How Do Opening Round NHL Playoff Qualifying Series Work?
Following a long pause, which began on March 12, NHL action returns when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on August 1, 2020. To accommodate teams that were in playoff contention, when the season was cancelled with 189 games left on the schedule, the playoff field was expanded from 16 to 24 teams. The top four clubs in each conference received a bye into the quarterfinals and will play two round robin series to establish the top seeds in the second round.
Colorado, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Dallas were the top four teams in the Western Conference. The remaining eight teams are playing four qualifying series and the winner’s advance to the quarterfinals as the bottom four seeds in the West. Edmonton is the hub city for the Western Conference playoffs, plus the Conference and Stanley Cup Finals, and all games will be played at Rogers Place arena. Calgary is the No. 8 seed and Winnipeg is the No. 9 seed in the West.
Calgary vs. Winnipeg Qualifying Series Schedule
Game 1 - Saturday, Aug 1: Winnipeg @ Calgary 10:30 PM ET
Game 2 - Monday, Aug 3: Winnipeg @ Calgary 2:30 PM ET
Game 3 - Tuesday, Aug 4: Calgary @ Winnipeg 6:45 PM ET
Game 4 - Thursday, Aug 6: Calgary @ Winnipeg Time TBD *
Game 5 - Saturday, Aug 8: Winnipeg @ Calgary Time TBD *
* If Necessary
Winnipeg Jets vs Calgary Flames Series Preview
Based on points, Winnipeg (37-28-6) finished sixth in the Western Conference and fourth in the Central Division with 80 points. The Jets are the No. 9 seed due to Nashville, Vancouver and Calgary owning a better win percentage. Winnipeg was on an 11-5-1 roll when the season was halted and they are back in the playoffs for a third straight season. The Jets lost to Vegas in the 2018 Western Conference Finals and were knocked out by St. Louis in the first round last year.
Calgary (36-27-7) finished seventh overall in the West and third in the Pacific Division standings with 79 points. The Flames had a rollercoaster style regular season and closed with a 9-7-1 record over their final 17 games. Calgary is back in the playoffs for the third time over four seasons. The Flames lost to the Anaheim Ducks (4-0) in the first round in 2017, missed the playoffs in 2018, and lost to the Colorado Avalanche (4-1) in the opening round last season.
Winnipeg and Calgary were scheduled to meet three times but played just once due to the shortened season. As part of the NHL Stadium Series, the lone meeting was played in snowy and frigid conditions at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan. Elias Lindholm scored in the second period for Calgary and Winnipeg tied the score on a third period goal by Josh Morrissey. Bryan Little scored 3:04 into overtime and the Jets won the Heritage Classic 2-1 in October.
The Jets and Flames met six times during the previous two seasons. Winnipeg won three games and the final score was 2-1 in each contest. Calgary posted a 4-1 win and crushed the Jets 6-3 twice. These teams posted similar scoring numbers during the regular season. Calgary averaged 3.00 goals per game (GPG) on offense and gave up 3.07 GPG on defense. Winnipeg was slightly better in both categories as the Jets scored 3.04 GPG and allowed 2.86 goals per game.
Series Pick: Winnipeg Jets +104
Flames vs. Jets Game 1 Betting Odds
Subject to change, prior to this series beginning on August 1, FanDuel has posted early odds for Game 1 of this series. Calgary is a slim favorite on the moneyline and puck line. The game total is set at 5.5 goals and the low number is not surprising since four of the last seven meetings ended with a 2-1 final score. Calgary makes a short trip north to play in Edmonton and the Flames were 20-14-3 on the road. Winnipeg posted a 17-14-3 record as visitors this season.
Goaltending will be a key factor in this best-of-five qualifying series. Winnipeg will lean on Vezina Trophy candidate Connor Hellebuyck (2.57 GAA 31-21-5) who led all goalies with six shutouts. Those are solid numbers considering the Jets allowed 32.6 shots per game which was the seventh most in the league. Kyle Connor (73), Mark Scheifele (73), Blake Wheeler (65) and Patrik Laine (63) were the leading point producers for Winnipeg who played 71 games.
Calgary is expected to open this series with David Rittich (2.97 GAA 24-17-6) in goal. Unlike Hellebuyck, who has started 23 playoff games, this is the first NHL postseason start for Rittich. Matthew Tkachuk (61), Johnny Gaudreau (58), Elias Lindholm (54) and Sean Monahan (48) were the leading scorers for the Flames who played 70 games this year. Winnipeg has a decisive edge in goal, plus the higher scoring offence, and I like the Jets Game 1 moneyline price.
Game 1 Pick: Winnipeg Jets -110
Futures Betting Odds - Qualifying Series Total Games
As part of their extensive futures betting package, FanDuel bookmakers have posted a “Series Total Games” prop option. While Winnipeg enters this series with a large edge in goal - the long layoff may affect goaltenders the most. The offence on both teams will be raring to go and these will be fast paced games. A 3-0 series win is a heavy moneyline underdog on this prop but I don’t see a sweep by either team. Instead, I am betting on this series needing all five games.
Series Total Pick: 5 Games +150