2020 NHL postseason: Picks for qualification round, Stanley Cup

After months of a pandemic-induced pause, the NHL returns in earnest Saturday. Players will hit the ice again as the NHL's return-to-play plan hits Phase 4 and the postseason begins.

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.

We gathered our panel of NHL experts to make their picks on each qualification-round series, along with how they foresee the round-robin teams finishing.

More: Check out the full NHL postseason schedule here.

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East round-robin | PIT-MTL


West round-robin | EDM-CHI


Eastern Conference

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

Sean Allen: Lightning, Capitals, Bruins, Flyers

Ben Arledge: Lightning, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers

Pierre Becquey:Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Flyers

John Buccigross:Lightning, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers

Sach Chandan:Lightning, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers

Linda Cohn:Lightning, Capitals, Bruins, Flyers

Aimee Crawford:Lightning, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers

Dimitri Filipovic:Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Flyers

Emily Kaplan:Bruins, Capitals, Lightning, Flyers

Tim Kavanagh:Lightning, Flyers, Bruins, Capitals

Don La Greca:Bruins, Capitals, Lightning, Flyers

Vince Masi:Capitals, Flyers, Bruins, Lightning

Victoria Matiash:Lightning, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers

Arda Ocal:Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Flyers

Greg Wyshynski:Bruins, Lightning, Flyers, Capitals

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

Sean Allen:Penguins in 4

Ben Arledge:Penguins in 4

Pierre Becquey:Penguins in 4

John Buccigross:Penguins in 5

Sach Chandan: Canadiens in 5

Linda Cohn:Penguins in 4

Aimee Crawford:Penguins in 3

Dimitri Filipovic:Penguins in 4

Emily Kaplan:Penguins in 4

Tim Kavanagh:Penguins in 3

Don La Greca:Penguins in 4

Vince Masi:Penguins in 4

Victoria Matiash:Penguins in 5

Arda Ocal:Penguins in 3

Greg Wyshynski:Penguins in 3

Top pick: Penguins (14).

No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. No. 11 New York Rangers

Sean Allen:Rangers in 4

Ben Arledge: Rangers in 5

Pierre Becquey: Hurricanes in 5

John Buccigross: Rangers in 5

Sach Chandan:Hurricanes in 4

Linda Cohn:Rangers in 4

Aimee Crawford:Rangers in 5

Dimitri Filipovic:Hurricanes in 5

Emily Kaplan:Rangers in 5

Tim Kavanagh:Hurricanes in 4

Don La Greca:Rangers in 5

Vince Masi:Hurricanes in 5

Victoria Matiash:Rangers in 4

Arda Ocal:Rangers in 5

Greg Wyshynski: Hurricanes in 4

Top pick: Rangers (9).

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

Sean Allen: Panthers in 4

Ben Arledge: Islanders in 4

Pierre Becquey: Panthers in 5

John Buccigross: Islanders in 5

Sach Chandan:Panthers in 4

Linda Cohn:Islanders in 5

Aimee Crawford:Islanders in 5

Dimitri Filipovic:Islanders in 4

Emily Kaplan:Islanders in 5

Tim Kavanagh:Islanders in 3

Don La Greca:Islanders in 4

Vince Masi:Islanders in 5

Victoria Matiash:Panthers in 4

Arda Ocal:Islanders in 4

Greg Wyshynski: Islanders in 4

Top pick: Islanders (11).

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

Sean Allen:Maple Leafs in 3

Ben Arledge: Maple Leafs in 5

Pierre Becquey: Maple Leafs in 4

John Buccigross: Blue Jackets in 5

Sach Chandan:Maple Leafs in 3

Linda Cohn:Blue Jackets in 5

Aimee Crawford:Maple Leafs in 4

Dimitri Filipovic:Maple Leafs in 5

Emily Kaplan:Maple Leafs in 5

Tim Kavanagh:Maple Leafs in 4

Don La Greca:Maple Leafs in 4

Vince Masi:Blue Jackets in 5

Victoria Matiash:Maple Leafs in 5

Arda Ocal:Maple Leafs in 4

Greg Wyshynski: Maple Leafs in 4

Top pick: Maple Leafs (12).

Western Conference

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

Sean Allen:Blues, Golden Knights, Avs, Stars

Ben Arledge:Golden Knights, Blues, Avs, Stars

Pierre Becquey:Avs, Blues, Golden Knights, Stars

John Buccigross:Blues, Avs, Stars, Golden Knights

Sach Chandan:Golden Knights, Blues, Avs, Stars

Linda Cohn:Golden Knights, Avs, Blues, Stars

Aimee Crawford:Blues, Avs, Golden Knights, Stars

Dimitri Filipovic:Avs, Blues, Golden Knights, Stars

Emily Kaplan:Avs, Blues, Golden Knights, Stars

Tim Kavanagh:Avs, Blues, Stars, Golden Knights

Don La Greca:Blues, Avs, Stars, Golden Knights

Vince Masi:Golden Knights, Avs, Blues, Stars

Victoria Matiash:Avs, Golden Knights, Blues, Stars

Arda Ocal:Avs, Blues, Golden Knights, Stars

Greg Wyshynski:Avs, Blues, Stars, Golden Knights

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

Sean Allen:Blackhawks in 5

Ben Arledge:Blackhawks in 5

Pierre Becquey:Oilers in 5

John Buccigross:Oilers in 4

Sach Chandan:Oilers in 3

Linda Cohn:Oilers in 4

Aimee Crawford:Oilers in 4

Dimitri Filipovic:Oilers in 4

Emily Kaplan:Oilers in 5

Tim Kavanagh:Blackhawks in 4

Don La Greca:Oilers in 5

Vince Masi:Oilers in 4

Victoria Matiash:Oilers in 4

Arda Ocal:Oilers in 5

Greg Wyshynski:Oilers in 4

Top pick: Oilers (12).

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

Sean Allen:Coyotes in 4

Ben Arledge: Predators in 4

Pierre Becquey: Predators in 4

John Buccigross: Predators in 4

Sach Chandan:Predators in 5

Linda Cohn:Predators in 5

Aimee Crawford:Predators in 3

Dimitri Filipovic:Coyotes in 5

Emily Kaplan:Predators in 5

Tim Kavanagh:Predators in 4

Don La Greca:Predators in 3

Vince Masi:Predators in 4

Victoria Matiash:Predators in 3

Arda Ocal:Coyotes in 5

Greg Wyshynski: Coyotes in 5

Top pick: Predators (11).

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

Sean Allen: Wild in 3

Ben Arledge:Canucks in 3

Pierre Becquey: Canucks in 4

John Buccigross: Canucks in 5

Sach Chandan:Canucks in 3

Linda Cohn:Canucks in 4

Aimee Crawford:Canucks in 5

Dimitri Filipovic:Canucks in 5

Emily Kaplan:Canucks in 4

Tim Kavanagh:Wild in 5

Don La Greca:Canucks in 4

Vince Masi:Canucks in 5

Victoria Matiash:Wild in 4

Arda Ocal:Canucks in 5

Greg Wyshynski: Canucks in 5

Top pick: Canucks (12).

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

Sean Allen: Jefs in 4

Ben Arledge: Jefs in 4

Pierre Becquey: Jets in 5

John Buccigross: Flames in 5

Sach Chandan:Jets in 5

Linda Cohn:Flames in 5

Aimee Crawford:Jets in 5

Dimitri Filipovic:Jets in 4

Emily Kaplan:Jets in 4

Tim Kavanagh:Flames in 4

Don La Greca:Jets in 5

Vince Masi:Jets in 5

Victoria Matiash:Jets in 4

Arda Ocal:Flames in 4

Greg Wyshynski: Flames in 4

Top pick: Jets (10).

Way-too-early Stanley Cup Final picks

Sean Allen:Lightning over Golden Knights

Ben Arledge:Lightning over Avs

Pierre Becquey:Penguins over Avs

John Buccigross:Lightning over Blues

Sach Chandan:Lightning over Stars

Linda Cohn:Lightning over Golden Knights

Aimee Crawford:Lightning over Avs

Dimitri Filipovic:Lightning over Golden Knights

Emily Kaplan:Penguins over Avalanche

Tim Kavanagh:Blues over Capitals

Don La Greca:Lightning over Blues

Vince Masi:Golden Knights over Flyers

Victoria Matiash:Lightning over Golden Knights

Arda Ocal:Avalanche over Bruins

Greg Wyshynski:Lightning over Golden Knights

Top pick: Lightning (10).
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