2-minute wrap-up of Gary Bettman's interview:
The front runners would deal with the winners of these eight opening-round, best-of-five series:
No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 12 Montreal Canadiens
Penguins captain and three-time champ Sidney Crosby didn't mind going directly into playoffs offered the restricted timing. His benefit is a match versus elite goaltender Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens, who had 15 fewer points than Pittsburgh when the season was stopped.
Season series: Penguins won 2 of 3.
What Sharp states: "Price might be type in this series. ... Pittsburgh is a group that's going to get healthy, ideally. They had some essential guys injured before the shutdown that were going to miss significant video games down the stretch."
"in a first-round playoff series versus Sidney Crosby, left, and the Penguins, according to NBC Sports analyst Patrick Sharp.(Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images/File)No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. No. 11 New York Rangers Carolina was among two groups (in addition to Tampa Bay )that voted versus this playoff format. The Hurricanes shouldn't require emergency goaltender David Ayres anymore with Petr Mrazek and James Reimer healthy and Dougie Hamilton ready to return on defence.
Season series: Rangers won all four.
Sharp: "I like the method [the Hurricanes] complete, and they can shut video games down with the finest of them. Now they got their goaltenders healthy, Dougie returning. I like their opportunities. ... They were an interesting group to watch, the New York Rangers. [Winger Artemi] Panarin is making everyone better offensively."
No. 7 New York Islanders vs. No. 10 Florida Panthers
This is a rematch of a 2016 series, however essentially everything has actually changed for these groups because. Barry Trotz has actually put his stamp on the Islanders, and three-time Cup-winning coach Joel Quenneville is in his very first season with high-flying Florida.
Season series: Islanders won all three.
Sharp: "It's 2 various styles of play. The Islanders and Barry Trotz and [GM Lou Lamoriello], they're going to be an extremely disciplined, defence-oriented group ... That neutral zone's going to be obstructed. And for a group like the Panthers that showed this season that they would trade a couple of possibilities to get a couple of possibilities ... it's going to be a difficult match for them."
WATCH The top 4 groups in the Eastern and Western Conferences get byes into the final 16 except for a handful of round-robin games to figure out seeding. ... Pittsburgh is a team that's going to get healthy, hopefully. Connor McDavid gets just his second taste of the playoffs in his 5th season. Oilers captain Connor McDavid, right, will be starving for just his second taste of the Stanley Cup playoffs in his 5th season should the NHL resume this summer. Sharp: "They've got some core pieces there in Vancouver that are going to get a taste of the big phase, the huge playoff matchups.