7:56 AM ET
The NHL postseason bubble is officially bonkers.
Friday featured the completion of three series upsets and a stunning late-game rally by the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Columbus Blue Jackets that pushed their series to a fifth and final game. On Saturday, we’ll find out who the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks will face after their qualification round stunners, derailing the Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers, respectively, in the No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchups.
The playoffs, play-offs, postseason and/or finals of a sports league are a competition played after the regular season by the top competitors to determine the league champion or a similar accolade. Depending on the league, the playoffs may be either a single game, a series of games, or a tournament, and may use a single-elimination system or one of several other different playoff formats. Playoff, in regard to international fixtures, is to qualify or progress to the next round of a competition or tournament.
In team sports in the U.S. and Canada, the vast distances and consequent burdens on cross-country travel have led to regional divisions of teams. Generally, during the regular season, teams play more games in their division than outside it, but the league’s best teams might not play against each other in the regular season. Therefore, in the postseason a playoff series is organized. Any group-winning team is eligible to participate, and as playoffs became more popular they were expanded to include second- or even lower-placed teams – the term “wild card” refers to these teams.
In England and Scotland, playoffs are used in association football to decide promotion for lower-finishing teams, rather than to decide a champion in the way they are used in North America. In the EFL Championship (the second tier of English football), teams finishing 3rd to 6th after the regular season compete to decide the final promotion spot to the Premier League.
NHL Playoffs Daily 2020
Check out the ESPN Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily every day of the postseason until the Cup is handed out in October.
Note: All times Eastern
NHL Playoffs Daily 2020
Round robin: No. 3 Vegas Golden Knights at No. 2 Colorado Avalanche | 3 p.m.
The winner of this game also wins the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and a first-round date with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Knights and Avs enter the game having both gone 2-0-0 thus far. “The higher the seed, the easier path you get. That’s the reality,” said Vegas coach Pete DeBoer. “You get the lowest-ranked opponent, last change, sometimes you get the benefit of a home dressing room over the visitors’ dressing room. Our group thinks it’s important, and we’ve prepared that way.”
Round robin: No. 4 Philadelphia Flyers at No. 1 Tampa Bay Lightning | 8 p.m.
The No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference is on the line here, as the Lightning (2-0-0) and Flyers (2-0-0) battle for the chance to take on the Montreal Canadiens in the next round. For the Flyers, a win would mean they will have essentially jumped 11 points in the standings, aka the distance between themselves and the top-seeded Boston Bruins when the regular season was paused.
Question of the day: When will we see Steven Stamkos?
Lightning coach Jon Cooper was asked about injured star Steven Stamkos, who hasn’t played in the exhibition or round-robin games.
“I’ll save us any more questions about Stammer. He’s not going to be available [on Saturday],” Cooper said. “Injuries are unpredictable. If there’s somebody that is working harder than him in trying to get back, I’ve not seen it. He’s rehabbing. Our staff has been working with him on a daily basis. In situations like this, you never know. To put all this to bed: Don’t ask any more questions about Stamkos. When he’s ready to come back, I’ll be the first to tell you. But there’s no use in speculating anymore. As of right now, he’s out indefinitely, until he’s not.”
Bet of the day
Flyers vs. Lightning, under 6 (-118, via DraftKings). I’ve shied away from wagering on the round-robin games because it’s been difficult to tell how teams are approaching these games. The Lightning are approaching this game as prep for the next round. Does that mean they won’t play to win? No. But there’s also a better chance they’ll try to manage their structure and refine their system, which has me thinking this game won’t be a track meet. All four round-robin games in the East and two of the four in the West have been under six.
About last night…
New York Islanders 5, Florida Panthers 1 (NYI wins 3-1)
Anthony Beauvillier scored two goals and Semyon Varlamov made 24 saves for New York as the Panthers were sent packing in Game 4. Sergei Bobrovsky made 33 saves for the Panthers but made a misplay on the Islanders’ first goal from a sharp angle from Beauvillier. “At the end of the day it’s not about saves, it’s all about wins. Today on the first goal, I let guys down. I could do a better job on the first goal,” Bobrovsky said. Full recap.
Arizona Coyotes 4, Nashville Predators 3 (OT) (ARI wins 3-1)
Brad Richardson’s goal at 5:27 of overtime gave the Coyotes the series victory, eliminating the Predators in Game 4 of their qualification round series. That came after Filip Forsberg tied the game with goalie Juuse Saros pulled with 32 seconds left in regulation. Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper was the star of the day, making 49 saves in the victory. “We couldn’t get the extra goal. It wasn’t for a lack of opportunities or effort. We just couldn’t solve Kuemper,” said Predators coach John Hynes, who was hired on Jan. 7 to jump-start their season. Full recap.
Montreal Canadiens 2, Pittsburgh Penguins 0 (MTL wins 3-1)
The nightmare became reality for the Penguins: Carey Price made 22 saves to shut them out in Game 4, as Montreal stunned Pittsburgh and eliminated the Penguins from the postseason. Price faced 133 shots in the series and posted a .947 save percentage. Artturi Lehkonen scored with 4:11 remaining in the third period, and Shea Weber added an empty netter. “Listen, it’s a three-out-of-five. Anything can happen,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We did some good things. Did we do enough? No. Give them credit. They played really well and got some big plays throughout the four games.” Crosby had two goals and an assist in the series. Evgeni Malkin had one assist in four games. Full recap.
Chicago Blackhawks 3, Edmonton Oilers 2 (CHI wins 3-1)
Corey Crawford made 43 saves and was the Blackhawks’ best penalty killer against a potent Oilers power play, helping Chicago shock Edmonton with a 3-2 Game 4 win to eliminate the Oil. Dominik Kubalik scored the tie-breaking goal at 8:30 of the third period, assisted by Jonathan Toews. After being asked about the strides they made this season, Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse said, “At the end of the day, you play this game to win a Stanley Cup. And we’re sitting here after a qualifier not even in the playoffs, not even in the top 16. So you can talk about strides all you want. I don’t think anyone’s happy.” Full recap.