The NHL’s current division-based postseason format successfully fostered rivalries like the Pittsburgh-Washington matchup that was renewed last week.
But there appears to be a groundswell of support to alter the setup.
Washington coach Barry Trotz was asked at the All-Star break in Tampa, Florida, about possible changes to the playoffs and noted the current system has its flaws.
“You look right now, there is some good and bad to the setup,” he said during media day on Jan. 27.
Trotz knows all too well about the drawbacks to the current postseason format, which was implemented in 2014.
Last season, the Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy as the team with the best regular-season record and were eliminated by the Penguins, the No. 2 team in the league, during the second round.
A similar scenario played out in 2016 when the Penguins, who had the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, took out the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals in the second round en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
The NHL could be facing the issue again this spring, as the top two teams in the East (Tampa Bay and Boston) are on a second-round collision course.
“I think the format has worked well, and I’m not going to go against the league, but when you win a Presidents’ Trophy, you shouldn’t have to play the second (best) team in the second round,” Trotz said.
The next NHL general managers meeting is scheduled for March 19 to 21 in Boca Raton, Florida, and the topic of the postseason format is expected to be discussed. Trotz said he likes the way the NBA postseason is reseeded.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said during his All-Star Game media availability he had not considered changes to the playoffs with the impending addition of a 32nd team.
“I know there are lots of people who think we should put more teams in the playoffs. I’m not one of them,” Bettman said. “I think we have a very meaningful, competitive regular season, and I like it. If we were to add a 32nd team, as I sit here today, not having given it a lot of thought — I can only get myself in trouble — I don’t think I’d be in favor of making any changes in the number of teams that make the playoffs.”
Go for the gold
Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic wanted to play in this month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. No, he really wanted to play.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Vlasic held a conference call with lawyers and the NHL Players’ Association to discuss skating for Canada despite the NHL’s decision to prohibit its players from participating.
When Vlasic was informed he risked his eight-year, $56 million contract extension being terminated — and possibly being arrested — the 30-year-old native of Montreal relented.
“I’m fighting not only for myself in ’22, but for every other player who gets a chance to do it in 2026, ’30, ’34 and down the road,” Vlasic told the Chronicle. “I’m not just thinking of myself, I’m thinking about all the players who deserve to go.”
Hartford? The Whale?
“Hey, they only beat Vancouver once, maybe twice, in a lifetime.” New Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon must be familiar with that scene from “Mallrats.”
Dundon told ESPN 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh that he wants to revive the classic Hartford Whalers logo, which the Hurricanes own with the NHL. The Whalers moved to North Carolina in 1997.
“I think we should have a store that sells that Whalers merchandise online, and we should explore playing games in that jersey and selling that gear. It’s part of the legacy,” Dundon said. “And I just like cool stuff.”
Three stars of the week
1. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh — The veteran center posted seven points (five goals, two assists) in two games, including a hat trick in a 5-2 victory over San Jose in the first game after the All-Star break.
2. Cam Ward, Carolina — The goaltender went 2-0 with a 0.50 goals-against average and .982 save percentage, including a 27-save shutout over Montreal.
3. David Perron, Golden Knights — The wing had five points (two goals, three assists) in three games and scored the OT winner at Winnipeg to give the Knights their expansion-record 34th victory.