What to watch for in this unique postseason

Attempting to gauge a crew’s relative power inside a hermetically sealed season is a idiot’s errand, which is maybe why the bosses despatched the task my manner. No time like the current, even with the playoffs commencing 4 days earlier than the common season concludes. Pandemic Playoffs II.

So this is sort of going to be like 4 Original Six-era playoffs, self-contained via two rounds after enjoying an solely division-only common season schedule, just about the way in which it was finished from 1942-43 via 1966-67.

Close your eyes and you possibly can nearly think about Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews enjoying the roles of Gordie Howe and Rocket Richard (not stylistically, in fact), although Sidney Crosby would possibly like to have a phrase with these of us who may need ignored Jean Beliveau again in the day.

There are, in fact, no conferences this season, so the 4 divisional winners who emerge from the primary two rounds shall be re-seeded by factors in the semifinals. That ought to turn into commonplace. Re-seeds after the primary spherical ought to return to being the norm.

Re-seeds for the ultimate 4 (decrease case, no trademark infringement right here) ought to be adopted completely to produce a Cup closing that includes the final and greatest two groups standing. If gamers refuse to contact their convention championship trophies out of some sense of superstition, then why on Earth even award them?

But sufficient dallying. Onto this season, the place first-place groups that established divisional superiority via 56 video games could have to do it once more in best-of-seven’s. By the way in which, via the quarter-century of Original Six playoffs when the opening spherical illogically matched the first- and third-seeds and the second- and fourth-place golf equipment, the highest two groups superior to the ultimate 16 instances.

Robin Lehner in goal for the Golden Knights.
Robin Lehner in objective for the Golden Knights.
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The wheat

Vegas had Marc-Andre Fleury. They added Robin Lehner. They had Gerard Gallant behind the bench. They fired him to add Pete DeBoer. They had a set of forwards who might play each methods. They traded for Mark Stone. They had a powerful defensive corps. They signed Alex Pietrangelo. It is at all times onto the following for the Golden Knights, and there is just one subsequent for the franchise, to beat the Flyers’ file of quickest growth membership to the Cup, Philly having gained it seven years into their existence.

Colorado took the Presidents’ Trophy by way of the regulation win tie-breaker over Vegas even with one much less general victory, the award much less significant than the reward of avoiding the Wild in the primary spherical and as a substitute drawing the Blues. The Avalanche have an abundance of firepower with out sacrificing something on the defensive finish. They shall be reliant on Philipp Grubauer, who has a cool 13-7 profession playoff mark in nets.

Carolina has arrived, 4 years after breaking a nine-year playoff drought, two years after final profitable a playoff spherical. Is this the end result Rangers followers would think about a profitable rebuild? Do you imagine in Petr Mrazek, and do you care that the Candy Canes had been hammered twice by their first-round foe Nashville in the ultimate two video games of the season?

Toronto hasn’t gained a playoff spherical since 2004—how’s that for a rebuild, Rangerstown?—and there could be no excuse for the Maple Leafs to fail to advance previous Montreal in their first postseason showdown since 1979. The crew has loads of firepower, however is the Freddie Andersen-Jack Campbell goaltending duo able to producing even eight victories, not to mention 16?

If the Rangers had the worst expertise below the bubble final August, Pittsburgh was proper behind, the Penguins being ousted by Carey Price and the inferior Canadiens in the qualies. But Crosby is on one other one among his rides for a crew that’s nearing full well being – and is far larger than the sum of its components.

Sidney Crosby skates with the Penguins.
Sidney Crosby skates with the Penguins.
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So if Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman are at full power, that adjustments all the pieces for Tampa Bay, doesn’t it? Even as we wait to discover out whether or not Lightning-Panthers could have the first-round juice of historic geographical rivals just like the Rangers and Islanders and the Habs and Nordiques.

For a lot of the second half, Boston was only a step or two forward of the Rangers, and now listed below are the Bruins abruptly seeming as formidable as ever with Taylor Hall’s deadline acquisition possibly a transformative transfer?

The chaff

Semyon Varlamov is an elite goaltender and Barry Trotz ought to by no means be underestimated, however the Islanders grinded down towards the top of this season simply as they did final yr earlier than the pause granted the crew a reprieve. The absence of Anders Lee can’t be papered over. And there’s this: in a 15-game stretch from Apr. 3 via May 6 whereas going 6-7-2, the Islanders gained a complete of three video games in regulation. They had been all in opposition to the Rangers.

NBC is on its manner out the door of NHL enterprise so how scrumptious wouldn’t it be for the community to showcase Edmonton and Mike Trout, make that McDavid, for so long as the leisure lasts?

Florida is on the cusp, Joel Quenneville – very like Trotz on the Island – is a transformative coach, why would Aleksander Barkov need to go away in one other yr, and the Puddy Tats do certainly have greater than a puncher’s likelihood in the opening spherical in opposition to the Lightning.

Minnesota, lengthy a membership caught in the center missing character, has taken a step ahead with the addition of the dynamic Kirill Kaprizov and the tradition change wrought by GM Billy Guerin, however now just isn’t the time. Washington is an entire crew, however the matchup in opposition to the Bruins just isn’t optimum, and is it even remotely attainable that pending unrestricted free agent Alex Ovechkin is enjoying his closing video games as a Cap?  

Nashville did its factor, extending GM David Poile’s streak of constructing the playoffs to what’s the distinction what number of years, as a substitute of proudly owning up to a reload that certainly shall be coming. St. Louis appears to be a muscle reminiscence crew, if the Rangers care to wait. Head coach Paul Maurice of Winnipeg might properly be out there if the crew goes out early. And is Carey Price feared sufficient by the Maple Leafs to allow Montreal to pull off what could be a seismic first-round upset?

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