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Stanley Cup chase an unfair race?

China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-12 09:47
Pittsburgh Penguins' Jake Guentzel (center) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against the Ottawa Senators in Pittsburgh last week. The Penguins launch their defense of the Stanley Cup in Wednesday's opening game of a best-of-seven quarterfinal against the Philadelphia Flyers. [Photo/Agencies]

Convoluted playoff format ensures quick exit for two of top four teams

Two of the top four teams in the NHL are guaranteed to be out the playoffs after the second round.

Goodbye Nashville or Winnipeg. Goodbye Boston or Tampa Bay. Thanks for playing.

That's the reality under a divisional playoff format that could pit the top two teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences against each other in the conference semifinals after Pittsburgh and Washington were forced into that predicament in back-to-back playoffs.

"There's not a whole lot of logic there," Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said on Tuesday.

How's this for logic? If ranking teams 1-8 in each conference like the old format that was in place from 1994 through 2013, the No 2 seed is facing the No 4 seed, 3 versus 7, and 5 versus 6 in the first round in the East and the West this year.

A Penguins-Capitals style repeat could happen this year, with the Central Division's Predators and Jets on a crash course for a second-round showdown and the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning locked into a stacked Atlantic bracket with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"You'd think that'd almost be a third-round series kind of thing, but so be it," Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis said.

"It is what it is. You're going to have to see a team like that eventually. There's not much you can do to change it."

Maybe this spring will be enough to spark a change in the oft-criticized format that is agreed to between the league and NHL Players' Association through the 2019-20 season.

The Capitals getting knocked out in the second round by the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Penguins didn't lead to much debate last year.

"I would assume after his year there'd be a bigger appetite to do it," Washington general manager Brian MacLellan said.

"In the past it hasn't affected as many teams as might be required to get that movement. It's basically been us that's been the team that's not benefited from the 1 through 8. But we'll see what happens this year with a couple more really good teams being beat out in the second round."

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