Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Ranking all 23 series from the 2020 postseason

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The playoffs are over, and we made it all the way through. That’s pretty amazing, and the NHL deserves a ton of credit for pulling it off. An unprecedented 24-team, five-round tournament for the Stanley Cup and it pretty much went off without a hitch.

But while every one of the 23 series we saw was amazing on some level just for existing in the first place, we can admit that some were better than others. A lot better, in at least a few cases. That’s how it always is in the playoffs, when a few series emerge as legendary battles we’ll remember for years to come, and others are forgotten almost immediately. Mix in an extra round, and eight additional teams, and your hit-to-miss ratio is going to go haywire.

So today, let’s remember each one of the postseason series we just saw, by ranking them all from worst to best. We’ll count the qualifying round as the postseason because when teams are playing win-or-go-home games, that’s what it is. We won’t count the round-robin because nobody cared. That gives us 23 options to work with, and we’ll start our list the same way the league started its postseason all those weeks ago…

23. Hurricanes over Rangers (Qualifying)

The very first series to take the ice had its moments, including some instant bad blood. It was also a mismatch, with the Rangers holding a lead for just three minutes in a series that ended up being the only sweep of the extended postseason.

22. Islanders over Panthers (Qualifying)

The series that you always forgot when you were going over the qualifying matchups, barely remembered when it was happening, and have no recollection of today. The Panthers didn’t quit when they were down 2-0, and their Game 3 victory prevented a sweep and keeps this one out of the bottom spot. But it just seemed to annoy the Islanders, who rolled to a Game 4 win and put the Panthers, and the Dale Tallon era, out of their misery.

21. Avalanche over Coyotes (Round 1)

There’s something to be said for a genuine mismatch, one where the better team can exert its will and just steamroll a helpless opponent. That something is “please end this,” which is what the Coyotes players seemed to be saying in Games 4 and 5 when they lost by identical 7-1 scores that may have actually flattered them. Man, we all thought, as long as the Avalanche stay healthy they’ll be unstoppable.

20. Flames over Jets (Qualifying)

This old-school Smythe Division matchup had all sorts of potential, but a lot of it went out the window in Game 1. Mark Scheifele’s gruesome injury at the hands skates of Matthew Tkachuk was the biggest story of the postseason’s early days and certainly added some bad blood and controversy to the series, while Winnipeg’s gutsy Game 2 win seemed to set the stage for something special. But it was all over after that, as the depleted Jets lost Games 3 and 4 by a combined score of 10-2.

19. Islanders over Capitals (Round 1)

Yes, it’s our second Islander series already, which might be viewed as an insult by their fans. We’ll save the dozenth iteration of the “Are the Islanders boring?” debate for another day, except to say: Yeah, they’re really boring when they’re facing an opponent who doesn’t even seem to want to be there. The Caps were missing Nicklas Backstrom for most of this one, which didn’t help, but when you’re getting outscored 17-8 I’m not sure how much one player matters. The Islanders were just better.

18. Canucks over Wild (Qualifying)

The first three games featured a pair of shutouts, plus a Game 2 that wasn’t as close as the final score suggests. Game 4 was legitimately great, a 5-4 thriller that featured a late Vancouver goal to force overtime and a near-instant sudden death winner. But if that game is all you remember from this series, you’re not missing a ton.

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