With the addition of the expansion Nashville Predators in 1998, the NHL realigned to a strictly geographic six-division structure (three per conference) and changed their playoff format to the top eight teams in each conference making the playoffs with the winners of each division automatically getting the top three seeds based on their overall point total. The remaining five teams were then seeded 4 – 8 based on their respective point totals. The top four teams (Three division winners and the second place team with the most points) would get home ice advantage in the first round. Once the first round is completed, the teams are reseeded based on the point totals of the teams that advance with the teams that has the highest initial seeds always matched up against the lowest seeded teams that advance and getting the home ice advantage in that series. What I have a problem with is why a second place team that finishes with more points than a division winner should be penalized with a lower seed. I do realize that there should be some reward for winning your division, but the NBA has found a way around this which I think is more equitable to the better second place team. The NBA takes into consideration that there could possibly be a second place team that has a better record than one of the division winners and seeds them ahead of that team. This way, all division winners get home court advantage for the first series, but a superior second place team receives a higher seed.In the 11 seasons since the NHL instituted their new playoff format, there have been 22 sets of playoffs, one set in each conference. 16 times has their been a second place team that has finished with more points than a division winner so you can see that it is not something that happens every once in a while. In fact, it happens more often than it doesn’t. As it stands right now, it would be happening again this season. Currently, the Penguins have 90 points, and the Northeast Division leading Boston Bruins only have 88. Now the Bruins do have one game in hand on Pittsburgh so this could all change in a day or so, but why should Pittsburgh be penalized by getting a lower seed than a team they finished with more points than? It’s not their fault that they happen to be in a division with the team that has accumulated the most points in the conference. The way it currently sits, the Bruins would be the #3 seed and would face the Montreal Canadians in the first round while the Penguins would be seeded fourth and face the Tampa Bay Lightning. If all series end up the way they should, and yes, that doesn’t always happen, the Penguins as the #4 seed would face the Flyers while Boston would face get the Capitals. Where the big difference between being the third seed and the fourth seed comes into play is that as the #3 seed, all it takes is for one of the top two seeds to get upset in the first round, and suddenly, you get home ice advantage in the second round. As the #4 seed, you would need both top seeds to get upset in order to get it, and dating back to that first season of ’98/’99, one of the top two seeds has been knocked out in the first round eight times, while both top seeds have only been knocked out four.
Any way, that’s my rant for today. Now that it’s coming down to the wire, who would you like to see as the Penguins opponent in the first round? Right now, it pretty much looks like it will be either Tampa Bay or Montreal. Would love to hear who you folks think would be the better match up and why?