While the MLB and the NBA are finalizing their game plans, we are still waiting two weeks after the hopeful opening of the training camp for the last steps of the NHL.
As soon as we got there, we could have a look at the opening round that starts in early August.
As with everything else these days, this year's Stanley Cup playoffs will be very different from everyone else we've seen. Not only because 24 teams are involved this time, but also because we have no idea what an almost four-month break between games will have on teams and individuals.
Who would benefit most from the layoff? Would it be young teams that rely on their skills and could hypothetically have more to give? Or would it be veteran-laden teams that generally know what to expect from the postseason and should now (mostly) be cured of bumps and bruises that occurred during the regular season?
Does dynamics count for anything?
Although we can use the regular seasonal ranking as a guide, all of these factors make choosing a Stanley Cup favorite in 2020 a difficult task. With that in mind, this week's Power Leaderboard is an attempt to rate all 24 of the returning players, teams from top contender to teams that are just happy to play again.
Sign up for the NHL newsletter
Get the best of our NHL coverage and exclusive offers straight to your inbox!
1. Boston Bruins
Had the best percentage of points during the break, loaded with veteran experience, two-way play, strong goalkeeper, and they have proven to be a team that in crucial moments rises many times. If the Bruins don't top your list of competitors, they should be close.
2. St. Louis Blues
We often hear of a Stanley Cup hangover in the season after a team has won the championship. They usually accumulate injuries in the playoffs (which are played through often), have less time to recover and prepare for a new season, not to mention the summer-long celebrations. The blues were 8-2-0 in their last 10 before the break, so they didn't look like a team that would have trouble getting back to last season's heights, and now they have almost four months of downtime before the playoffs to continue to recover with.
3. Colorado Avalanche
Nathan MacKinnon, Nazem Kadri, Mikko Rantanen, Philipp Grubauer and Andrei Burakovsky – these are some of the names that were on the list of casualties in Colorado at the time of the break . It is expected that everything will be ready when the puck falls to continue the 2020 season, and the Avs get a reunion through the warm-up round to give them even more time. The team was a powerhouse anyway and should be in excellent shape in the long run.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning
The winners of just three of their last 10 games before the break didn't run away with the East this season, but maybe that's a good thing. With a high level of goal scoring in the line-up, an excellent goalkeeper and a solid blue line, this Lightning team does not have many weaknesses. And if it's true that you have to lose before you can win, Tampa Bay should face that challenge even after losing to Columbus last year.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins
Although the Penguins are the first team on our list that has not seen goodbye through play-ins, they had the seventh-best percentage of points in the league. The penguins are a proven winner with a lot of experience and are among the teams that will reach the ground under their feet when they return. It may even be beneficial to play some really meaningful games in a best-of-five against Montreal before the official Stanley Cup playoffs begin.
6. Dallas Stars
If the defense still wins championships, the Stars must be among the top competitors. Heck, they were less than an inch from throwing St. Louis out of last year's playoffs. Dallas has well-known players who you think could collect a lot of points, but the team structure is all about defense and goalkeeper. It's hard to play against them, they can wear you down and added some important veterans last summer to help out in these unique times.
7. Vegas Golden Knights
You acquired Robin Lehner on the cut-off date, presumably to give Marc-Andre Fleury some rest before the playoffs, and you now have a 1A / 1B situation that will be beneficial if a netminder fails. Even before the deadline, Vegas looked like a competitor. The Golden Knights were a good mix of offensive pop with players who were more defensive. They were in a great position to play another deep playoff run last season until their streak against San Jose ended unhappily. A change of coach to Peter DeBoer in the off-season has changed the chemistry here a bit since the expansion season, but every step taken from day 1 has been designed to make this squad a first-class unit.
8. Philadelphia Flyers
It is difficult to get an overview of the Flyers that have alternated playoff seasons with lottery seasons for almost a decade. Expectations for this group were tempered, but the Flyers were in a solid phase before the break, winning nine of their last ten. You may have preferred to ride this wave straight into the playoffs, but it probably gave the group confidence that this should carry over into the summer. Although there are some seasoned players, parts of this lineup are still quite young, including on the net where Carter Hart is itchy after his first experience in the Stanley Cup playoffs. When turned on, it has the potential to steal games.
9. Washington Capitals
It feels a bit strange to have the 2019 champions so low, but their goalkeeper has been so painful throughout the season that we don't know what awaits us. The prospective UFA player Braden Holtby was struggling with his worst statistical season, but would the team now hand over the reins to rookie Ilya Samsonov? This can be determined by the three games Washington will play before the playoffs. There are just so many well-designed teams out there that could challenge this season, and the concerns of capitals online have brought them to their knees a bit.
10. Winnipeg Jets
It is true that the blue line of the jets was a major weakness this season and that no help will be on the way yet. During the break, they also had an increase of 13 goals, which only seven of the eight bye teams, Carolina and Pittsburgh, left behind. The jets can score and few teams can effectively handle the size and skills that Paul Maurice can put on the ice. And despite all the warts in defense, goalkeeper Connor Hellebuyck played like a Vezina winner this season, and if he goes on like this this summer, the Jets could be something of a sleeper.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs
If you think the younger, faster teams are better equipped for an unorthodox return to midsummer, the Maple Leafs must rank high among your competitors . This team had its own concerns: Frederik Andersen was not quite as good or consistent this season; a lack of depth in the blue line became a problem; The entire team defense was a little poor. In a season when the head coach was fired and the team sat outside the playoff image for a while, the existence of the fishbowl market on the Toronto market was even greater. But if they come back fresh, a youth team like Toronto might look a lot different than when we left.
12. Edmonton Oilers
You probably have the best player in the world and this year's Art Ross winner on various lines. Kailer Yamamoto and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins showed up long before the break. Maybe James Neal can catch a flash for a few more weeks like he did at the start of the season? Could an experienced trainer in Dave Tippett be just what a team needs to prepare to start again? Edmonton's goalkeepers have exceeded expectations this season too, and this must be continued to make a run possible.
13. Carolina Hurricanes
Will there be a storm surge if there are no home games or fans present? The Hurricanes had the best average weft differential this season, which also resulted in a strong goal differential. Sebastian Aho continues to show himself as an aspiring star, while Andrei Svechnikov took an important step in his production and gave the Canes an amount of insult that they did not have before. If the gate holds, Carolina has enough underlying numbers to consider you a dark horse.
14. Calgary Flames
They hit the jets in the play-in round, and while Winnipeg is already on this list, the fact that any team that has the best of -Five wins could be a good choice to win some more rounds. Before the break, David Rittich apparently lost his influence on the starter job since Cam Talbot outperformed him, although we would bet that Rittich will get the first call against Winnipeg. If any of them find a groove, remember that the Flames are only a year from the top seed of the Western Conference. You have skill and a deep blue line. They came together as a team through some turbulent times at the beginning of the season. The Flames underperformed overall this season, but didn't sleep on it.
Lead author Ryan Dixon and NHL editor Rory Boylen always give 110%, but never rely on clichés when podcasting. Instead, they use a mix of facts, fun, and a diverse group of hockey voices to report on Canada's most popular game.
15. Minnesota Wild
If swing is the key to the success of the playoffs, then the Wild are one of the biggest losers of the break. Bogged down in the "muddy middle" of the NHL, not good enough to win everything but not bad enough to land at the end of the overall standings, the game changed coaches and then found some life. Wild has had the seventh best record in the league in the last two months. You are a strange team. While trapped in the middle, they undoubtedly have a collection of individual players that would receive more recognition if they were on a competitor. Think Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Kevin Fiala or Ryan Suter. Nobody will choose the wilderness to win the trophy, but quite a few prefer it over the Canucks. And if one of their impulses is somehow transmitted, Minnesota could be sneakily good.
16. Vancouver Canucks
The greatest positive development for the Canucks is that Jacob Markstrom appears to be ready after a mid-season injury. He was probably the team's MVP this season and is playing for a contract, either with Vancouver or elsewhere, in front of the free agency in another type of off-season. The Canucks are certainly interesting in that they have youth, veterinarians, skill, grit, and goalkeepers. This is still team building for brighter days, but this window of time is beginning to open. It doesn't happen often that these teams break through on the first playoff attempt. So it's hard to say that the Canucks would fail if they lost in the play-in round. But there is a way for this team – if everything goes well and important players stay healthy – to achieve at least a few series wins.
17. New York Islanders
Never underestimate a team that is coached by Barry Despite. This year's islanders did not perform as the 2018-19 version – they had a minus 1 goal differential and had problems ahead of the break – but since the dynamics (good or bad) are likely to be out of the window, the preparation is right most importantly. Despite & # 39; system has already proven effective with this team, and after a few weeks of training camp to be up to date again, the islanders could possibly find the magic of last season again.
18. Columbus Blue Jackets
Wade through Maple Leaf's Twitter and you'll hear a whisper of concern that Columbus is a bad draw for Toronto. This was supposed to be a throwaway year for the Blue Jackets after putting all-in on the list last year, but they gathered together and trained John Tortorella for one of the most impressive seasons of the year. Seth Jones is recovering from a mid-season injury and the team found goalkeeper Elvis Merzlikins (who flies well below the Calder radar) to have a good tandem with Joonas Korpisalo. This team is defined by the sum of its parts rather than an individual, and there is still a feeling that they are playing with house money. This season is all sauce. A year after the excitement in Tampa Bay, what a story it would be if they did the same to Toronto and put the Leafs in the standings for first choice.
19. Nashville Predators
The Predators were 11-6-1 in their final leg, but overall this season was a bit boring for them. They were inconsistent, some of their top players (Arvidsson, Duchene, to name just two) just didn't score as many goals as planned and it looked like the transition from Pekka Rinne to Juuse Saros was happening online. Indeed, don't be surprised if we see the latter in more postseason games. But they also have a Norris candidate in Roman Josi, an outstanding blue line, and are three years away from appearing in the Stanley Cup final. This is a team that may have had a break to recharge batteries and clean heads. But, boy, where before you knew Nashville would be a difficult task, switching seems almost necessary these days.
20. Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes did not get the hoped-for boost after the acquisition of Taylor Hall, but if you don't think the upcoming UFA will be highly motivated, in its second playoff – Appearance, think again. The Coyotes are still very difficult to hit, and in Nashville they may have made a cheap tie. We will see.
21. Florida Panthers
After spending an AAV of $ 10 million on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky's last free agency, the Panthers hoped to save more than 900 percent and 3.23 goals against average. And who knows, maybe Bobrovsky will return with a clearer head and a return to form. Defense was also a problem for the Panthers all year round, and trading with Vincent Trocheck on the cut-off date was at best a sideways movement at the present and a downgrade at worst. You are able to beat the islanders, but does anyone feel great when this year's biggest below-average team suddenly finds "it" and wash away all previous concerns? Not me.
22. New York Rangers
I say this: The Rangers will be an interesting team to watch in one way or another. How good is Igor Shesterkin really? He was incredible in the short 12 game window we saw before the break and injury interrupted his debut. Can he steal series for the Rangers? Will Kaapo Kakko, the No. 2 overall winner, come back with a new outlook and confidence to give the Rangers more than before? Can Adam Fox continue his great blue line game in high pressure games? Can Artemi Panarin carry the team in any length? There may not be a bigger wild card than the Rangers, who seem to have the parts for a possible Cinderella run, but are early enough in their organization as an organization that a first-round sweep could also be in the cards.
23. Chicago Blackhawks
They are unable to defend very well and replaced their better goalkeeper on the cut-off date because there would be no playoff games for them at that time. But the Hawks also meet Edmonton in the play-in round, a team green enough that a declining veteran unit might find a way. Because of this upset potential, the Blackhawks will not take last place in our rankings. However, if they come through the Oilers, we wouldn't expect a run to last longer.
24. Montreal Canadiens
You can't complain because the Canadiens had a negligible chance of reaching the postseason in mid-March, but getting Pittsburgh into the play-in round is a tough lot for a young team. At least they will learn something here. However, the Habs have Carey Price in their corner, which players still choose as the best netminder in hockey . It is not inconceivable that he could find his game for a few weeks and lead the Canadians on a wild run. Without this little miracle, however, this will only be a short learning experience for the team. And the silver lining is, of course, that a loss would lead directly to a 12.5 percent chance of drawing Quebec-born Alexis Lafreniere.