Realignment and Playoff Formatting
The NHL’s division realignment this season has given the seven Canadian teams a path to a championship. Since players must quarantine once they cross the United States and Canadian border, it was impractical to have the United States teams face Canadian teams over the course of the regular season. Consequently, divisions were realigned so there would not be any significant conflicts regarding travel throughout the regular season.
This change also reworked the current playoff format. Instead of the top three teams in each division and two wild cards from each conference, the top four teams in each division made it to the playoffs. Therefore, four of seven teams made it to the playoffs North of the border. The way this playoff will work is that the first two rounds will consist of intradivisional play. The third round is the semifinals and the two winners will have a ticket to the Stanley Cup.
A Canadian team will fill one of the four spots and another series win would have them competing for the cup. A fourth series win will break the long championship drought in Canada. The last time a Canadian team reached the finals was ten years ago. The Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in 2011. The last time a Canadian team hoisted the Stanley Cup was in 1993 where the Montreal Canadians defeated the Los Angeles Kings.
What Canadian Teams Have A Chance Of Advancing Past The Semi-finals?
The Winnipeg Jets defeated the Edmonton Oilers in four games which came as a shock to many NHL fans. They were able to keep the generational talent, Connor McDavid, off the scoresheet. If the Jets’ defense can replicate this in the second round and beyond, they have a chance to erase the drought. Is this likely?
The Jets’ success really depends on how well their defense plays and who they play. If the Toronto Maple Leafs win game seven and advance to play the Jets, it may expose the weaknesses of the Jets’ defensive core that McDavid and company failed to exploit. The Jets’ success in their own zone wasn’t expected so it is not promising that they can maintain throughout their entire stint in the playoffs. In the last couple of years, they had one of the worst defensive teams on paper.
If the Montreal Canadians upset the Leafs, the Jets have a very good chance of making the semi-finals. Can they get further than that? Probably not. The Jets had one of the weaker regular seasons and there are much better teams in the States that can make quick work of them. The Leafs truly need to advance to the semi-finals if the 28-year drought has any chance of being broken this year
The realignment provided Canadian teams with a direct path to a championship. If they cannot seal the deal in 2021, fans will have to wait even longer because this much playoff success is never guaranteed. What Canadian team and when will play for a Championship? Leave your thoughts in the comments section down below.