There are plenty of details to be ironed out and plenty of things to be finalized, but it appears that the NHL and the NHLPA are close to settling on a playoff format for whenever hockey is able to resume.
What does the format look like?
Per those guys above, the NHL appears to be leaning toward a 24-team set-up, with 12 teams in each conference.
It appears that the top four teams in each conference would get a first-round bye, meaning they’d essentially skip out on the “extra” part and get right into the normal eight-team set-up.
Seeing as the Bruins are the top team in the Eastern Conference by a healthy margin, they’d get a bye in the first round.
However, the NHL reportedly won’t be re-seeding after the initial round.
This means that the Bruins, as the #1 seed, would play the winner of the #8 vs. #9 series, regardless of whether or not a lower seed won its first-round series.
The wrinkle in the top four
While the scenario above seems a little unfair, it’s kind of just the luck of the draw.
However, there’s apparently another possible wrinkle that, frankly, seems like it’s pretty unfair to the league’s top teams.
The NHL return-to-play format currently under discussion allows for some jockeying among the top-four teams in each conference (BOS/TB/WASH/PHI ... STL/COL/VGK/DAL). It would see them play each other -- three games, in-conference -- with the outcomes helping determine seeding.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 21, 2020
The most drastic use of this scenario would see this mini tournament rearrange the top four seeds entirely.
If a rusty Bruins team has a bad three-game run, all of a sudden their 70 games of success would get them a #4 seed, which seems ridiculous.
In all likelihood, the league won’t go that drastic route, and would instead do something like a draft lottery, where you could only move up or down one position.
What would this look like for the Bruins?
Assume, for the sake of argument, that there won’t be any rearranging of the top four seeds. This means the Bruins would be facing either the Columbus Blue Jackets or the Toronto Maple Leafs (lol) in the first round.
Another match-up with the Leafs?!?!?! ARE THERE NO OTHER TEAMS IN THIS LEAGUE???
(When you look at it this way, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing for the Bruins to get a lower seed...at least they could play someone else!)
The Bruins were 2-0-1 against the Leafs during the regular season, and were 0-1-1 against the Blue Jackets.
Neither case is really an ideal match-up for the Bruins.
The law of averages says that in the Charlie Brown vs. Lucy and the Football match-up that is the Leafs vs. the Bruins, the Leafs are going to kick the ball at some point. The Leafs certainly have their weaknesses, but they have a ton of talent on offense.
In Columbus, the Bruins would be facing a team that has given them trouble this season. They have what is arguably the biggest asset in a playoff series: a hot goalie in Elvis Merzlikins.
The Bruins should beat either of these teams in a seven-game series, but given the overall weirdness of this whole scenario, you never know.
Your thoughts on the league’s (reported) playoff proposal? Are you psyched for another Bruins-Leafs first-round series?