As another great NHL regular season winds down it's time to look forward to the playoffs and think of days past. Back in the 80’s the NHL used the playoff format 1-16 instead of a breakdown of conferences. The league wanted to boost the rivalries factor which wasn’t all that bad with the Detroit versus Colorado war. It would be nice to see the old style come back though instead of force feeding the viewers on the NHL agenda. As we sit on the last games of the season the current 1-16 match ups provide some interesting thoughts and possibly great hockey, which is what matters most. The Minnesota Wild would be out of the 1-16 format, if the league decided to go that way this year in this hypothetical stance.
1. Washington vs. 16. Boston
2. Dallas vs. 15. Philadelphia
3. St. Louis vs. 14. Detroit
4. Pittsburgh vs. 13. Nashville
5. Chicago vs. 12. Tampa Bay
6. Florida vs. 11. San Jose
7. Anaheim vs. 10. N.Y. Islanders
8. Los Angeles vs. 9. N.Y. Rangers
These are all very intriguing match-ups. Washington versus Boston would be an outstanding series as Boston is tough and good enough to give the Caps all they could handle. Washington is taking its annual steps towards a Cup final, so it’s not a given they would walk all over the Bruins. Even though the Caps swept the season series 3-0 on the Bostonians, two of those games were decided by one goal.
Detroit versus St. Louis series would be great hockey as well, and as a Red Wings fan it would be a Western Conference enemy of old to battle. A lot of memories of Detroit continually knocking the Blues out of the playoffs could be drubbed by a very good, but streaky St. Louis squad.
Philly versus Dallas would be very entertaining too, with offensive players abound and teams that both have shaky goaltending at best. Led by Dallas forwards Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin (if healthy), Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza, Dallas can certainly bring it. Claude Giroux, Jacob Voracek and rookie sensation Shayne Gostisbhere lead the charge for Philadelphia.
The same could be said with a Nashville versus Pittsburgh series, less the sub-par goalies. Crosby, Kessel, Malkin, for the Pens and Forsberg, Johansen, and James Neal/ Patrc Hornqvist each are squaring off against their former employers. Then there are three all-star defensemen in Kris Letang, Shea Weber and Roman Josi...sounds like fun viewing!
Florida versus San Jose has the makings of a great series though the Chicago versus Tampa showdown might be a bludgeoning with the Lightning on life support. A few of their stars down for the count and Chicago is firing on all cylinders led by league MVP Patrick Kane.
A Los Angeles versus N.Y. Rangers affair could be a Stanley Cup final in the real playoffs, which would be an NHL marketing dream. With two all world goalies in Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundquist squaring off, the goals should be sparse.
Anaheim versus N.Y. Islanders could be very interesting with both teams quietly making their way into the playoffs, albeit with plenty of star power. Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf for the Ducks with John Tavares and Kyle Okposso for the Islanders, are all capable of good playoff hockey.
This is just a dream sequence I’d love to see come back into the mix again. Instead of force feeding the populous with what the NHL feels would be what we want, how about just letting it happen naturally.
Time to set fantasy baseball line-ups and the DVR for free Starz this weekend on Direct TV. May all your pucks find the top shelf and your sticks not break on a one-timer.