By Jack Cinquegrana | Follow me on Twitter @bruinschewy
Hockey fans everywhere have been blessed by the grace of Gary Bettman and the quickly drying pockets of the NHL owners. Hockey is coming back and the Boston Bruins have a great opportunity to put another banner in the rafters. Some fans are not stoked about the return to play news and I am unsure as to why that is the case. By coming back the NHL owners get to kickstart their revenue stream which makes them happy, the players get to finish a season that had many storylines and so many teams in the hunt, plus more teams than usual, and us, the fans, we get to watch it all unfold. Potentially two and a half months of playoff hockey and fans are unhappy because there is no one allowed at the games? Can we not just be happy that the best sport in the world and the best team is going to be playing in a 24-team tournament for the Stanley Cup?
THE STRUCTURE OF THE 2019-2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
The way that is tournament is structured is that teams seeded five through twelve based off of points percentage at the time of the season stopping will be playing in a best-of-five series to move on to the Conference Quarter-Finals and re-seeding will take place. So, five will play twelve, and six will play eleven and so on and so forth. While that is happening, the NHL felt it would be fair to let the top seeds which avoided the qualifying round play in a round-robin tournament to determine seeding. That means Philadelphia, Boston, Tampa Bay, and Washington will play one another, and St. Louis, Colorado, Dallas, and Las Vegas will play on another. After the qualifying round, the regular Stanley Cup Playoffs will continue with 16 teams playing in best-of-seven series’, leaving eight eliminated in the qualifying round.
The Coronavirus took many lives all over the world, it is not to be celebrated but when life deals you a bad hand, you have to turn it around and try to make something of it. The NHL cares enough about the games and the playoffs and who wins the trophy, the new format is what we can take out of this situation as a positive thought. As a hockey fan, nothing pleases me more than knowing there will be more teams in the playoffs, they will be longer. We are going to get to see Patrick Kane and Connor McDavid and so many more superstars compete for the Stanley Cup, this new format is a great opportunity for the NHL to adopt this as their format going forward.
SERIES’ TO LOOK OUT FOR
For most of the teams in the league that is going to have a shot at at least the qualifying round, there are fair matchups all over the place. The Pittsburgh Penguins face off against the Montreal Canadiens, a tighter matchup than one would think to be a five seed versus a twelve seed. The Habs can get hot at any moment and being that they haven’t made the playoffs since 2016-2017, Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher are hungry to make some noise in the playoffs again.
Another matchup to look out for would be the other five verses twelve seeds in the Western Conference facing off. That would be the Edmonton Oilers and the Chicago Blackhawks. Connor McDavid versus Jonathan Toews, Leon Draisaitl versus Patrick Kane. This series is going to have a lot of skill and scoring that you will not want to miss and in my opinion the two most skilled players in the world on the ice for potentially five games.
WHAT THE NEW FORMAT MEANS FOR BOSTON
The Bruins will be playing a round-robin to determine seeding for the playoffs. Now, Bruins fans will be complaining about that, but I always remember the saying, “if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best”, and if beating Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and Washington proves we are the top seed then we should beat them. In games against those three teams this season, the Bruins have a record of 3-3-4 and a -1 goal differential. That is definitely not the kind of record we are shooting for but we are right in every one of those games, and when we beat those teams we are winning by two or three goals.
Boston was one game away from two Stanley Cups in the same decade. We have the skill, the defense and the goaltending to do it again. We can potentially see any Eastern Conference team in any round, and you know there will be upsets. With the Boston Bruins squad that we put on the ice today, I think we have enough firepower and defense to win the 2019-2020 Stanley Cup and go through the best teams doing it.