The NHL postseason begins in a week from Wednesday. This will be the fifth consecutive postseason under the new playoff format. The top three teams in each division get in, along with two wild cards. It isn’t the same as it was when the top three division winners were rewarded the 1-3 seeds and the teams with the top points remaining were 4-8.
It isn’t the case here and it will victimize another NHL this team postseason. I am not saying there is anything wrong in how exciting the Stanley Cup Playoffs are, the problem is their is a flaw in the current system.
If the season ended right now the (WC1) New Jersey Devils (43-28-9 with 95 points) would play the (1) Washington Capitals (48-25-7 with 103 points), the (3) Columbus Blue Jackets (45-29-6 with 96 points) would play the (2) Pittsburgh Penguins (45-29-6 with 96 points), the (WC2) Philadelphia Flyers (40-26-14 with 94 points) would play the (1) Boston Bruins (49-18-12 with 110 points), and the (3) Toronto Maple Leafs (48-25-7 with 103 points) would play the (2) Tampa Bay Lightning (53-23-4 with 110 points).
The only two matchups that make sense in the east for the first round is Philadelphia vs Boston because it is a true 8 vs 1 matchup and New Jersey vs Washington because it is a true 7 vs 2. Otherwise, there are issues that come into play. Why is Columbus who in realty should be a six seed would play a five seed Pittsburgh in the first round?
How about Toronto, who should really be a four seed and get home ice in the first-round isn’t going to because they are playing a team is technically a three seed in the Tampa Bay Lightning? In reality, Columbus should face Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh should face Toronto.
Here’s another issue: in the old format, there would be reseeding after the first round. In this format, it is just bracketed in. You’re going to tell me Pittsburgh vs Washington should face each other in the second round and not the conference finals? But the same case can be made this season for Tampa Bay and Boston.
The Lightning and the Bruins have the top two records in the eastern conference and one of those teams will be eliminated in the second round. Heck, Tampa Bay could be eliminated by Toronto in the first round as well.
Columbus and Pittsburgh shouldn’t be on a collision course to play against each other in the first-round again this season. The Blue Jackets could be very well victimized by this bracket once again and so could the Penguins.
How about the western conference? The (WC2) Colorado Avalanche (42-29-9 with 93 points) would play the (1) Nashville Predators (51-18-11 with 113 points), (3) Minnesota Wild (44-25-10 with 98 points) would play the (2) Winnipeg Jets (50-20-10 with 110 points), (WC1) Anaheim Ducks (41-25-13 with 95 points) would play the (1) Vegas Golden Knights (51-22-7 with 109 points), and the (3) Los Angeles Kings (44-28-8 with 96 points) would play the (2) San Jose Sharks (44-26-10 with 98 points).
There is nothing wrong with all of these matchups in the first-round because of how spread out the points are, but the 6 vs 3 matchup would be Los Angeles vs Winnipeg and the 5 vs 4 matchup would be San Jose vs Minnesota.
However, there would be another problem in the second round in the Central Division. Winnipeg and Nashville would be on course to play each other in the second round. They are by far the two best teams in the western conference and one of them is going to be bounced before the conference finals.
Some people might be complaining about the format and some people might think the second round series might be the conference finals, but ever since this playoff format in 2014, a second-round series goes seven games 50% of the time and a conference finals series goes seven 62% of the time.
A series goes at least six games 81% of the time since this format since 2014 and a conference finals series goes at least six 100% of the time.