2020 NHL postseason: Picks for qualification round, Stanley Cup

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After months of a pandemic-induced pause, the NHL returns in earnest Saturday. Players will hit the ice again as the NHL's return-to-play plan hits Phase 4 and the postseason begins.

Unlike the traditional playoff format, the league is running a 24-team tournament, with 12 teams from each conference playing in fan-less arenas in Toronto (for the East) and Edmonton (for the West). The top four teams in each conference are in the round of 16, and seeds 5 through 12 will square off to see who will take the next step toward immortality.

We gathered our panel of NHL experts to make their picks on each qualification-round series, along with how they foresee the round-robin teams finishing.

More: Check out the full NHL postseason schedule here.

Jump to:
East round-robin | PIT-MTL
West round-robin | EDM-CHI

Eastern Conference

Round-robin: No. 1 Boston Bruins, No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning, No. 3 Washington Capitals, No. 4 Philadelphia Flyers

Sean Allen: Lightning, Capitals, Bruins, Flyers
Ben Arledge: Lightning, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers

Pierre Becquey: Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Flyers
John Buccigross: Lightning, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers
Sach Chandan: Lightning, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers
Linda Cohn: Lightning, Capitals, Bruins, Flyers
Aimee Crawford: Lightning, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers
Dimitri Filipovic: Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Flyers
Emily Kaplan: Bruins, Capitals, Lightning, Flyers
Tim Kavanagh: Lightning, Flyers, Bruins, Capitals
Don La Greca: Bruins, Capitals, Lightning, Flyers
Vince Masi: Capitals, Flyers, Bruins, Lightning
Victoria Matiash: Lightning, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers
Arda Ocal: Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Flyers
Greg Wyshynski: Bruins, Lightning, Flyers, Capitals

No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 12 Montreal Canadiens

Sean Allen: Penguins in 4
Ben Arledge: Penguins in 4
Pierre Becquey: Penguins in 4
John Buccigross: Penguins in 5
Sach Chandan: Canadiens in 5
Linda Cohn: Penguins in 4
Aimee Crawford: Penguins in 3
Dimitri Filipovic: Penguins in 4
Emily Kaplan: Penguins in 4
Tim Kavanagh: Penguins in 3
Don La Greca: Penguins in 4
Vince Masi: Penguins in 4
Victoria Matiash: Penguins in 5
Arda Ocal: Penguins in 3
Greg Wyshynski: Penguins in 3

Top pick: Penguins (14).

No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. No. 11 New York Rangers

Sean Allen: Rangers in 4
Ben Arledge: Rangers in 5

Pierre Becquey: Hurricanes in 5
John Buccigross: Rangers in 5
Sach Chandan: Hurricanes in 4
Linda Cohn: Rangers in 4
Aimee Crawford: Rangers in 5
Dimitri Filipovic: Hurricanes in 5
Emily Kaplan: Rangers in 5
Tim Kavanagh: Hurricanes in 4
Don La Greca: Rangers in 5
Vince Masi: Hurricanes in 5
Victoria Matiash: Rangers in 4
Arda Ocal: Rangers in 5
Greg Wyshynski: Hurricanes in 4

Top pick: Rangers (9).

No. 7 New York Islanders vs. No. 10 Florida Panthers

Sean Allen: Panthers in 4
Ben Arledge: Islanders in 4
Pierre Becquey: Panthers in 5
John Buccigross: Islanders in 5
Sach Chandan: Panthers in 4
Linda Cohn: Islanders in 5
Aimee Crawford: Islanders in 5
Dimitri Filipovic: Islanders in 4
Emily Kaplan: Islanders in 5
Tim Kavanagh: Islanders in 3
Don La Greca: Islanders in 4
Vince Masi: Islanders in 5
Victoria Matiash: Panthers in 4
Arda Ocal: Islanders in 4
Greg Wyshynski: Islanders in 4

Top pick: Islanders (11).

No. 8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Columbus Blue Jackets

Sean Allen: Maple Leafs in 3
Ben Arledge: Maple Leafs in 5
Pierre Becquey: Maple Leafs in 4
John Buccigross: Blue Jackets in 5
Sach Chandan: Maple Leafs in 3
Linda Cohn: Blue Jackets in 5
Aimee Crawford: Maple Leafs in 4
Dimitri Filipovic: Maple Leafs in 5
Emily Kaplan: Maple Leafs in 5
Tim Kavanagh: Maple Leafs in 4
Don La Greca: Maple Leafs in 4
Vince Masi: Blue Jackets in 5
Victoria Matiash: Maple Leafs in 5
Arda Ocal: Maple Leafs in 4
Greg Wyshynski: Maple Leafs in 4

Top pick: Maple Leafs (12).

Western Conference

Round-robin: No. 1 St. Louis Blues, No. 2 Colorado Avalanche, No. 3 Vegas Golden Knights, No. 4 Dallas Stars

Sean Allen: Blues, Golden Knights, Avs, Stars
Ben Arledge: Golden Knights, Blues, Avs, Stars

Pierre Becquey: Avs, Blues, Golden Knights, Stars
John Buccigross: Blues, Avs, Stars, Golden Knights
Sach Chandan: Golden Knights, Blues, Avs, Stars
Linda Cohn: Golden Knights, Avs, Blues, Stars
Aimee Crawford: Blues, Avs, Golden Knights, Stars
Dimitri Filipovic: Avs, Blues, Golden Knights, Stars
Emily Kaplan: Avs, Blues, Golden Knights, Stars
Tim Kavanagh: Avs, Blues, Stars, Golden Knights
Don La Greca: Blues, Avs, Stars, Golden Knights
Vince Masi: Golden Knights, Avs, Blues, Stars
Victoria Matiash: Avs, Golden Knights, Blues, Stars
Arda Ocal: Avs, Blues, Golden Knights, Stars
Greg Wyshynski: Avs, Blues, Stars, Golden Knights

No. 5 Edmonton Oilers vs. No. 12 Chicago Blackhawks

Sean Allen: Blackhawks in 5
Ben Arledge: Blackhawks in 5
Pierre Becquey: Oilers in 5
John Buccigross: Oilers in 4
Sach Chandan: Oilers in 3
Linda Cohn: Oilers in 4
Aimee Crawford: Oilers in 4
Dimitri Filipovic: Oilers in 4
Emily Kaplan: Oilers in 5
Tim Kavanagh: Blackhawks in 4
Don La Greca: Oilers in 5
Vince Masi: Oilers in 4
Victoria Matiash: Oilers in 4
Arda Ocal: Oilers in 5
Greg Wyshynski: Oilers in 4

Top pick: Oilers (12).

No. 6 Nashville Predators vs. No. 11 Arizona Coyotes

Sean Allen: Coyotes in 4
Ben Arledge: Predators in 4

Pierre Becquey: Predators in 4
John Buccigross: Predators in 4
Sach Chandan: Predators in 5
Linda Cohn: Predators in 5
Aimee Crawford: Predators in 3
Dimitri Filipovic: Coyotes in 5
Emily Kaplan: Predators in 5
Tim Kavanagh: Predators in 4
Don La Greca: Predators in 3
Vince Masi: Predators in 4
Victoria Matiash: Predators in 3
Arda Ocal: Coyotes in 5
Greg Wyshynski: Coyotes in 5

Top pick: Predators (11).

No. 7 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 10 Minnesota Wild

Sean Allen: Wild in 3
Ben Arledge: Canucks in 3
Pierre Becquey: Canucks in 4
John Buccigross: Canucks in 5
Sach Chandan: Canucks in 3
Linda Cohn: Canucks in 4
Aimee Crawford: Canucks in 5
Dimitri Filipovic: Canucks in 5
Emily Kaplan: Canucks in 4
Tim Kavanagh: Wild in 5
Don La Greca: Canucks in 4
Vince Masi: Canucks in 5
Victoria Matiash: Wild in 4
Arda Ocal: Canucks in 5
Greg Wyshynski: Canucks in 5

Top pick: Canucks (12).

No. 8 Calgary Flames vs. No. 9 Winnipeg Jets

Sean Allen: Jefs in 4
Ben Arledge: Jefs in 4
Pierre Becquey: Jets in 5
John Buccigross: Flames in 5
Sach Chandan: Jets in 5
Linda Cohn: Flames in 5
Aimee Crawford: Jets in 5
Dimitri Filipovic: Jets in 4
Emily Kaplan: Jets in 4
Tim Kavanagh: Flames in 4
Don La Greca: Jets in 5
Vince Masi: Jets in 5
Victoria Matiash: Jets in 4
Arda Ocal: Flames in 4
Greg Wyshynski: Flames in 4

Top pick: Jets (10).

Way-too-early Stanley Cup Final picks

Sean Allen: Lightning over Golden Knights
Ben Arledge: Lightning over Avs
Pierre Becquey: Penguins over Avs
John Buccigross: Lightning over Blues
Sach Chandan: Lightning over Stars
Linda Cohn: Lightning over Golden Knights
Aimee Crawford: Lightning over Avs
Dimitri Filipovic: Lightning over Golden Knights
Emily Kaplan: Penguins over Avalanche
Tim Kavanagh: Blues over Capitals
Don La Greca: Lightning over Blues
Vince Masi: Golden Knights over Flyers
Victoria Matiash: Lightning over Golden Knights
Arda Ocal: Avalanche over Bruins
Greg Wyshynski: Lightning over Golden Knights

Top pick: Lightning (10).