The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs would’ve started on Wednesday night and the Boston Bruins would’ve begun their defense of the Wales Conference Trophy Thursday night at TD Garden if the NHL had not been forced to pause the 2019-20 season on March 12 due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
There have been numerous potential Stanley Cup playoff scenarios discussed since due to the Coronavirus outbreak. If the league simply went based on the way the standings stood when the sports world came to a halt last month, the common belief is that the seedings would’ve been determined by winning percentage. That wouldn’t have changed anything for the Boston Bruins (44-14-12, 100 points) who still would’ve finished with the top winning percentage at .714 as well as the most points and wins. As a result, the Bruins would’ve been the 2019-20 President’s Trophy winners and had home advantage throughout the postseason.
Going by winning percentage for playoff seeding would however had changed the Bruins first-round opponent. If the seedings went by points, the Bruins would’ve faced the Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15, 81 points) and beat out the New York Islanders (35-23-16, 80 points) for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Using point percentage though, the Islanders would grab the final spot in the East with a .588 winning percentage over the Blue Jackets at .579.
The Bruins went 2-0-1 against the Islanders this season. The Islanders won the first game 3-2 in a shootout on December 19 in Boston and the Bruins took the final two games, 3-2 in overtime on January 11 at Barclays Arena and 4-0 on February 29 at the Nassau Coliseum.
The Bruins were 22-4-9 in the friendly confines of TD Garden and 22-10-3 on the road. The Islanders were 20-9-6 at home and 15-14-4 on the road. It should be noted that all Ilsnaders home playoff games were slated to be played at the Coliseum where they were 17-7-3 this season.
Here’s a capsule look at the two would-be first round opponents:
Goals Against: 174
Goal Differential: +53
Goals: David Pastrnak (48) *Tied for league lead
Assists: Brad Marchand (59)
Points: Pastrnak (95)
GAA: Tuukka Rask (2.12) *League leader
Save Percentage: Rask (.929) *Second overall
Goals Against: 193
Goal Differential: -1
Goals: Brock Nelson (26)
Assists: Mathew Barzal (41)
Points: Barzal (60)
GAA: Semyon Varlamov (2.62)
Save Percentage: Varlamov (.914)
Mock Prediction: Bruins in 4
In that 4-0 win on February 29, the Bruins put on an absolute defensive clinic against the Islanders and unlike the Islanders then, were already in playoff mode, poised to return to the Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins were a wagon this season and that wagon would’ve barreled over an Islanders team that couldn’t seem to build off the momentum of a trip to the second round last spring.
Here’s my prediction on how the rest of the first round would’ve gone:
Washington Capitals (.652) over Carolina Hurricanes (.596) in 5
Tampa Bay Lightning (.657) over Toronto Maple Leafs (.657) in 6
Philadelphia Flyers (.645) over Pittsburgh Penguins (.623) in 7
St. Louis Blues (.662) over Calgary Flames (.564) in 6
Vegas Golden Knights (.606) over Nashville Predators (.565) in 5
Dallas Stars (.594) over Colorado Avalanche (.657) in 6
Edmonton Oilers (.585) over Vancouver Canucks (.565) in 6
Check back in two weeks for the second round predictions!