The NHL’s overhauled playoff format might schedule multiple division matchups on the docket right out of the gate in April — but the number of faults in this current system have been well-documented at this point.
Barring some major swing in the standings over the final 10 days of the regular season, the NHL is once again going to have egg on its face by the conclusion of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs — with two of the Lightning, Bruins and Maple Leafs sent packing before the Eastern Conference Finals even get underway.
Since this new format was introduced back in 2014, the traditional, conference-based system (No. 1 seed vs. No. 8 seed, No. 2 seed vs. No. 7 seed) has been discarded in favor of a division-focused structure — in which the top three teams in each division make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots are filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season record and regardless of division.
It’s an interesting twist — but creates a brutal uphill climb for most teams if the best two or three teams are all sandwiched into one division.
After getting bounced by the Lightning in five games last spring following a seven-game slugfest against the Maple Leafs, the Bruins are doomed to face a similar gauntlet once again this postseason.
Boston is far from the first team to be dealt a poor hand with this current playoff format, but speaking ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Rangers, Bruins President Cam Neely noted overhauling the system wasn’t a major conversation at the recent NHL GM Meetings down in Boca Raton, Fla.