As I mentioned in my last article talking about the proposed 24 team playoff format here is my break down. Before we embark on this thought exercise, this is my own bracket, nothing that has been put out by the league or any confirmed source. I'm not trying to break news about matchups or seeding.
The teams are seeded by points percentage and will include 12 teams from the East and West. With the increase in teams a best of three play-in round will be put into place. The top two teams from each division will receive a bye, meaning the first matchup is between the fifth seed and the twelfth seed.
After the play-in round eight teams will remain and play in a five game series matching the highest remaining seed against the lowest, so first seeded teams would play the twelfth seed if they advanced. If the draft can dial back the draft format I’m going back to the old playoff format. As great as Leafs vs Bruins has been how many times can we watch the same first round series> Finally the two championship rounds will be seven game series.
All of these games would have to take place in four “hub” cities. Once the championship rounds start of travel is possible maybe the east cities each host games with the higher seeded teams hub city acting like home ice. If this is not possible one city would host all seven games.
For the first round in the East the Bruins, Capitals, Lightning, and Flyers would get a bye as the top two teams in each division. That leaves the fifth-seeded Penguins vs twelfth-seeded Montreal. The next matchup is the sixth-seeded Hurricanes vs the eleventh-seeded Rangers. The seventh-seeded Islanders would play against the tenth-seeded Panthers. Finally it's the eighth-seeded Leafs vs the ninth-seeded Blue Jackets. The only upset I see in this round is the Rangers beating the Hurricanes. So that means the Penguins, Rangers, Islanders, and Leafs move on.
For the best of five second round the first matchup is the top-seeded Bruins vs the eleventh-seeded Rangers. Despite the Rangers riding high after their first round win, the Bruins are too good a team in a five game series. The next series would be the third-seeded Lightning vs the eighth-seeded Leafs. The Leafs just don't have the defense or grit to challenge the Lightning. Next series would be the second-seeded Capitals vs the seventh-seeded Islanders. I really thought the Islanders would try to make more moves. While Pageau and Greene help they don’t get the Isles past the Capitals. The final series of the round is the fourth-seeded Flyers vs the fifth-seeded Penguins. By far the best series rivalry wise in the east I see the Penguins being the final team to move on.
The Third round now with only four teams remaining would see the Bruins playing against the Penguins. The last time these two teams faced off in the playoffs was back in 2013. That series was a sweep in favor of the Bruins, sending them to the finals against Chicago. The second series this round has the Lightning taking on the Capitals. This series is another ECF rematch, this time from 2018. The Capitals won that series on their way to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. Unfortunately for Tampa, I see the Capitals winning this series and moving on to the ECF.
Finally, here we are at the Eastern Conference Finals with the two division winners facing off for a shot at the Stanley Cup. The Bruins and Caps last faced off in the playoffs back in 2012, a seven game victory for the Capitals. I don't see the Bruins losing this time, and for the second straight year the Bruins will be playing in the Stanley Cup Final.
For the West play-in round the Blues, Golden Kights, Avs, and Oilers would get a bye to the next round. The first series in the round would see the fifth-seeded Stars against the twelfth-seeded Black Hawks. The next series would be the sixth-seeded Predators going against the eleventh-seeded Coyotes. The third series in this round pits the seventh-seeded Canucks against the tenth-seeded Wild. The final series has the eighth-seeded Flames going against the ninth-seeded Jets. For the West I see two upsets, the Jets over the flames and the Wild over the Canucks. The other two teams moving are the Stars and Predators.
The first series of the second round would be the top-seeded Blues against the tenth-seeded Wild. While the Wild have had an impressive run to end the season, the Blues are just too much for them and will move on. The second series of the round has the second-seeded Golden Knights going against the ninth-seeded Jets. The Knights are just too complete a team for the Jets to win this series. Next the third-seeded Avalanche will play the sixth-seeded Predators. While both teams have the talent to go on a deep run, the Avs just have too much top tier talent. Now healthy the Avs take the series and move on. The final series of the round has the fourth-seeded Oilers going against the fifth-seeded Stars. As good as the Oilers top stars are, the Stars depth gets them to the next round.
Now we move on to the third round where the Blues will face off against the Stars. This is the third playoff meeting between these teams since 2016. In both previous series the Blues won in seven games, including a double-overtime win just last season. This time around Dallas gets their revenge. With the last series being so close and Dallas making some offseason improvements I think they move on to the Western Conference Finals. The other series this round has the Golden Knights going against the Avalanche. With Vegas only just coming into existence there isn't any playoff history here, but a shot at the WCF should create that rivalry atmosphere pretty easily. For this series I see the Avs pulling off the slight upset and moving on to face Dallas.
Here we are at the Western Conference Finals where the Stars and Avs will battle it out for a chance to face the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals. Both teams have had some playoff success in recent years. For Colorado beating the top-seeded Flames, last season showed they were serious contenders. For Dallas, they took the eventual champions all the way to double overtime in a game seven. If they win that game who knows how far they go. The Stars might have experience on their side, but are also coming off a tough series against the Blues. Colorado takes this series to me. That top line is just too dangerous and their added depth helps them move on. So there we have it, the Avalanche will move on to play the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Stanley Cup Final
It's all come down to this, the Bruins vs the Avalanche. A huge story for this matchup has to be the Bourque trade. The Bruins moving a franchise legend to the Avs so he can have a shot at the cup and he gets it. Another story is will Kadri make it through the whole series or be suspended once again? The Bruins lost both games against Colorado this season, but this is a different game now. The Bruins experience will play a big role in them being able to thrive under the pressure of the moment. The Bruins are on a mission this year after last season’s loss. It might not be on home ice, but the Bruins will go on to lift the Cup and beat the Avs. Both teams bring some incredible talent to the ice, but the experience the Bruins have and their strong defensive system will be major factors in the series win.
So there you have it this fans. Crazy thought exercise that ends how we all think it will. Please feel free to comment on any matchups you liked most or any results you disagree with. Hopefully this gets you thinking about potential playoff matchups, and gets you excited for some great hockey coming soon. As always please check out our other team's pages and keep up to date on all things happening in Boston sports till next time.
Featured image courtesy of hockey insiders.net