Playoff Format Woes
The problem, though, is that many of these matchups should not be happening now and many of the top teams in each conference will face each other before the conference finals.
The NHL switched from a 1 vs 8 format five years ago in hopes of igniting rivalries like back in the 80s and early 90s. The misfortune of this is it robs teams like Nashville, Winnipeg, Boston, Tampa Bay, and Toronto from getting fair matchups in the first two rounds.
Toronto finished 3rd in the conference, five points better than Pittsburgh, a team that gets an easier matchup while Toronto is rewarded with the Bruins who were the second best team in the East.
If Nashville and Winnipeg win their opening series, they will play each other in the 2nd round rather than the conference finals. These are the top two teams in hockey and their reward for it is a brutal matchup in second round while lesser teams get an easier opponent.
Getting the battle of California with San Jose vs Anaheim is great, or a classic like Boston vs. Toronto will be highly entertaining, but the league is robbing the top teams of a fair chance opponent wise.
Of course, there is no such thing as an easy matchup in the playoffs, but the point is that we should see these teams meet in later rounds.
Veterans vs. Young Guns
One of the fun things every postseason is to look at who are some older guys that deserve a ring, and who are some young kids who could cement their mark for the new generation.
Ryan Callahan (Tampa Bay) – Rochester, NY native who has had a good career but never got Lord Stanley and this may be his best chance yet
Patrick Marleau (Toronto) – He came so close with San Jose two years ago. Perhaps he finally gets his ring while ending Toronto’s cup drought
Joe Thornton (San Jose) – Thornton also was denied a ring two years ago and he doesn’t have many seasons left. Perhaps he can win a cup and help the Sabres get a 1st round pick for teammate Evander Kane
Alexander Ovechkin (Washington) – It’s weird putting his name here but he is now 32 and won’t be unstoppable forever. He has done everything in hockey but win in the postseason and maybe he can finally gets the monkey off his back
Patrick Laine/Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg) – These two have the potential to be Kane/Toews 2.0 and they are a joy to watch play.
Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado) – He should win the Hart Trophy and how far can he single-handedly take Colorado?
Auston Matthews (Toronto) – He got his first taste of the postseason last year and performed well. Now that the kid gloves are off, can he make his mark?
Charlie McAvoy (Boston)v- He looks like a Norris-caliber defenseman and elevates Boston’s defense greatly. If last year’s playoff was his coming out party, what can he do for an encore?
West Finals: Los Angeles over Winnipeg in 6 games
East Finals: Tampa Bay over Washington in 7 games
Darkhorse: Minnesota Wild – They are better than many people give credit for, and they have a goalie who can steal a lot of games when he is hot.