We are now well into the second week of no sports as the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the games we love. Major sports leagues such as the NHL, NBA, and MLB continue to be suspended indefinitely, with dates of a possible return still unknown.
With sports still at a lull for an undisclosed period of time, one can’t help but think about how the professional sports leagues will continue once this pandemic disappears. One that is very intriguing to me is the NHL, as there have been multiple potential playoff formats released based on what the NHL could do to finish their season and award the Stanley Cup if we remain without hockey for an extended period of time.
One image that has made its rounds on the internet can be seen below. To this day, this format continues to be the one that all the experts are leaning towards, given that the NHL will scrap the remaining few weeks of the season and head straight into playoffs in its return.
This is a very interesting format to say the least. This format has been criticized, however, as some armchair GMs at home say that it gives non-playoff teams like Detroit and Ottawa too much of a chance to make a playoff run. But, in my opinion, that would be extremely exciting to see. I mean, can you imagine a team like the Detroit Red Wings, who were on pace to record one of the worst seasons by an NHL team in recent memory, go on a huge run to the Stanley Cup Final? Although that is extremely unlikely, this format leaves nothing ruled out.
Based on this format and how it is set up, I will give my predictions on how I think the playoffs will turn out:
Round 1 – Teams 31 to 18
Single elimination game, played by bottom 14 teams in the league to reduce 31 teams to 24
#31 Detroit vs. #18 Florida: Florida in regulation
#30 Ottawa vs. #19 Nashville: Nashville in regulation
#29 San Jose vs. #20 Vancouver: San Jose in single OT
#28 Los Angeles vs. #21 Minnesota: Minnesota in double OT
#27 Anaheim vs. #22 Arizona: Anaheim in regulation
#26 New Jersey vs. #23 Chicago: Chicago in regulation
#25 Buffalo vs. #24 Montreal: Buffalo in single OT
With these predictions and the first round over, the new format for the second round would look like this:
Round 2 – Teams 24 to 9
Best of 3, played by teams 9 to 24 to reduce 24 teams to 16
Lowest Seed San Jose vs. #9 Edmonton – Edmonton wins 2 games to 1
2nd Lowest Seed Anaheim vs. #10 Dallas – Dallas wins 2 games to 0
3rd Lowest Seed Buffalo vs. #11 Carolina – Carolina wins 2 games to 0
4th Lowest Seed Chicago vs. #12 Toronto – Chicago wins 2 games to 1
5th Lowest Seed Minnesota vs. #13 Columbus – Minnesota wins 2 games to 1
6th Lowest Seed Nashville vs. #14 NY Islanders – New York wins 2 games to 1
Highest Seed Florida vs. #15 Winnipeg – Florida wins 2 games to 0
#16 NY Rangers vs. #17 Calgary – Calgary wins 2 games to 1
After two rounds, we will be down to 16 teams remaining, and the top eight teams in the league will finally come into play. Here is what the playoff format for the third round would look like based on my predictions. Even though the matchups would be nothing quite like what anyone could have predicted, there are some matchups that would be very entertaining to watch!
Round 3 – Teams 16 to 1
Best of 5, played by remaining 16 teams to reduce teams from 16 to 8
Lowest Seed Chicago vs. #1 Boston – Boston wins 3 games to 1
2nd Lowest Seed Minnesota vs. #2 St. Louis – St. Louis wins 3 games to 1
3rd Lowest Seed Florida vs. #3 Colorado – Colorado wins 3 games to 0
4th Lowest Seed Calgary vs. #4 Tampa Bay – Tampa Bay wins 3 games to 2
5th Lowest Seed NY Islanders vs. #5 Washington – New York wins 3 games to 2
6th Lowest Seed Carolina vs. #6 Philadelphia – Philadelphia wins 3 games to 1
7th Lowest Seed Dallas vs. #7 Pittsburgh – Dallas wins 3 games to 2
Highest Seed Edmonton vs. #8 Vegas – Edmonton wins 3 games to 2
The conclusion of the third round would leave us with 8 teams remaining, including a couple of upsets with the Islanders knocking out the Capitals and the Stars eliminating the Penguins. The eight remaining teams would set up the Quarter Finals, which would be a 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, and 4 vs. 5 format. Here is what the format would look like with the elimination of eight teams in Round 3:
The Islanders would hold the eighth seed because they were originally 14th, which is the lowest of remaining teams. Following this format, Dallas would hold the seventh seed, Edmonton would be sixth, Philadelphia would be fifth, and the top four seeds would remain the same.
Quarter Finals – Teams 8 to 1
Best of 7, remaining teams reseeded 1 to 8
#8 NY Islanders vs. #1 Boston – Boston wins 4 games to 2
#7 Dallas vs. #2 St. Louis – St. Louis wins 4 games to 3
#6 Edmonton vs. #3 Colorado – Edmonton wins 4 games to 2
#5 Philadelphia vs. #4 Tampa Bay – Philadelphia wins 4 games to 2
The remaining 4 teams would play in the Semi Finals, which would follow a 1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3 format. Obviously the further along you get, the harder it gets to predict, but here are my Semi Final predictions.
Semi Finals – Teams 4 to 1
Best of 7, remaining teams reseeded 1 to 4
#4 Edmonton vs. #1 Boston – Boston wins 4 games to 2
#3 Philadelphia vs. #2 St. Louis – Philadelphia wins 4 games to 3
Which sets up the Stanley Cup Finals, a Best of 7 series between the two remaining teams:
Stanley Cup Finals – Teams 2 to 1
Best of 7, played between two remaining teams
#2 Philadelphia vs. #1 Boston – Philadelphia wins 4 games to 1
STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS: PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Yes, I know I am probably going to take a lot of heat for predicting a Flyers’ Cup win if the playoffs were to follow this format, but in all reality, the Flyers were arguably the hottest team in the NHL prior to the season being suspended. The team was winners of nine straight games before falling 2-0 to the Boston Bruins in what would turn out to be the Flyers’ final game before the suspension. Philadelphia also posted a 19-8-2 record since the calendar turned to 2020.
I predict the Flyers hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1975, ending a 45-year championship drought.
Do you agree? What are your thoughts on playing out the Stanley Cup Playoffs this way? Let us know in the comments!
Featured photo courtesy of NBC Sports
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