NHL Week in Review (April 22-28)

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The playoffs are into the second round and for many, this round is where the fairly new format runs into so many problems.

When the Winnipeg Jets were brought back the NHL decided to change around the divisions and when they did that they also changed the playoff format.

For decades the NHL was one of the most basic playoffs formats as it was as simple as the top eight teams in each conference.

The division winners were given top spots and that often led to some complaints as they weren’t necessarily the best three in the league.

Still, it was a pretty basic system where the best team took on the worst team and the playoffs worked themselves down to the finals.

Essentially, this system was built so that the top teams in each conference had the easiest route to the conference finals.

When the divisions were re-organized the NHL decided to change the way that the playoffs were done keeping the divisions together in the playoffs.

This meant that the top three teams in the division plus one wild card team would be thrown into their own type of playoff.

The first place team was going to play the wild card and the third and second place teams would play each other with the two winners meeting in the second round.

The idea behind the change was one that was driven by trying to grow the game and create bigger rivalries.

With this format teams in the same division were going to play more often and with a lot more on the line.

Playoffs have created plenty of the best rivalries in the sport and rivalries are the best tool to sell the sport.

Games between teams that are familiar with each other can get pretty intense and adding in the playoff factor makes it only more intense.

The NHL wanted to build these rivalries through that intense playoff game and so they grouped these teams together.

It was an attempt to help grow the game by creating some hate in the playoffs and increasing the intensity in the matchups.

That has led to some great matchups early on and the rivalries are continuing to build between certain teams who often find themselves in important series together.

Unfortunately, the new system also brings a completely different problem with great teams facing off far too early.

It is possible in this system that two of the best teams in the league can face off earlier than they’re supposed to play.

Often the two best teams in the conference aren’t supposed to meet until the final Conference championship series.hockey-sidebar

This year that isn’t the case as the first two rounds have seen matchups that never would have happened in the old system.

If it was still the old way the first round matchups would have been almost entirely different with some teams potentially having a better shot than they did.

The change really showed when the second round matchups were revealed and some of the series saw two great teams facing off earlier than most.

In the east, the Capitals and Penguins were set to face-off again in another of their many important series.

This is a rivalry that has grown stronger in the playoffs but is also a series between two good teams that could have easily been seen in the next round.

The biggest issues might come from the west where two of the best teams in the league are facing off in the second round.

The Nashville Predators and the Winnipeg Jets rose to the top of the league this year as the best teams.

Unfortunately they were a part of the same division and as a result, they are playing against each other in the second round.

The match-up is still what everyone wants to see but it should be a matchup that brings a team to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Instead, it will be to get a chance at heading to the Stanley Cup Finals as this second round match-up isn’t quite the time when they should be.

It will be a good match-up but the new system now in place will only lead to more match-ups that are far too early than in the old system.

Overtime

Sabres on Top

It isn’t what the Sabres wanted to win when they headed into the new season but it could be the beginning of a change. This week the Sabres were the team to win the Draft lottery giving them the first pick in the 2018 draft. That will give them the opportunity to draft a player that could help them turn things around. Rasmus Dahlin is one of the best defensive prospects in years as the young Swede is the clear favourite to go #1 in the draft and it now seems like he will be heading to Buffalo.

Burke Stepping Back

Brian Burke has been involved in the league for decades but his time in the front office might be coming to an end. He announced this week that he will be stepping back from his role with the Calgary Flames beginning in May after five years with the team. He was able to oversee the team’s rebuild but struggles recently have led to him leaving the team. After a long run as a top executive his time might be done but with a potential future with Sportsnet, he will likely still be involved in the game.

Hart Debate Heats Up

The Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded to the player determined to be the most valuable to their team throughout the season. It is a definition that can be a little controversial as it often goes to players with the most points rather than someone truly the most valuable to a team. This year that debate will only continue as the finalists for the MVP award were announced. The voters leaned towards the team value this time around taking out the top scorer, Connor McDavid and leaving three important players. Nathan MacKinnon, Taylor Hall and Anze Kopitar will all look to grab the trophy this year.

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