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2020: A Weird NHL Playoff Bracket

A bracket that wouldn’t fly back in March. Welcome to the 2020 NHL Playoffs.

View from west, of Stanley Cup commemorative sculpture on Sparks Street in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada by Alex Laney is licensed under

2020: A Weird NHL Playoff Bracket

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

I promise: I am happy hockey is back and going well in regards to COVID-19 infections.

That said, any hockey fan watching this playoffs is basically screaming. Who got eliminated?! What team collapsed in the round robin round?! Why are they making “fan” puns in the stands when the ice is a source of high drama?!

Who did this to hockey when its return was our one saving grace?!! Oh right. It’s 2020: we’re basically living in the upside-down from Stranger Things. We just replaced the Demogorgon’s with big, confusing, and upsetting events.

So, here we are. We’re making the best decisions with what we have. In making this bracket, I tried to keep in mind which teams are hot and seem to be coming back together after the months apart. This factor alone seems to be throwing many seasoned, comfortable teams for a loop. Honestly, if my longest time away from a teammate was two months for many years, suddenly doubling that time apart would be jarring to chemistry. And then throw the playoffs in right away?

We’re all lost in the dark. Ask me how I feel when my boyfriend and I reunite after being apart for one of us to work for six to eight weeks. I can barely remember how to coexist with another person and we aren’t trying to score points on blades, just cook dinner in a small kitchen.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that hockey is chaos right now.

No team is sticking to a style. We aren’t seeing systems succeed. Unless the system is dump the puck, chase it down, and see what happens after that. Hit hard, skate fast, score faster. I wish I could tell you who was going to win. I just can’t. This kind of hockey can change in an instant, and often does. We’ve seen it all through the qualifying and the round robin. It really is anyone’s game. All that said: here’s my bracket and it confuses me more than it instills confidence.

I think the big guys will win in the end, but I don’t think it will be easy getting there.

Fellow Turf Writer Ryan Kelly has analysis of these past few days. I’m here to predict the future as much as possible. I picked Vegas to win for two reasons. First, they are the only team in the round robin who performed as expected. They finished the season with a great record and have gone undefeated so far. Second, I think goaltending and defense will decide these playoffs and they are solid in both. Forwards have been taking wild chances to score so far. More off-angle goals were scored in just these series than are normally scored in a month of NHL regular season play. The ability to hold those crazy attempts off the net minder, or to block them if they reach the net, are more essential that normal.

“But Sarah, the Flyers are so hot right now!”

Yes, shhh I know. But Carter Hart is young and untested in real playoffs. I think it’s highly unlikely that he will sustain an entire playoff run on such a tight schedule without a small mental crumbling. And like I said: I think goaltending will be more valuable than ever as more unpredictable pucks start flying. You have to score more than you let in and, right now, almost every team is winning with 3+ goals a game. My bracket almost always comes down to the goalie. Because the easiest way to win a hockey game? Don’t let the other team score.

Truth be told, I have no damn idea anymore.

If you had asked me a week ago, Edmonton was going to be going deep into the playoffs and so was Nashville. The Penguins were going to go two rounds and then fizzle out. And Boston was still going to have teeth. Guess not! But as my boyfriend said earlier “I don’t care who is playing anymore. I’m just glad there’s hockey.”

Buckle up! Let’s see what happens next!

Sarah Jane, Sarah, or SJ-depending on the source-is a director, educator, theatre artist and now, sports blogger. She lives in Queens with her darling, not-so-sports-fan boyfriend. She played ice hockey growing up for the NJ Quarry Cats and various other teams. Being team captain her last two seasons is the most important achievement of her life to date. She proudly also was about a quarter of the size of her opponents and often led her team in both penalty minutes and enthusiasm. She's a Pittsburgh Penguins and Steelers fan (thanks, Momma!) and a New York Yankees fan (thanks, Poppa?) and was given zero choice on all three of these teams. Other hobbies include reading non-fiction books, cooking, and being spunky. Check in with her for all your greater hockey needs!

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