Only eight teams may remain in the 2020 NHL Playoffs coming into Saturday's start of the second round, but there hasn't been any shortage of drama in Canada.
The Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks became the final teams to clinch a spot in the final eight after picking up Game No. 6 wins on Friday night. Alain Vigneault's Orange and Black join the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and New York Islanders as the final four teams in the East.
Out West, the top-seeded Vegas Golden Knights are joined by the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, and Canucks. A new Stanley Cup Champion will rise when its all said and done after the defending champion St. Louis Blues suffered eliminated on Friday.
After posting a 6-2 record in the first round, our NHL expert Larry Henry Jr. continues his NHL coverage with a closer look at each playoff series. Larry breaks down the key players to watch for each team and how they reached this point.
Here's a closer look at LHJ's breakdown for the Second Round:
Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Islanders
Two historic teams will meet in the second round looking for a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Flyers held on for a series win over the fiesty Canadiens and will now turn their attentions towards rivals New York Islanders. Carter Hart shined in several games against Montreal, but also showed some worrying signs, allowing five goals in both Games No. 2 and No. 5. Depth played a crucial part for the Flyers, whom started getting better performances from their star players as the round went on. Special teams will also have to be key for the Orange and Black, whom ended the round with three power-play goals from its final two games.
New York brushed aside 2018 Stanley Cup winners Washington thanks to speed and versatility from their attacking corps. Depth has also been important to Barry Trotz's team, whom has nine multi-goal scorers to date these playoffs. Anthony Beauvillier leads the way with six goals while Josh Bailey has 10 points in nine games played. Brock Nelson and Matthew Barzal each have seven points to their name as well. Semyon Varlamov has been an underrated performer these playoffs, posting a 7-2-0 record and an eye-raising 1.67 GAA.
The Islanders defeated the Flyers in three regular season games this season, but I like the Flyers' veteran experience to lead the way this round.
Pick: Flyers (-132)
Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
The top two teams from the Atlantic Division meet again in the postseason after eliminating tough first round opponents.
Bruce Cassidy's Bruins got better as the series against Carolina went on, showing why they are one of the top teams in the league every year. Veteran forwards Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand continue to be influential while David Krejci also chipped in some strong performances. A fully healthy David Pastrnak will also add to the Bruins chances of advancing out of the second round. While Zdeno Chara is the key guy on Boston's backend, Charlie McAvoy posted a good series against Carolina and is slowly coming into his own as one of the top defenders in the NHL. Jaroslav Halak has been nothing short of sensational in goal for Boston and will continue to ride the No. 1 job with Tuukka Rask back home.
Tampa Bay had issues dealing with Columbus' physicality in the first round, but eventually held on for a series win over the Blue Jackets. Andriy Vasilevsky led the way with a 1.98 GAA and a .927 save percentage, winning six of eight games to date in the postseason. Steven Stamkos remains out for Jon Cooper's squad, but other players have stepped up. Brayden Point leads the team with 10 points including two game-winning goals in OT vs. CBJ. Nikita Kucherov also chipped in nine points, but the Lightning will need help from other scoring options such as Blake Coleman, Tyler Johnson, and Alex Killorn.
Tampa Bay may have the more explosive offense, but Boston's experience should get it done.
Pick: Bruins (-109)
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Vancouver Canucks
One of the top scoring teams so far these playoffs will face an intriguing opponents in the second round.
Vegas faces off with Vancouver in the second round after breezing by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. Veteran goaltender Robin Lehner looks to have taken the starting job from Marc-Andre Fleury, posting a 5-1 record so far. The Golden Knights have seen every player on their roster so far register a point these playoffs and will look to continue that trend vs. a youthful Canucks side. Reilly Smith and Mark Stone each totaled eight points in the second round while Shea Theodore and Jonathan Marchessault added seven apiece. Defensively, they will need to be dominant against Travis Green's Canucks, but they should have enough scoring to get by.
Youth has been key to the Canucks this season with Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, and Brock Boeser all have solid playoffs to date. Hughes and Pettersson each have reached double-digit points to date while Boeser has eight points in 10 appearances. J.T. Miller has also provided a nice spark with five goals and 10 points so far. Jacob Markstrom is 7-3 this postseason with a 2.44 GAA and a .929 save percentage, providing Vancouver with some good cover on the back end.
Vancouver has been fun to watch, but Vegas is on a roll and I like that to continue.
Pick: Golden Knights (-275)
Dallas Stars vs. Colorado Avalanche
Another one of the top offenses in these playoffs will look for a Western Conference playoff berth.
The Colorado Avalanche were in their zone against the Arizona Coyotes, eventually blowing out the Coyotes in Game No. 5. Nathan MacKinnon, Nazem Kadri, and Mikko Rantanen all have recorded 10 points or more to date with Kadri leading the team with six goals. Andre Burakovsky and Gabriel Landeskog also chipped in eight points each to date, providing nice depth in the offense. Philipp Grubauer earned five wins in goal to date, posting a below 2.00 GAA.
Dallas ousted the Calgary Flames in the first round with Miro Heikanen registering 12 points to date. The young defender has been a bright spot for the team this season and has added help to an offense which has been inconsistent at times. Joe Pavelski leads the offensive with eight points, but for the Stars to advance they need a monster series from Tyler Seguin. Seguin hasn't scored yet in the playoffs and only has three assists so far.
Colorado's offense is on fire and I can't see Dallas shutting them down.
Pick: Avalanche (-225)