With the MLS already returning and both the MLB and NBA having set their continuation dates, next up is the NHL. While plenty of obstacles still remain, the season is planned to continue sometime around early August. With some 10 games left in the regular season, it was decided that 24 teams will play in the amended format, with top four of each conference heading straight to round of 16 after determining the seeds in round robin games. The remaining 16 teams play a best-of-five playoff series to determine the other eight conference quarterfinal spots.
The locations of the games are yet to be determined, with several spots complexes as options. Safe to say there will not be significant home advantage to any team, with the circumstances being extremely exceptional no matter the geography. In Accuscore’s simulations, the home advantage (or disadvantage) can be cancelled out, therefore making it possible to determine the most likely outcomes of the games – even in a neutral ground.
While it might be too early to make any surefire predictions, as there is still way too many variables, we can have a look at where we currently are regarding the first round of games played between the top four teams of each conference.
In the West, the top four comprises of St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars. In the East, the current order is Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers. As can be suspected, the games between the top teams are extremely close and that is how the simulations play out as well.
The Western Conference top spot is most likely to go to up-and-rising Colorado Avalanche. In Accuscore simulations the Avs win their games with an average of 59%, which beats current regular season leaders and reigning Stanley Cup Champions St. Louis Blues by 7%. Both Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights are left to around 45% winning probability.
In the Eastern Conference it is even closer, if possible. Rather surprisingly current leaders Boston Bruins are the most unlikely to reach the top seed, winning their games with an average of 46%. The top spot is claimed by Tampa Bay Lightning, yet again hungry to challenge for the long lost Stanley Cup. Their average winning percentage is 53%, closely followed by Washington Capitals at 52%. The Flyers manage to get one over Bruins, but are unlikely to challenge the top dogs with 49% winning probability.
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