The NHL’s regular season is over and the Stanley Cup is on the lookout – but hockey could be back this summer.
The league, with 24 teams, opted for a season-after format, backed by Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano after the coronavirus shut down in March.
“You can’t eliminate teams that don’t score as a percentage,” Giordano said. “I think you’re going to 12th and 12th. More teams are coming this year, maybe a few are saying goodbye to the top.”
In fact, plans announced by NHL Commissioner Gary Bateman on Tuesday called for the top four teams from the East and West conferences to reach the last 1, although each will play a few fist-round robin games for knitting.
These are Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia in the east and St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas in the west.
“It rewards teams that were in the regular season and it will be almost a pre-season for the top 4 of each conference,” said Patrick Sharp, an NBC Sports analyst who has won the Stanley Cup three times with Chicago.
“There’s a leaderboard at risk here and… there’s a chance for these guys to get rid of the rust and get ready for tough opponents, because whoever sees them in this first round, they’ll go through a pretty intense series. “
The top seed will compete against the winners of the top five of these five series:
No. 5 Pittsburgh v. No. 12 Montreal
Season Series: The Penguins have won two of the three.
Skinny: Penguins captain and three-time champion Sydney Crosby did not mind going straight to the playoffs due to limited time. His award went to elite goalkeeper Kerry Price and a matchup against the Canadians who were 15 points behind Pittsburgh at the end of the season.
Carolina No. 6 against the No. 6 New York Rangers
Season Series: The Renners have won four.
Skinny: Carolina was one of two parties (including Tampa Bay) to vote against this playoff format. The Hurricanes no longer need emergency goalkeeper David Ires as Petra Mrajak and James Remer are healthy and Dougie Hamilton is ready to return to defense.
No. 7 New York Islands vs. No. 10 Florida
Season series: The Islanders have won all three.
Charmsar: This is a rematch of a 2016 series, but basically everything has changed for these teams since then. Barry nevertheless left his mark on the islands, and three-time Cup winner Joel Coenville is in his first season flying to Florida.
No. 8 Toronto vs. No. 9 blue jacket
Season Series: Divide into two games.
Skinny: If Toronto wants to take home the trophy for the first time since 196767, Aston Mathews and his teammates will have to deal with annoying blue jackets that removed the flash with the highest seed in the first round last year.
No. 5 Edmonton vs. No. 12 Chicago
Season Series: The Blackhawks have won two of the three.
Thin One: Connor McDavid gets his second playoff prediction in his fifth season. No. 9, who has 979 points in the regular season, is allowed to compete against NHL top scorer Leon Drysitel against an aging Blackhawks opponent.
6 Nashville vs. 11 Arizona
Season Series: Divide into two games.
Skinny: Nashville and Arizona each took an important step in the season. Predators coach Peter Laviolet was replaced by John Hennessy, and Coyotes was traded in 2018 for MVP Taylor Hall. Only one of them will be in the last 16.
No. 7 Vancouver vs. 10 Minnesota
Season Series: Wild has won two of the three.
Skinny: Canucks got goalkeeper Jacob Markstrom back from a knee injury and also got the benefit of skating at the Swedish home during the break. Minnesota interim coach, Dean Avson can show that he deserves a full-time job.
No. 8 Calgary vs. No. 9 Winnipeg
Season Series: The Jets only won in extra time.
Skinny: The ever-changing flames face a continuum of jets and the winner of this series can make a real noise in the West. Losing can lead to some big changes.