On Monday afternoon after practice, Capitals forward Daniel Winnik expressed to reporters exactly how he feels about the NHL’s new (implemented in 2013) playoff system.
Hint: He doesn’t care for it very much.
Winnik called the system that pits the No. 2 and No. 3 seeded team in each division against one another, while the top two teams in each division play against the No. 1 and No. 2 wild card teams — depending on which division winner has the higher point total — “stupid.”
“It’s the stupidest thing ever,” Winnik told reporters, per Sportsnet.com. “I don’t know why it’s not one to eight. I don’t know why we got away from that.”
The reason the NHL decided to change the format from the traditional 1-8, 2-7, 3-6 matchup format was to get more division rivals to match up against each other in the playoffs.
Mission accomplished, but now teams that finish with better records are paying the price as well.
For example, the New York Rangers (93 points) — the likely No. 1 wild card team in the Eastern Conference — will likely face the Montreal Canadiens (90 points) since Montreal is the division winner with the lesser point total.
Meanwhile, if the Capitals end up losing the Metropolitan division to the Penguins or Blue Jackets (currently tied at 100 with Columbus; Penguins have 99 points), they’ll be forced to play one of those two arguably tougher teams even though they have a higher point total than the Canadiens by a large margin.
Under the old system, the Capitals would have been runaway winners of the Southeast division, while the Penguins would have locked up the Atlantic division in all likelihood as well, which would have eliminated the possibility of them meeting in round one, and likely in round two, for that matter.
Columbus resided in the Western Conference until the division realignment and adjustment to the playoff format went into effect in 2013-14.
“You can’t manufacture a rivalry,” Winnik said of the system. “There’s already rivalries between us and Pittsburgh, us and the Rangers. The way I see it now, I’m sure the fans are getting sick of seeing the same two teams play each other in the first round, second round.”
According to Sportsnet, the NHL and NHLPA have a current agreement to keep the format in place through the 2018-19 season, although they could change it earlier if they agreed to do so.
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