Three Game Play In For NHL? No Way!
By: Joe Borek
As stated in the article I wrote yesterday about the 24 team playoff, there will be a five-game play-in series. However, if teams agreed to a best two out of three that likely would not have been the case. Elliot Friedman, a top Sportsnet reporter, stated “The league initially suggested this play-in round be best two out of three and the players said no way.” It is understandable why the players would not want that. Especially the players of certain higher-seeded play in teams.
Let’s get into why it is understandable. Not only does a best two out of three change the overall format compared to a best of five, which is only a smaller alter, it also, gives a much higher chance of the top seed being upset. In addition to all that, it could be argued that it is not fair for a team that had zero chance of making the postseason to have a best two out of three chance to beat a team that would have made it in any given year. That argument was made by some according to Elliot Friedman who’s quote went on to say, “They(players) felt it was not acceptable enough for the teams that had a better regular season and Pittsburg looked at its matchup and it said two out of three against Carey Price is not fair for a team that had zero percentage points to play in the playoffs.” That’s a solid argument to make since Montreal Canadian’s Carey Price is one of the best goalies not just currently but of all time. He has a career .914 save percentage (SV%) in the playoffs with a 2.53 goals-against average (GAA) to go along with it according to Hockey Reference. It is also key to put out there, this is some of the highest praise a player could receive. His fellow league members do not want to match against him in a best two of three. That should be an honor hearing that for Carey Price.
Friedman also pointed out that he heard some Western Conference teams complain about the possibility of facing one of the leagues top forwards Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks, in the play in. However, that concern was not to as high of a level as facing Price. After all, just like in baseball the buck usually stops with your pitching rotation, the same can be said in hockey about goaltending.
It’s not always the biggest names, but almost always a successful playoff team has one or even two hot goaltenders. Being scared of a guy like Kane however just like Price in a best two out of three has lots of merits. Kane is a three-time Stanley Cup champion and one-time Hart Trophy winner(MVP). Scoring the winning goal in one of those three against the Philadelphia Flyers. For his career Kane has a stellar 123 total playoff points and still counting.
So as we can gather from the data above, the players had a very good argument to not want to face Kane and especially Price in best two out of three scenarios. I’m sure some are even not thrilled about a best of five but hey it’s way better than a best of three. Even though the argument by the players brought up by Elliot Friedman, is 100% valid I still find it funny that two players are what potentially kept the league from doing a different style of format for the postseason. Two great players which of course we’re not the only factor but likely one of the leading factors in making it a best of five. Just an interesting thing to think about. Either way I for one am glad the players prevailed as a best of five play in makes for even more intense action. On top of that it doesn’t feel completely out of place like a best of three would have.
The NHL has done a good job at laying out their plan to return as well as in making a new playoff structure for this one season. If they decided to do a best two out of three rather than a best of five play-in I feel at least some opinion would change for the negative toward the one-time playoff structure that could be voted on as early as tonight. All in all, the players got their wish, and as fans we should be happy it became an exciting best of five structures rather than a best of three which easily can be seen as unfair to the higher seed. You work hard to have the advantage of being a higher seed. That should mean something and that’s what a best of five series give that compared to a best two out of three. It gives all that hard work to get to the higher seed the extra merit it rightfully deserves. Stay safe and well everyone and hopefully by sometime next week we will hear hockey can return fairly soon.