When the NHL unveiled its Return to Play plan late last month, there were still quite a few things up in the air in terms of seeding, format, and logistics.
And while there’s still plenty to be determined, reports from some insiders up in Canada this afternoon shed some light on the playoff format, and it isn’t all good news if you’re a Bruins fan.
The round robin will fully determine top-4 seeding
Of note on the NHL playoff format: The top four seeds in each conference will be determined by the results of the three-game round robin, with regular-season points percentage serving as a tiebreaker if needed.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) June 4, 2020
One of the unknowns surrounded how the warm-up/round robin would impact the seeding of the top four teams in each conference. The NHL said that the results of the round robin would have an impact, but it hadn’t nailed down the specifics as of a couple weeks ago.
Today, however, Chris Johnston is reporting what would likely be the least palatable option for the Bruins is what the NHL is choosing. Essentially, the “standings” after this three-games-per-team mini tournament will fully determine the seeds.
This means that 3 games can go a long way toward undoing 70 for the Bruins (and the other teams, really). If the B’s go 0-3, they’ll find themselves as the #4 seed in the East, despite being 8, 10, and 11 points above the Lightning, Capitals, and Flyers, respectively.
The Bruins do get a bit of a benefit in that they own the tie-breaker against any of the other teams, based on points percentage.
Also, another report indicated that home ice in the Stanley Cup Final will be strictly decided by points percentage, so that’s another (let’s not get ahead of ourselves) bonus.
Is it a huge deal? No, not really. All of the top four teams will be equally rusty when the chaos kicks off, and while it’d be great to be the #1 overall seed, it’s important to remember that home-ice advantage doesn’t exist this year.
With every game being a neutral-site game, a lot of the benefits of being a top seed a moot. Things like having the first line change would be great, but the true comforts of home will be non-existent.
The bracket format is gone (this year), and each round will be re-seeded
The NHL Playoffs will not be bracketed, but re-seeded after every round. Qualifying will be best-of-five. All other rounds will be best-of-seven.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) June 4, 2020
While I think the NHL got the first part of this post wrong, the league got this part right.
I’m tired of the bracketed/divisional format in general. It was meant to build rivalries, but it just gets old seeing the same few teams year after year after year.
This year, the re-seeding takes away a lot of the potential “unfairness” of the whole thing.
If the league stuck with the bracketed format, they could have ended up with a situation where, for example, the top seed playing the #8 seed in the first round, and the #4 seed played the #12 seed.
Again, teams are going to be in the same boat when it comes to rust, weirdness, etc. but the bracket format sure had a bunch of chances to go sideways.
This way, after the play-in round, the top seed will play the lowest remaining seed, and so on and so on. A much better way to do it (and one the NHL should bring back permanently).
Each “real” round will be best of 7
In Elliotte Friedman’s Tweet above, he also mentions that only the play-in round will be a best-of-5 series. Previously, it remained a possibility that the first one or two rounds may also be best of 5.
I’m a little skeptical of putting too much stock in this, as there’s really no way for the league to know how much time it’s going to need.
If the games begin August 1, sure, maybe this plan works. But what if the games don’t start until August 15? September 1?
At some point, things may get pushed back far enough that the league has to reconsider, but for now, this is a good thing.
In a seven-game series, it’s a little bit harder for a hot team or a hot goalie to steal a series from a better team. Usually, over the course of 7 games, the better team wins out.
What does this mean for the Bruins?
- The round robin thing is bad, but not a huge deal. It seems a little unfair for their 70-game performance to not matter a ton, but it ultimately shouldn’t change much.
- The re-seeding is good. Maybe we won’t have to see the Leafs this year!
- The best-of-7 series plan is good. It lessens the chances of getting derailed by flukes or a hot goalie.