- The NHL’s Return to Play Round Robin Seeding Tournament begins Sunday, August 2nd
- The Boston Bruins are favored to emerge from the Round Robin as the Eastern Conference’s top seed
- Read below for analysis and a prediction on who will be the East’s #1 seed
When the NHL season was paused, the Boston Bruins were the front-runners to finish with the best record in not only the Eastern Conference, but the entire league.
Boston was the only team to crack the 100-point plateau in either conference, and had a comfortable eight point lead on second place Tampa Bay in the East. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and now as the league gets set to return to action, the Bruins will have to beat out three other teams in the Round Robin Seeding Tournament to claim the conference’s top seed.
Odd to Win Number 1 Seed in Eastern Conference
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+260|
Odds taken July 27th.
Boston is the favorite to emerge from the Round Robin on top, followed closely behind by Tampa Bay. Washington and Philadelphia are the other two teams in the mix, but out of all four contenders, it’s actually the Bruins that have the biggest question marks.
Is Boston “Fit” to Contend?
As many as nine players were deemed unfit to participate in various portions of Boston’s training camp, including sniper David Pastrnak. The right-winger, who was tied for the league lead in goals (48) and ranked third in points (95), reportedly tested negative for coronavirus, but was in close contact to a positive case and therefore had to quarantine for two weeks.
David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase are not on the ice again…so they basically missed all of training camp with the Bruins. Team leaves for Toronto tomorrow.
— Cealey Godwin (@CealeyGodwin) July 25, 2020
He basically missed all of training camp and it will be interesting to see just how rusty he is in the Round Robin, providing he’s able to play.
Another reason to slightly downgrade the B’s is the status of Tuukka Rask. The star netminder, who led the NHL in goals against average and was second in save percentage, is dealing with a fractured finger that reportedly causes him a lot of pain on his glove hand.
Tuukka Rask has a fractured finger on his glove hand, but isn’t expected to miss any time pic.twitter.com/gUl9ZZGBUs
— Guy Boston Sports (@GuyBostonSports) July 21, 2020
He isn’t expected to miss any of the Round Robin, but if he’s having trouble squeezing his mitt that could cause a few extra pucks to pop loose.
Also of concern for Boston is the age of some of its most important players. The Bruins are one of the oldest teams in the league and it could take them longer than others to round back into form.
Pittsburgh's Matt Cullen retires. Zdeno Chara, who turns 43 on March 18, is now the oldest active player in the NHL.
— Matt Porter (@mattyports) July 10, 2019
That may seem inconsequential, but the Round Robin is short and we should be looking to avoid teams with numerous red flags. There are clearly reasons not to like the Bruins, which begs the question: who should we target instead?
A Pair of Crushing Blows
The Capitals would have been a team to consider, but that’s no longer the case due to the injury to rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov. The 23-year-old was recently hurt and it was just announced this week that he will not be available for the NHL’s restart.
Ilya Samsonov is a tough loss for the #AllCaps because he was better than Braden Holtby this year.
Holtby is one of those guys where the Capitals should be a little worried based off his season but he elevates in playoffs generally, it's not the end of the world for them.
— Brennan Klak (@nhlupdate) July 25, 2020
Samsonov posted 16 wins, a .913 save percentage and a 2.55 GAA this season, and was looking like the frontrunner in net for the Caps playoff run. Now, they’ll have to turn to Braden Holtby who performed significantly worse than Samsonov in 2019-20. If there’s one thing we know about playoff hockey it’s that a hot goalie can compensate for all sorts of shortcomings. Now that Samsonov is out, you have to significantly downgrade Washington’s outlook.
Speaking of injuries, Steven Stamkos’ availability is a big question mark for the Lightning. Tampa’s captain has been dealing with a lower body injury and there is no timetable for his return.
Asked if Steven Stamkos will practice Sunday, the last one of camp, Jon Cooper said “I don’t know.” Has to ask trainers #TBLightning
— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) July 24, 2020
Even without Stamkos this Lightning team is still loaded, however it’s hard to justify their +260 price if their captain and second leading scorer is absent. It may be nitpicking, but I’d rather roll with a team without any glaring red flags.
The Flyers Were on Fire
That leaves us with the Flyers. Philadelphia was one of the hottest teams in the league when play was halted, winning nine of its final 10 games.
They have an abundance of scoring depth, with five players on pace for 25 goals before the stoppage, and an absolute stud between the pipes.
CARTER HART. 🤯😳
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) October 10, 2019
Carter Hart was having a sensation sophomore season, posing 24 wins, a 2.42 GAA and a .914 save percentage. He was elite down the stretch, winning 10 of his final 12 starts, and surrendering two or fewer goals in nine of those outings.
Philly was just a point behind the Caps for first in the Metropolitan, and were 5-1 against Boston and Washington this season.
Pick: Philadelphia Flyers (+350)
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