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What we've learned during the first week of the pandemic playoffs

August 8, 2020, 5:03 PM ET [1 Comments]
Kevin Allen
Blogger •HHOF Writer's column on the NHL • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Ten truths uncovered while watching the 24-team NHL playoffs:

* Playoffs should be expanded
: We don't need 24 teams in the postseason, but the competitiveness we've witnessed in the qualifying round confirms that 16 playoff teams is not enough, especially given that the Seattle Kraken will be the NHL's 32nd team. The answer probably would be to embrace a format similar to baseball's. The wild cards in each NHL conference could play the No. 9 and No. 10 teams in a one-game, or best-of-three, qualifying round. A one-game format like baseball would be wild.

* Canucks will be a top Stanley Cup contender in 2020-21: The growth of this skilled young team is impressive. Quinn Hughes. Bo Horvat. Elias Pettersson. Brock Boeser. They are probably not polished enough to go deep this season, but they are going to be a premium contender for a long time. This prediction presumes they re-sign goalie Jacob Markstrom.

* Edmonton's progress is minimal: The Oilers' need improved depth, better goaltending and a group that cares more about the defensive game. The Blackhawks were the NHL's 18th ranked offensive team and they scored 16 goals in four games against Edmonton in those four games.

* Parity deeper than we thought: We believed the difference between No. 1 and No. 16 wasn't a wide gap, but based on Chicago and Montreal winning in the qualifying round maybe the difference between No. 1 and No. 24 isn't enormous.

* NHL playoff success isn't necessarily about star power: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Roman Josi, Alexander Barkov, Connor Hellebuyck were all knocked out in the first round.

* The Penguins' Crosby and Malkin-led run of success is near the end:
The team's performance level against Montreal was stunningly blah, especially in Game 4. Will we hear more Malkin trade rumors this fall? They've been nonsense in the past, but it's reasonable for the Penguins to start pondering a plan to retool.

* Nashville's Pekka Rinne era is over: He has another season left on his contract, but general manager David Poile should call Vancouver about Thatcher Demko or try to move up in the draft (presuming they don't want the Stage 2) and draft prize Russian goalie Jaroslav Askarov. The Predators need a makeover.

* Pandemic plan has been near perfect: The NHL and NHL Players Association deserve high marks for the bubble plan that has allowed the league to restart the season. Give players credit for following the rules. No positive tests since they entered the bubble. Contrast that to what is happening in major league baseball.

* Maple Leafs should go hard after potential free agent Alex Pietrangelo: If the Blues can't get Pietrangelo re-signed, then Toronto's top priority should be to pursue him to be the centerpiece of their defense. That would necessitate trading William Nylander for prospects and draft picks. But based on Toronto's showing against Columbus, the Maple Leafs have to upgrade that blue line corps.

* The Detroit Red Wings are a long way from competitive: When you watched the 24-team NHL playoffs, you realize GM Steve Yzerman is telling the truth when he says it is going to take a lengthy period for the Red Wings to be back in contention. Last season's team couldn't compete with the group.
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