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.

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 are in the round of 16, and seeds 5 through 12 will square off to see who will 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.

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Round of 16

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: Aug. 18, 3 p.m. | Preview
Game 5: Aug. 19, 8 p.m. | Preview
Game 6: Aug. 21, TBD | Preview
Game 7: Aug. 23, TBD | Preview

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: Aug. 19, 12 p.m. | Preview
Game 6: Aug. 21, TBD | Preview
Game 7: Aug. 22, TBD | Preview

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: Aug. 18, 8 p.m. | Preview
Game 5: Aug. 20, TBD | Preview
Game 6: Aug. 22, TBD | Preview
Game 7: Aug. 23, TBD | Preview

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 | Recap
Game 5: Aug. 19, 4 p.m. | Preview
Game 6: Aug. 20, TBD | Preview
Game 7: Aug. 23, TBD | Preview

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: Aug. 18, 10:30 p.m. | Preview
Game 6: Aug. 20, TBD | Preview
Game 7: Aug. 22, TBD | Preview

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: Aug. 19, 5:30 p.m. | Preview
Game 6: Aug. 21, TBD | Preview
Game 7: Aug. 23, TBD | Preview

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: Aug. 18, 5:30 p.m. | Preview
Game 6: Aug. 20, TBD | Preview
Game 7: Aug. 22, TBD | Preview

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: Aug. 17, 10:30 p.m. | Preview
Game 5: Aug. 19, 10:30 p.m. | Preview
Game 6: Aug. 21, TBD | Preview
Game 7: Aug. 23, TBD | Preview

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

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

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

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.

  • Keys to the offseason for the Penguins

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

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.

  • Keys to the offseason for the Rangers

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

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.

  • Keys to the offseason for the Panthers

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

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.

  • Keys to the offseason for the Maple Leafs

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

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

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.

  • Keys to the offseason for the Oilers

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

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.

  • Keys to the offseason for the Predators

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

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.

  • Keys to the offseason for the Wild

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

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.

  • Keys to the offseason for the Jets

Expert consensus: Jets (10/15)

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