The Olympics really disrupted my sense of hockey-time, and I suddenly find important things are right around the corner:
- The Penguins are in DC on Monday.
- The trade deadline is tomorrow at 3 PM Eastern.
- There are less than six weeks left in the regular season.
Luckily I’m good at To Do Lists. They calm my nerves. Those and the ice cream sundae I just sent Intern Jeff Skinner to make. So, in order of impending and importance:
1. The Penguins are in DC on Monday.
Good thing too, because they owe me one for that performance in Chicago. @raedanda always puts up with me at these games.
2. The trade deadline is tomorrow at 3 PM Eastern.
The rumor mill is buzzing. What’s the real price tag for NYR captain Ryan Callahan? Does Martin Brodeur intend to play forever [link]? Ryan Kesler may be on the block, but for Alison’s sake, hope the Penguins bid does not include Brandon Sutter [link]. RK17 has allegedly waived his No Trade Clause for select teams, including PIT, NYR and PHI [link].
Dustin Penner just became a Capital, no idea who for, or if there is any end to the National Pancake Day jokes in sight. I better publish this now before anything else changes.
Word from last week is Martin St. Louis requested a trade – only to the Rangers.
WHATNODON’TDOIT! If this happens, I will henceforth call him only by his full name. Goodbye forever, Squishy.
Who else? The only instrument left in the Islanders orchestra is a sad trombone, with word out they’ll move impending UFAs Thomas Vanek and Andy MacDonald [link]. Other names being shopped include Stastny, Moulson, Hemsky, Chris Stewart… you could go out for lunch tomorrow and come back with a new look to your team.
3. There are less than six weeks left in the regular season.
Someone should tell the Capitals this. They blew the lead three different times on Sunday, eventually lost to the Flyers in OT and, as always, lost the one game a year I can get Mr. Pants to attend. Thanks, jerks.
It could be worse, I tell myself. We could be the Hurricanes. There’s never a good time to lose five in a row, but now is worse.
Remember it’s the wild card format this year, so good luck figuring out who your team will face in the first round. From the Nov. ’13 NY Post article entitled NHL’s playoff structure is ridiculous by Larry Brooks:
To refresh your memory: 1. The top three teams from each division qualify; 2. The two teams with the next best records within the conference qualify as wild cards; 3. The division winner with the most points plays the wild card with the fewest points in the first round while the other division winner plays the other wild card; 4. The second- and third-place teams within each division meet in the first round; 5. Divisional brackets apply to the second round.
So, in likely the earliest “If the playoffs began …” scenario on record, the East’s first round would be: Pittsburgh (30 points) vs. Montreal (26); Boston (30) vs. Detroit (27); Tampa Bay (29) vs. Toronto (27); Washington (25) vs. Devils (23).
Hence, either the seventh-place Capitals or eighth-place Devils would advance while either the third-place Lightning or fourth-place Maple Leafs would be one-and-done.
A team, therefore, is theoretically better served by being the second- (or third-) place team in a weak division than by finishing with the conference’s best record.
Okay, it’s not that hard to figure out. The playoff format is just very fluid right up until the end. Your team could be third in its division, worse than both Wild Card teams and still qualify ahead of them. It makes sense that two Metropolitan teams would be seeded ahead of Wild Card Toronto despite fewer points, right?
It could be worse, of course. We could be in the Western Conference. Right now 68 or 69 points might get you in, but you’d be duking it out for that one last Wild Card spot, rather than for or five spots potentially reachable seeds in the East.
Remember the West has two fewer teams than the East, sparking much debate about it being “easier” to reach the post-season. I doubt it’s been easier to play a majority of games against these Western teams though. Still, the realigned Wings and Jackets are in the East’s mix, while Winnipeg hopes to squeak into that last spot out West. Riding five-game win streaks, the Kings and Wild aim to put every other qualifying spot out of reach.
So, is your team making it or not? Are they making a big move instead? We’re getting down to the wire. It’s time to start pretending stress or hockey – or stress and hockey – can’t hurt you.
Tags: james neal, Martin St. Louis, phil kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ryan Kesler, Sidney Crosby