NHL Playoff Update
By: Joe Borek
Woohoo, the NHL is ready to enter phase two of their return to play plan this coming Monday. This is an excellent sign toward hockey resuming sometime around the July 10th target date for camp, then late July or early August hopeful dates to start games as per reports. Phase two allows teams to reopen their training facilities if permitted by local officials to have a voluntary small group on or off the ice workouts. The NHL defines smalls groups as six players training together at a time, plus a limited number of staff as per current reports. So phase two of a four-part plan is about to be underway, which is excellent news for us hockey fans who are eagerly anticipating the return of the sport. Phase three is training camp with, of course, stage four, then being the bound to be hopefully safely celebrated return to play.
Next, not only did the NHL announce phase two today, but they also put the finishing touches on the 24 team playoff format. Is everyone from looking at social media happy about this format since it’s been announced? No, of course not, but when has any sport truly made everyone happy when significant changes needed to be made? Either way, you feel, the key to remember here is these are just changes for one season and not the foreseeable future as there are zero signs of the NHL using this plan after this season.
For this season, however, in my opinion, it was a creative way to go straight to the postseason including the play in, which is, of course, an exciting best of five-game series with than the rest of the postseason as released by the NHL on Thursday, staying at the conventional seven-game battles. This is excellent news as it seems from following podcasts, hockey twitter, Sportsnet, NHL Network, and all the many other great hockey stations and sites that many fans wanted it this way and not back to back best of five-game series.
Additionally, the NHL provided us with the information today that there would be reseeding in the playoffs and not just a conventional bracket format. The change this brings is, for example, whoever becomes the first-place team in the East after the round-robin now plays the lowest remaining seed in the next round rather than the winner of Toronto and Columbus, as shown in reported brackets. This strategy continues round to round per a report by The Score’s Brandon Maron. This is a move that makes lots of sense and makes the playoff structure have more integrity, as it provides the more likely case, the lower end teams who only made it due to this format will be eliminated by round one of the playoffs if they advance through the play in. All in all, no matter what happens, if you ask me, we are in store for one heck of an exciting postseason.
Moving on, another thing that should be able to be avoided in this format is the asterisk next to the Stanley Cup winner. Likely someone will still feel that an asterisk is in order but to them I say, no many looks back and tell the 2013 Blackhawks were less of Champions or the 1995 Devils and both those teams won the cup in 48 game seasons as reported by Alexander Appleyard, a reporter for The Athletic Philadelphia. Those teams and whoever wins this season should ever be talked about with an asterisk because they still had to battle through the toughest part of the season, the postseason, to get to their ultimate goal of becoming champions. We are in store for a high playoff this year, assuming all continues to go well. Players usually are hurting into the playoffs, with teams facing overall injuries as a whole. Many organizations will be fully healthy as play resumes and if not sufficiently close to it. This stacks us up to have many great battles as well as have potentially the most upsets in a playoff year. Who knows, whatever the outcome is I’m just glad that hockey is somewhat right around the corner and going directly into the most exciting time of the year the Stanley Cup Playoffs.