NHL to make a Triumphant Return!
We are in fact going to see our beloved Boston Bruins again in 2020, but in an extremely unique playoff format. But could this format hurt the Bruins chances at a championship?
The last time we saw our Boston Bruins was Tuesday March 10th in Philadelphia where they shutout the Flyers 2-0 and became the first team in the NHL to reach 100 points. Two days later the NHL, along with other professional sports leagues suspended play due to Covid-19.
At the time of the pause, the Bruins had just 12 games left to go in the regular season. As we played the waiting game, the league and the players association were busy trying to come up with a plan to get the players back on the ice.
Last week, the NHL Board of Governors approved a 24-team playoff format; while the remainder of the regular season would be terminated. Last Friday; the players association approved of the format with 29 of the 31 teams player reps voting yes to move forward with the plan.
On May 26th, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman formally announced that the 2019-20 NHL regular season is complete based on the current standings. The league has decided to forgo the final 189 (between all 31 NHL teams) regular season games and going straight into an expanded playoff format.
Who is in the playoffs? There will be 12 teams from each conference that qualify for the playoffs based off of point’s percentage. The Sharks, Ducks, Kings, Sabres, Devils, Senators and Red Wings did not qualify for the playoffs.
The Eastern Conference playoff teams are as followed: Boston Bruins; Tampa Bay Lighting; Washington Capitals; Philadelphia Flyers; Pittsburgh Penguins; Carolina Hurricanes; New York Islanders; Toronto Maple Leafs; Columbus Blue Jackets; Florida Panthers; New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens.
The Western Conference playoff teams are as followed: St. Louis Blues; Colorado Avalanche; Vegas Golden Knights; Dallas Stars; Edmonton Oilers; Nashville Predators; Vancouver Canucks; Calgary Flames; Winnipeg Jets; Minnesota Wild; Arizona Coyotes; and Chicago Blackhawks.
The top four teams in each conference will play in a three-game round robin tournament to determine seeding. Games will be played under regular season overtime rules. The qualifying round will be a best-of-five series and will be played under playoff overtime rules. From the qualifying round, we head into the traditional 16-team Stanley Cup Playoff format. Re-seeding teams is still being discussed. The quarterfinal and semifinal rounds will either be a best-of-five or best-of-seven series. That is also still being negotiated. The Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final will be a best-of-seven format.
All games will be played at two hub cities that have yet to be determined by the NHL and a start date for when games will begin is also still being ironed out. All games at the hub cities will played without fans.
There is a report out there that indicates which ever teams each the Cup Final round, those games could potentially be played at the respected teams home arenas. This has not been confirmed nor has it been denied.
What does the conclusion of the regular season mean for the Bruins? The Bruins not only win the Atlantic Division but also clinched the Presidents’ Trophy for having the leagues best record.
What does the playoff format mean for Boston? The Bruins are already in the traditional Stanley Cup playoffs but their opponent is to be determined based on who advances from the qualifying round and where the Bruins seed after the three-game round robin.
As it stands right now, the Bruins are the number one overall seed heading into the playoffs. However, that can change depending on what happens during this round-robin. The Bruins will play the Lighting, Capitals and Flyers to determine how the top four seeds will be laid out.
This does not benefit the Bruins in any way. If the Bruins lose all three round-robin games; the Bruins will have the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference heading into the traditional playoff tournament.
You can say that the Bruins are getting porked with the way that the format is currently laid out. Truth of the matter is, yes they are because they are not being rewarded for all the hard work that they have put in through their first 70 games of the season. However, it will encourage the Bruins to play at the high level that they were playing at before the pause.
Giving the Bruins something to play for will help get them mentally ready for the actual playoffs and really get their game back on track before they begin a potential seven game playoff series.
It is not a perfect format; especially from a Bruins point of view. However it will be good to see how the Bruins respond at same time. From not being able skate in almost three months since their last formal practice as a team and playing an extremely important playoff run without any spectators and new temporary measures.
Yes, the other 23 playoff teams are all in the same boat as well. However, when you have a passionate fan base like the Bruins do, it’s a completely different animal playing in an empty arena, playing for a championship.
It will be great to see that hockey will be coming back. Still many hurdles to clear but that fact that we will be able to see the Stanley Cup get awarded so the 2019-2020 NHL Season will get a proper conclusion; is a huge win for the entire sports world.