The NHL re-did their playoff system in 2013. The three top teams in each of the league's four divisions make the postseason, while two wild-card teams from each conference also make the fray. The format has received scrutiny over the past five years, and Brad Marchand was the latest to speak out about the NHL playoffs.
The Boston Bruins star recently spoke to reporters in a video taken by TSN. In the video, Marchand spoke of the issues with the system that pits the second- and third-place finishers in each division against each other in the first round of the playoffs.
I don't think it's fair, not even looking at the way we've lined up the last couple years, that one would finish second and have to play a third- or fourth-place team compared to a seventh-place team. But it is what it is. It doesn't matter who you play. If you're going to win a Stanley Cup, you're going to have to get through your whole conference anyway. So, at the end of the day, you play who you play and the best team will get through.
Marchand does have a point. And the past couple of seasons, the Bruins have gotten the short end of the stick on this front.
Following the 2017-18 season, the Bruins were the second-best team in the Eastern Conference and were behind the Tampa Bay Lightning by one point in the standings. This point ended up being costly. While the Lightning got to take on the eighth-seeded New Jersey Devils in the first round, the Bruins had to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs, the fourth-best team in the East. And that's because of the new playoff format.
The same thing may be happening again this year. The Bruins are currently in second place in the Atlantic Division, but they almost certainly won't catch the top-seeded Lightning. So, despite the fact that they may end up with the second-best record in the conference, they may, once again, have to take on a superior opponent. While having an original six rivalry take place in the first round is a plus, it still doesn't seem entirely fair.
And while the team would still have a tough first-round opponent no matter what, playing a team like the Carolina Hurricanes or Columbus Blue Jackets would probably be more palatable than facing off with Toronto.
Marchand isn't the only player to speak out about this. Lightning star Steven Stamkos recently voiced his concerns with the format and actually said that the format was unfair for Boston and Toronto. The NHL will likely have to address this issue at some point in the near future to ease tensions, especially if star-caliber players continue to speak out about it.
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