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2020 NHL Playoffs Central: Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

After months of a pandemic-induced pause, the NHL returned in earnest on Saturday, Aug. 1. Players hit the ice again as the NHL's return-to-play plan hit Phase 4; also known as the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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 automatically made the round of 16, and seeds 5 through 12 squared off to see who would take the next step toward immortality. With the qualifying over, we have entered the traditional 16-team playoffs that we know and love.

From the qualification round all the way through the Stanley Cup Final, ESPN has you covered. Check out the full playoff picture, including previews, analysis, highlights, scores and more for each team and series.

More: Check out the full NHL postseason schedule here.

Stanley Cup Final

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars

Schedule:

Game 1: Stars 4, Lightning 1 | Takeaways | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Sept. 21, 8 p.m. | Preview
Game 3: Sept. 23, 8 p.m. | Preview
Game 4: Sept. 25, 8 p.m. | Preview
Game 5: Sept. 26, 8 p.m. | Preview
Game 6: Sept. 28, 8 p.m. | Preview
Game 7: Sept. 30, 8 p.m. | Preview

The 2020 NHL playoffs have nearly reached their final conclusion. The Dallas Stars are your champions of the Western Conference, while the Tampa Bay Lightning have joined them from the Eastern Conference. Here's an early look at how the Stars and Lightning match up, including the reasons for hope and causes for concern for each team, and key stats to monitor.

Expert consensus: Lightning (14/17)

Conference Finals

Jump to:
TB-NYI | VGK-DAL

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 7 New York Islanders

Schedule:

Game 1: Lightning 8, Islanders 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Lightning 2, Islanders 0 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Islanders 5, Lightning 3 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Lightning 4, Islanders 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 5: Islanders 2, Lightning 1 (2OT) | Replay | Recap
Game 6: Lightning 2, Islanders 1 (OT) | Replay | Recap

Series preview: Despite being one of the NHL's most fearsome juggernauts of the past several years, the Lightning have been to only one Stanley Cup Final in the past 10 (2015). They're hoping the tweaks made after last year's debacle against the Columbus Blue Jackets can push them over the top. Meanwhile, the Islanders have taken steps forward in the second campaign under Barry Trotz, and while maintaining their stout defensive structure, they have amped up the scoring. Read the full series preview.

Expert consensus: Lightning (13/17)


No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 3 Dallas Stars

Schedule:

Game 1: Stars 1, Golden Knights 0 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Golden Knights 3, Stars 0 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Stars 3, Golden Knights 2 (OT) | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Stars 2, Golden Knights 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 5: Stars 3, Golden Knights 2 (OT) | Replay | Recap

Series preview: For the Stars, a return to the final would be 20 years in the making, while for the Knights, it's been ... two years in the making. The two teams split the regular-season series 1-1, and Vegas won their round-robin postseason matchup 5-3. Read the full series preview.

Expert consensus: Golden Knights (14/17)

Conference semifinals

Jump to:
PHI-NYI | TB-BOS
VGK-VAN | COL-DAL

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 7 New York Islanders

Schedule:

Game 1: Islanders 4, Flyers 0 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Flyers 4, Islanders 3 (OT) | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Islanders 3, Flyers 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Islanders 3, Flyers 2 | Replay | | Recap
Game 5: Flyers 4, Islanders 3 (OT) | Replay | Recap
Game 6: Flyers 5, Islanders 4 (OT) | Replay | Recap
Game 7: Islanders 4, Flyers 0 | Replay | Recap

Series preview: The Islanders swept the Flyers in the clubs' three-game regular-season series, but Philly has been one of the hottest teams in the Toronto bubble. Who will come out on top in the series? Read the full series preview.

Expert consensus: Flyers (9/16)


No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 4 Boston Bruins

Schedule:

Game 1: Bruins 3, Lightning 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Lightning 4, Bruins 3 (OT) | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Lightning 7, Bruins 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Lightning 3, Bruins 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 5: Lightning 3, Bruins 2 (2OT) | Replay | Recap

Series preview: Tampa Bay won three of four regular-season matchups against Boston, as well as their contest in the round-robin portion of the postseason. Will the Bruins reverse that trend in this series? Read the full series preview.

Expert consensus: Lightning (13/16)


Western Conference

No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 7 Vancouver Canucks

Schedule:

Game 1: Golden Knights 5, Canucks 0 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Canucks 5, Golden Knights 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Golden Knights 3, Canucks 0 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Golden Knights 5, Canucks 3 | Replay | Recap
Game 5: Canucks 2, Golden Knights 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 6: Canucks 4, Golden Knights 0 | Replay | Recap
Game 7: Golden Knights 3, Canucks 0 | Replay | Recap

Series preview: The Golden Knights and Canucks played only twice in the regular season, splitting the contests both staged in December. That seems like decades ago in pandemic time, so this series will surely surprise us. Read the full series preview.

Expert consensus: Golden Knights (11/16)


No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 3 Dallas Stars

Schedule:

Game 1: Stars 5, Avalanche 3 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Stars 5, Avalanche 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Avalanche 6, Stars 4 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Stars 5, Avalanche 4 | Replay | Recap
Game 5: Avalanche 6, Stars 3 | Replay | Recap
Game 6: Avalanche 4, Stars 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 7: Stars 5, Avalanche 4 (OT) | Replay | Recap

Series preview: The Stars won all four regular-season games against the Avalanche, but Colorado upended Dallas 4-0 in their round-robin matchup. Can the defensive-minded Stars slow down the offensive onslaught from the Avs? Read the full series preview.

Expert consensus: Avalanche (14/16)

Round of 16

Jump to:
PHI-MTL | TB-CBJ | WSH-NYI | BOS-CAR
VGK-CHI | COL-ARI | DAL-CGY | STL-VAN

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 12 Montreal Canadiens

Schedule:

Game 1: Flyers 2, Canadiens 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Canadiens 5, Flyers 0 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Flyers 1, Canadiens 0 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Flyers 2, Canadiens 0 | Replay | Recap
Game 5: Canadiens 5, Flyers 3 | Replay | Recap
Game 6: Flyers 3, Canadiens 2 | Replay | Recap

Series preview: The Flyers ran the table in the round robin, while the Canadiens shocked the Penguins. Who keeps the momentum going? Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Flyers (12/15)


No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 9 Columbus Blue Jackets

Schedule:

Game 1: Lightning 3, Blue Jackets 2 (5OT) | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Blue Jackets 3, Lightning 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Lightning 3, Blue Jackets 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Lightning 2, Blue Jackets 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 5: Lightning 5, Blue Jackets 4 (OT) | Replay | Recap

Series preview: A rematch of last year's most memorable series sweep, as the Lightning hope to have a better result against the Blue Jackets this time around. Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Lightning (10/15)


No. 3 Washington Capitals vs. No. 7 New York Islanders

Schedule:

Game 1: Islanders 4, Capitals 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Islanders 5, Capitals 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Islanders 2, Capitals 1 (OT) | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Capitals 3, Islanders 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 5: Islanders 4, Capitals 0 | Replay | Recap

Series preview: Barry Trotz knows both of these teams quite well, having been behind the bench for the Caps' Cup win in 2018, and bringing his brand of defensive hockey to Long Island for the past two seasons. Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Capitals (9/15)


No. 4 Boston Bruins vs. No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes

Schedule:

Game 1: Bruins 4, Hurricanes 3 (2OT) | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Hurricanes 3, Bruins 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Bruins 3, Hurricanes 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Bruins 4, Hurricanes 3 | Replay | Recap
Game 5: Bruins 2, Hurricanes 1 | Replay | Recap

Series preview: Yet another rematch from the 2019 playoffs, as these two squared off in the Eastern Conference Final last time around. Can the Canes get past the Bruins this time? Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Hurricanes (13/15)


Western Conference

No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 12 Chicago Blackhawks

Schedule:

Game 1: Golden Knights 4, Blackhawks 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Golden Knights 4, Blackhawks 3 (OT) | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Golden Knights 2, Blackhawks 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Blackhawks 3, Golden Knights 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 5: Golden Knights 4, Blackhawks 3 | Replay | Recap

Series preview: The veteran Blackhawks shut down the electrifying Oilers in the qualification round, while the Golden Knights swept their way into the West's top seed. And boy, will it be awkward if Robin Lehner -- traded from Chicago to Vegas at the deadline -- gets the nod in the Golden Knights' net. Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Golden Knights (12/15)


No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 11 Arizona Coyotes

Schedule:

Game 1: Avalanche 3, Coyotes 0 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Avalanche 3, Coyotes 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Coyotes 4, Avalanche 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Avalanche 7, Coyotes 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 5: Avalanche 7, Coyotes 1 | Replay | Recap

Series preview: Some round-robin teams seemed to be using the three games as a pseudo preseason, to get their legs back. The Avs were not in that cohort, as they looked as impressive as anyone. Meanwhile, the Coyotes were relentless in shutting down the favored Predators in four games. Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Avalanche (12/15)


No. 3 Dallas Stars vs. No. 8 Calgary Flames

Schedule:

Game 1: Flames 3, Stars 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Stars 5, Flames 4 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Flames 2, Stars 0 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Stars 5, Flame 4 (OT) | Replay | Recap
Game 5: Stars 2, Flames 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 6: Stars 7, Flames 3 | Replay | Recap

Series preview: The Flames have the capacity to be one of the league's most effective offensive teams, with two lines that can stake a claim as the club's best. But the Stars have a tried-and-true defensive system and elite goaltending tandem in Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin. Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Stars (9/15)


No. 4 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 7 Vancouver Canucks

Schedule:

Game 1: Canucks 5, Blues 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Canucks 4, Blues 3 (OT) | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Blues 3, Canucks 2 (OT) | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Blues 3, Canucks 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 5: Canucks 4, Blues 3 | Replay | Recap
Game 6: Canucks 6, Blues 2 | Replay | Recap

Series preview: The defending Cup champion Blues looked out of sorts during the round robin, but Craig Berube will surely have them ready to rock for this round. They'll square off with a rising team of youngsters that includes last year's Calder Trophy winner (Elias Pettersson) and a finalist for the award this year (Quinn Hughes). Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Blues (11/15)

Qualification round

Jump to:
East round-robin | PIT-MTL
CAR-NYR | NYI-FLA | TOR-CBJ
West round-robin | EDM-CHI
NSH-ARI | VAN-MIN | CGY-WPG

Eastern Conference

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

Schedule:

Aug. 2: Flyers 4, Bruins 1 | Replay | Recap
Aug. 3: Lightning 3, Capitals 2 (SO) | Replay | Recap
Aug. 5: Lightning 3, Bruins 2 | Replay | Recap
Aug. 6: Flyers 3, Capitals 1 | Replay | Recap
Aug. 8: Flyers 4, Lightning 1 | Replay | Recap
Aug. 9: Capitals 2, Bruins | Replay | Recap

Standings:

1. Flyers: 3-0-0
2. Lightning: 2-1-0
3. Capitals: 1-1-1
4. Bruins: 0-3-0

Series preview: Since Jan. 8, the Bruins and Flyers tied for the NHL's best record. The Capitals are looking to win their second Cup in three years -- and try to top their celebrations from 2018 -- while the Lightning remain one of the league's most talented teams, looking to overcome their shocking sweep last spring. Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Lightning, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers


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

Schedule:

Game 1: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Penguins 3, Canadiens 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Canadiens 4, Penguins 3 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Canadiens 2, Penguins 0 | Replay | Recap

Series preview: The Penguins played through one of the most injury-riddled campaigns in recent memory -- and still enter the playoffs as one of the favorites to make a run at the Cup. The Canadiens ... well, they're playing with house money after just squeaking in; are they a dark horse contender? Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Penguins (14/15)


No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes defeat No. 11 New York Rangers, 3-0

Schedule:

Game 1: Hurricanes 3, Rangers 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1 | Replay | Recap

Series preview: Rod Brind'Amour's team made a shocking run to the Eastern Conference finals last spring; can the Hurricanes take it even further this time? A Rangers team that swept them 4-0 in the regular-season series is standing in their way. Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Rangers (9/15)


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

Schedule:

Game 1: Islanders 2, Panthers 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Islanders 4, Panthers 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Panthers 3, Islanders 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Islanders 5, Panthers 1 | Replay | Recap

Series preview: Both the Isles and Panthers were struggling as the season came to a pause on March 12. Will it be Barry Trotz or Joel Quenneville who gets his troops back on task more quickly? Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Islanders (11/15)


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

Schedule:

Game 1: Blue Jackets 2, Maple Leafs 0 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Maple Leafs 3, Blue Jackets 0 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Blue Jackets 4, Maple Leafs 3 (OT) | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Maple Leafs 4, Blue Jackets 3 (OT) | Replay | Recap
Game 5: Blue Jackets 3, Maple Leafs 0 | Replay | Recap

Series preview: On paper, it would appear that the high-flying, offensively adept Leafs will have no trouble dispatching an overmatched Blue Jackets side. Then again, that's what we all thought last season before the Jackets swept the juggernaut Lightning. Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Maple Leafs (12/15)

Western Conference

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

Schedule:

Aug. 2: Avalanche 2, Blues 1 | Replay | Recap
Aug. 3: Golden Knights 5, Stars 3 | Replay | Recap
Aug. 5: Avalanche 4, Stars 0 | Replay | Recap
Aug. 6: Golden Knights 6, Blues 4 | Replay | Recap
Aug. 8: Golden Knights 4, Avalanche 3 (OT) | Replay | Recap
Aug. 9: Stars 2, Blues 1 (SO) | Replay | Recap

Standings:

1. Golden Knights: 3-0-0
2. Avalanche: 2-0-1
3. Stars: 1-2-0
4. Blues: 0-2-1

Series preview: It's plain to see the strength of the Central Division when considering that group provided three of the clubs in this quartet. The defending Cup champion Blues are well-rested and ready to defend the crown, while the Avalanche look to show that their time has finally come. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights will hope to ride the league's best goalie tandem, and the Stars aren't too shabby in that department, either. Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Avalanche, Blues, Golden Knights, Stars


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

Schedule:

Game 1: Blackhawks 6, Oilers 4 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Oilers 6, Blackhawks 3 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Blackhawks 4, Oilers 3 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Blackhawks 3, Oilers 2 | Replay | Recap

Series preview: Are Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid ready to shine on the sport's biggest stage? Is there one more epic run left in the veterans remaining from the Blackhawks' recent dynasty? This promises to be one of the most fun qualification round series. Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Oilers (12/15)


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

Schedule:

Game 1: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Predators 4, Coyotes 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Coyotes 4, Predators 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (OT) | Replay | Recap

Series preview: The Predators are on their second coach of the season, and have a goalie controversy brewing. The Yotes also have a tough goalie decision to make, and just had their GM resign on the eve of the postseason. This one promises to be wild. Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Predators (11/15)


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

Schedule:

Game 1: Wild 3, Canucks 0 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Canucks 4, Wild 3 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Canucks 3, Wild 0 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Canucks 5, Wild 4 (OT) | Replay | Recap

Series preview: Though the Wild showed quite a bit of offensive spark following the move to Dean Evason behind the bench, the Canucks can overmatch them with young offensive firepower. Who comes out on top? Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Canucks (12/15)


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

Schedule:

Game 1: Flames 4, Jets 1 | Replay | Recap
Game 2: Jets 3, Flames 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 3: Flames 6, Jets 2 | Replay | Recap
Game 4: Flames 4, Jets 0 | Replay | Recap

Series preview: We'll miss seeing the unique fan setups at both of these home rinks, but this old-school Smythe Division clash should bring on some physical fireworks. Read the full preview.

Expert consensus: Jets (10/15)