Earlier today, the NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, announced that the NHL has created a definitive plan to get back to business. Whether you consider yourself a football guy, a baseball guy, a basketball guy, or even a soccer guy, the news of one of the most prominent professional sports leagues returning to business can only be good news. The NHL announcement marks the beginning of the slow, but certain, return to normal operations across the sporting world. On top of that, the degenerate gambler in me is ready to be released. All that being said, the NHL commissioner said a mouthful today breaking down how the NHL will look as they resume play and I’m here to unpack it all for you below.
•The NHL will take the top 12 teams from each conference (for a total of 24 teams) based on the regular season record before quarantine as of March 12th.
•The regular season is hereby completed
•The top 4 teams from each conference have secured automatic playoff spots
•These top 4 teams from each conference will play a round-robin against one another to determine who gets the 1-4 seed in each conference
-(1) The Boston Bruins, (2) Tampa Bay Lightning, (3) Washington Capitals, and
(4)Philadelphia Flyers have clinched playoff spots and will compete in the Eastern
Conference round-robin to determine the 1-4 seed.
-(1) The St. Louis Blues, (2) Colorado Avalanche, (3) Vegas Golden Knights, and (4) Dallas
Stars have clinched playoff spots and will compete in the Western Conference round-
robin to determine the 1-4 seed.
•The remaining 8 teams from each conference will play a 5 game series against one another to fulfill the remaining 4 playoff spots.
-(5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (12) Montreal Canadians
-(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs (11) New York Rangers
-(7) New York Islanders vs (10 Florida Panthers
-(8) Toronto Maple Leafs vs (9)Columbus Blue Jackets
-(5) Edmonton Oilers vs (12) Chicago Blackhawks
-(6) Nashville Predators vs (11) Arizona Coyotes
-(7) Vancouver Canucks vs (10) Minnesota Wild
-(8) Calgary Flames vs (9) Winnipeg Jets
•After this, we then have our 8 seeded teams for both conferences
•First and second-round either 5 or 7 game series
•Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals will be 7 game series
The NHL has a 4-phase plan in order to make all of this possible. In Phase 1 we saw players get quarantined all the way through April. Phase 2 will take place in early June allowing clubs to return to home facilities for voluntary on and off-ice training. Phase 3 allows teams to start formal training camp no earlier than July 1. The final phase will see clubs dispatched into two undisclosed hub cities for what will be the start of the continued NHL season.
My jaw dropped when I found out the NHL would be making an announcement with plans to resume the season, but I never expected to feel this excited about the news we just received. I have to say that I just love what the NHL is planning on doing to resume play for the fans and players alike. This new plan gives everyone involved a fair and exciting way to cap off what has been a turbulent 2020 season.
Now that we know how the NHL looks to resume play, I can now introduce my absolutely free pick on who will be crowned this year's NHL Stanley Cup Champion. If you had been following the NHL pre-COVID-19 you would know just how dominant the Boston Bruins had been boasting the leagues best record at 44-14-12 (100 points). The Bruins were led by one of the most talented offensive lines in the NHL featuring David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins were also the slight favorite to win the Stanley Cup at +600 before this new playoff format was introduced (very good value for a strong first-place team).
The Philadelphia Flyers, however, are the team you want to keep an eye on as the season picks back up. In January the Flyers were fighting for a wildcard spot. Not many gave them much of a chance to catch up to top division rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. Yet, today, the Flyers sit above the Pittsburgh Penguins and just 1 point behind the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division. That's right! The Flyers were RED HOT coming down the stretch going 9-1 in their last ten games. Pre COVID-19, Vegas had the Flyers sitting with the fifth-best odds (+800) to win the whole damn thing. The question every fan base is asking: “how will my team react to being off for over three months and jumping back into this new and exciting playoff system?” I can’t tell you how every team will react to this long hiatus in action, but I can tell you that the Philadelphia Flyers will stay hot down the home stretch with one of the deepest rosters in the NHL, led by captain Claude Giroux and leading goal scorer Travis Konecny. My absolute free pick to win the NHL Stanley Cup goes to the Philadelphia Flyers.