Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Stanley Cup Playoffs Might Suck Next Year

We're certainly enjoying the Stanley Cup Playoffs here in Boston. And there have been great series across the NHL. Three opening round series went the full 7. There were 17 overtime games. Two #7 seeds upset two #2 seeds. Two #6 seeds upset two #3 seeds. There are 4 Original Six teams left. The top 3 American media markets still have teams left. This is great.

Enjoy it while it lasts because next year will be completely different. There will be no Pittsburgh/Ottawa or Boston/New York meetings in the 2nd round. Everything will be divisional as the NHL realigns and revamps its playoff system.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs aren't broken, yet the NHL will try to fix them. The League will realign into 4 divisions, and the first two rounds of the playoffs will be within the division.

I don't mind divisional meetings in the playoffs. I love them! Boston/Toronto was a great series. So was Ottawa/Montreal. And Washington/New York will be a divisional meeting next year. But don't force the drama, NHL. Don't try to artificially create excitement and rivalry by keeping the playoffs inside divisions until the Conference Finals.

This won't create new rivalries, or enhance old ones. It will, however, reduce the potential for interdivisional rivalries as well as eliminate some that already exist. Philadelphia/Boston. Chicago/LA. New York/Boston. Chicago/Vancouver. Boston/Pittsburgh.

You'll face the same teams throughout the regular season, then the same in the playoffs. The Bruins won't meet the Flyers, Rangers, Penguins, or Capitals until the 3rd round.

The NHL's shortsightedness in this issue is demonstrated by the fact that the Capitals will be in a division with the Rangers and Penguins. The Caps have built a rivalry with these teams. And they built those rivalries by meeting in the playoffs. Even though they were in different divisions. Rivalries like these will no longer be born in the postseason.

There's nothing wrong and everything right with the current playoff format. The drama comes naturally. The 7 and 8 seeds are tough because they fight their way into the playoffs while the 1 and 2 seeds cruise in. The series are great because the different matchups and styles can all mix together. The stars of Pittsburgh can meet the grinders of Ottawa while the Boston and New York metro areas can play out their rivalry in another sport.

Hopefully next year the playoffs are just as exciting and captivating. And if not, hopefully the NHL has the sense to go back to a 1-8 two Conference format.

Bruins Roller Coaster Ride to Continue

Wow. In my mind I'd already written an indictment of the Bruins, their coach, their GM, their system, their players. All of this was in my head and ready to disseminate into a tirading blog post. Horton scored to make it 4-2, and my pre-written blog post remained undisturbed. Lucic scored to make it 4-3, and I became partially optimistic. Then with 51 seconds until death, Patrice Bergeron scored and extended the season. An intermission and 6 minutes later, he catapulted the Bruins into the next round. And may have also exonerated Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli. Or at the very least, made them more difficult to fire.

As joy and optimism flows through my veins and courses through my mind, I must also temper myself with the knowledge that the Bruins put themselves in a position to be eliminated. The Bruins blew Game 2, sucked in the 1st period of Game 5, sucked in Game 6, and allowed the series to extend as long as it did. And if the Bruins play at the same level against the New York Rangers, then they will be quickly disposed of. Henrik Lundqvist is not James Reimer.

Give due credit to the Krejci line. Bartkowski scored the first goal, but it was Lucic's physical play that allowed it to happen. Horton and Lucic both scored in the 3rd to make it a 1 goal game.

Marchand and Seguin assisted on the game-winning goal. It was Seguin's first point of the series.

I love how the jubilant Bergeron first hugged Zdeno Chara. These are two of the hungriest players on the team. These are two guys who give 100% on each shift. They drain their reserves in order to win. I hope their teammates pay attention and follow suit.

It's good news and bad news time. The overwhelmingly good news is that the Bruins won and will advance to the Conference Semifinals. The bad news is they will play the New York Rangers.

The Rangers played the Bruins well in the regular season. They have as many offensive weapons as Toronto but also have a defensive capability and a goalie that can be quite difficult to score on. This will be a tougher series. And the Bruins needed 7+ games to get by a weaker opponent. In other words, the Bruins need to shift into a higher gear. All the time. They can't afford to play 2 periods a night anymore.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Charles Krupa