NHL Playoffs 2020: Predictions for East, West Qualifying Games

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NHL Playoffs 2020: Predictions for East, West Qualifying Games
Matt Strasen/Associated Press

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Connor McDavid have to take an extra step to hoist the Stanley Cup this season. 

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers are the No. 5 seed in their respective conferences after the 24-squad restart field was determined off points percentage from the regular season. 

On paper, both teams are deeper and more talented than their foes in the NHL qualifying round, but there could be some difficulties throughout the five-game series. 

Pittsburgh has to face one of the most experienced goalies in the league, while Edmonton must shrug off a bad string of recent results against a team with championship-winning pedigree.

              

Qualifying Round Predictions

Pittsburgh over Montreal, 3-1

Pittsburgh's success could come down to how quickly it scores on Carey Price in Saturday's Game 1. 

Price has sat in between the pipes for Montreal since 2007, and if he finds form in the Toronto hub, it could spell bad news for the fifth-seeded Penguins.

The 32-year-old has five postseason shutouts in 60 appearances and owns a .914 save percentage and 2.53 goals against average in those contests. 

However, he is 13-14-5 in his career against the Penguins and has allowed 22 power-play goals across 33 games. 

If Pittsburgh jumps on Price early through its abundance of scorers, it could gain the momentum in the series. 

The Penguins' attack will receive a boost with the return of Jake Guentzel, who Brian Dumoulin praised as a consistent force on the ice, per Michelle Crechiolo of the team's official website. 

"It's big. He's such a consistent player out there. He has such a calming presence when he's on the ice. He can slow the play down, he can speed it up, he can score off the rush, he can score in front of the net. He's just a well-rounded hockey player. His hockey sense is off the charts. The guy just knows where to be and knows where to put the puck." 

Guentzel was one of five Pittsburgh players to record over 40 points in the regular season, and if you go further down the depth chart, 13 skaters produced 20 points. 

If Pittsburgh scores at the same level, it should avoid a first-round upset and set up a clash with one of Tampa Bay, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington.

          

Edmonton over Chicago, 3-2

The Chicago Blackhawks are one of the teams Edmonton likely wanted to avoid in the 24-team format. 

Edmonton lost two regular-season games to its qualifying round opponent, and Chicago reeled off five wins in its final seven games before the shutdown. 

Although Chicago is not as deep as it was during its Stanley Cup runs, it still carries experience with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith in the squad. 

Chicago was one of a few teams to limit Edmonton's high scoring ability, as it held the Oilers to four goals in its two regular-season victories. 

The No. 12 seed could hold the goalkeeping edge in a few games through Corey Crawford, who has a .919 save percentage and 2.28 GAA in the postseason.

Chicago has all the ingredients for an upset, but keeping Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl quiet for a five-game stretch is a difficult task for any opponent. 

The duo combined for 207 points and produced 27 goals and 60 assists with a man advantage. They also totaled 16 game-winning tallies. 

If McDavid and Draisaitl take advantage of power-play situations and knock in a few third-period goals, the Oilers should have enough to move past Chicago in the Edmonton hub. 

            

Other Predictions

Carolina over New York Rangers, 3-2

New York Islanders over Florida, 3-1

Toronto over Columbus, 3-1

Nashville over Arizona, 3-0

Minnesota over Vancouver, 3-2

Winnipeg over Calgary, 3-2

           

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

Statistics obtained from Hockey Reference

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