when the Capitals get hot, this team is dangerous and can beat anyone in the league.
Lightning vs Maple Leafs
This round one matchup for the Toronto Maple Leafs is against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who has looked more like they did last year as of late. Toronto has a lot of talent but can’t seem to put it together this year. This includes Auston Matthews, who has 47 goals and 33 assists, and Mitch Marner, who 67 points on the season. Goalie Frederik Andersen hasn’t a great year like in years past. He has won 29 games but he had a 2.85 goals-against average with a 9.09 save percentage. He’s going to need to step up his game against a high powered Tampa Bay offense.
After a surprisingly slow start to the season, the Lightning has picked it up and has been the team we were expecting. They have 92 points, which is tied for third in the league. Nikita Kucherov is having another great year for the Lightning as he has 85 points with 33 goals and 52 assists. Not all season has been great as he was benched for a short period. The whole team needed a wake-up call and benching their star player got everyone’s attention. After that, they turned into the team we see now, including a team that won 11 games in a row late January into February. Andrei Vasilevskiy is also having another good year as he is 35-14-3 with a 2.56 goals-against average.
They are looking for revenge on anything in their path after what took place last playoffs, where they got swept by the Blue Jackets. The Maple Leafs will have to be on top of their game when they face a hungry Lightning team. Even after the year Tampa had last season, they will be more dangerous heading into the playoffs this season given what happened last year.
Flyers vs Penguins
One of the best rivalries in hockey will go at it in the first round. The Philadelphia Flyers are only one point behind the Capitals for first place and the Pittsburgh Penguins are only three points behind the Flyers. The Flyers have been hot as of late. They have 14 wins in their last 18 games and has surged up the standings. The stoppage couldn’t come at a worse time as they finally feel like they are contenders. Travis Konecny has 61 points, which leads the team. He has spread the puck around to the tune of 37 assists. Sean Couturier isn’t too far behind as he has 59 points with the same number of assists but two fewer goals with 22. They’ve had excellent goaltending by youngster Carter Hart, who has emerged very well in this league. He’s 24-13-3 with a 2.42 goals-against average.
On the other hand, the Penguins had hit a big skid as of late. They’ve lost eight of their last eleven and that includes a six-game losing streak. They only have two players over 50 points, Evgeni Malkin (74) and Bryan Rust (56). Sidney Crosby has 47 points but he’s been injured. This whole Penguins team has been dealing with injuries all year. Goalie Matt Murray was the starter coming into the season but he hasn’t played that well. He has a 2.87 goals-against average and a save percentage of .899. Then backup Tristan Jarry has lit it up and has kind of took over as the number one option. He’s 20-12-0 with a 2.43 goals-against average and a save percentage of .921, which is impressive. If this team can get healthy this team will be one of the favorites like in years past.
Hopefully, the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will take place. The Eastern Conference has five teams at or above 90 points for the season. They also have the first and only 100 point team (Bruins). We have no idea when or if the season will resume but if it does, teams will be well-rested and ready to go. The Eastern Conference is filled with strong teams so the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs should be better than ever.
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