How the NHL Playoff System Works… or Doesn’t

Life is complicated enough right now. COVID is nowhere near slowing down, mostly thanks to the minions who believe it’s a hoax. There are more than 150,000 people who would love to debate those residents of Idiocracy if they could but they can’t, as they died.

Now we have sports making a comeback… of sorts. In a quick breeze let’s rush through what’s up before we get into the nitty gritty dirt band of details for the NHL playoff system.

Major League Baseball –Only if they had injected their entire fanbase with COVID, then they would have done a poorer job than how they planned this out. To attempt any sort of games by having teams travel to various cities as if this makes the season somehow normal is seriously stupid. The Marlins and Cardinals, our two most egregious examples of brain-dead behavior, apparently never heard of the virus until now. MLB will be lucky to get in 30 games per team. Of course if the White Sox or Giants miraculously win the World Series, then it was a brilliant idea. Other than that, it’s a sham.

NBA – Okay, the NBA is trying. At least they realized making their teams travel was seriously stupid, so they are all quarantined in one location. That location? Orlando. Are you fucking kidding me? Of all places to quarantine the NBA picked the petri dish of states? So far it hasn’t been a huge issue, except when some of the players – who are supposed to be quarantined – have snuck in house pets AKA road girlfriends, gone rogue at Disney only to be snitched on, or on a self-guided tour of a gentlemen’s club. No one said players were bright. I think the NBA will finish their season, but if the Nuggets don’t somehow come out of this as NBA champs, then the whole thing is a sham.


First of all, they (read that as Commissioner Gary Bettman who, if he is not the worst commissioner in pro sports, is definitely in the team photo) thought about having all of the teams go to Las Vegas and play there. Saner heads prevailed. It probably prevented a widespread outbreak via the Casino COVID Queens. The NHL wisely took the teams to Canada. Canada pretty much has its shit together regarding controlling COVID – so much so they told the Toronto Blue Jays they will not be allowed to play in their home park. Smart, eh?

So where are the teams exactly? The Eastern Conference teams are encamped in Toronto and will play out this convoluted mess in Scotiabank Arena. The Western Conference teams get to hang out/be quarantined in Edmonton and play their games at Rogers Place. While it sounds like the name of a Canadian bar where there’s pond hockey in the back, Rogers Place is an actual bonafide arena. Rogers Place is named after Rogers Communications, I think. They also have the naming rights to Rogers Arena, Rogers Centre and the Roy Rogers Restaurants in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. OK, I’m definitely wrong about that last point and the other two may be up for debate. As it is, there are way too many Rogers.

If you are a fan who’s looking at this playoff set-up and scratching your noggin, you have a perfect right to do so. It’s odd. From a twisted seeding perspective I kind of get it, but if you’re not paying attention and you see the Blues are playing the Avalanche you might do a ‘WTF? Why are they playing against each other when scrubs like the Blackhawks are playing too?”

Allow me to explain it to you. The top four teams in each conference are playing games with each other just to determine seeding. The NHL is calling it a ‘Round Robin’ but it really isn’t as they are not eliminating each other. That will happen in Round 2 after it is determined which of the scrub teams are granted entry by winning their best of five in a tourney that has been dubbed the ‘Qualifying Round.’ So you have a ‘Round Robin’ and a ‘Qualifying Round’ going at the same time. Which then makes the second round after the post-qualifying round the First Round. Whew, got through all that mess, didn’t I. No? Of course not, this is the NHL. Why make it simple. Let’s try some further clarification by seeing what teams sit as of playoff seeding right now.

The Eastern Conference Top Four – Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington “we’re not the Redskins dammit” Capitals.
The Western Conference Top Four – Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Las Vegas Golden Knights, and the St. Louis “we’re not the carrying COVID like a bizarre Boy Scout merit badge Cardinals” Blues.

Now, as these eight teams beat the hell out of each other for no apparent reason other than seeding – no one gets home ice advantage here; no one has their local fans foaming at the mouth to buy tickets – they will await their ‘second’ round opponents (which is actually the First Round) after playing a Round Robin that isn’t one. Again, these opponents will be determined by a Best-of-Five.

The battles in the Eastern Conference:

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Montreal Canadiens The Penguins should make easy work of the Canadians. Too much firepower, and Canadian teams do not play hockey well in August.

Carolina Hurricanes vs New York Central Park Rangers You saw Elf right? Central Park Rangers are mean sons-of-bitches. I’m taking the Rangers.

New York Islanders vs Florida Panthers The Islanders, as of now, are favored. Panthers barely exist in the wild anyway, and their brand of hockey sucks.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Columbus Blue Jackets By the time this is posted, the Columbus Blue Jackets will have cancel-cultured out their ‘Columbus’ name and gone with something more appropriate for Ohio: Jim Jordan’s Wrasslin’ Blue Jackets. It won’t help them, and you can take that right down to the mat. Take Toronto.

The battles in the Western Conference:

Edmonton Oilers vs the Chicago Blackhawks The Blackhawks got in because a) the NHL needed to have eight teams battling so they can get it to four to face the Top Four, and b) they’re the Blackhawks. The Oilers should win this series, but it’s hockey. If Corey Crawford can play between the pipes super well in front of a bad defensive unit, well anything can happen.

Nashville Predators vs Arizona Coyotes Nashville should prevail. They clearly have a better team., However, if Corey Crawford can play between the… I’m kidding. Take Trashville.

Vancouver Canucks vs Minnesota Wild Both of these teams blow. Canucks should take the Wild, but it doesn’t matter. They’ll lose in the next round anyway.

Calgary Flames vs Winnipeg Jets Two Canadian teams playing playoff hockey in Canada against one another. Almost doesn’t seem fair to have one of them lose, and both probably are not happy their venues didn’t get chosen to host. Hey, next time a COVID outbreak erupts? Make sure your team has a better seed and you may be rewarded, you little bitches. Toss-up – I’ll take the Flames.

Now Rick, you may ask, how does the seeding work for the First ‘AKA Second’ Round? Who will your beloved Avalanche face? I, like the rest of the NHL, have no clue. You see, rather than allowing the seeds to be just as they were when the season was halted, since the NHL decided to make them play, we have absolutely no idea a) what their seed will be, and b) what the seed will be for the team they may face. This is known, in the parlance of playoff systems, as a clusterfuck. The NHL will be re-seeding every round for Best-of-Seven tilts until the whole mess is pared down to two teams vying for the Cup.

Which two teams? Well, forget the “play-in” teams. Both conferences have Top Four teams worthy of hoisting Lord Stanley at the end of this mess, but if the Colorado Avalanche aren’t doing the hoisting, this whole thing is a sham.

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