Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
After the NHL paused the 2019-20 season on Thursday in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, there is no timetable for it to return. There are possibilities that the league will be forced to jump straight into the Stanley Cup Playoffs if the pause goes on long enough. Here are some possibilities for how the league would handle it, Sportsnet recommended.
The NHL could choose to put the top-eight in each conference in terms of points-percentage with the same Stanley Cup Playoff format, as usual, being applied. Here are what the matchups would look like if that were to be the case.
Boston Bruins (.714) vs. New York Islanders (.588)
Tampa Bay Lightning (.657) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (.576)
Washington Capitals (.652) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (.596)
Philadelphia Flyers (.645) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (.623)
Just outside: Columbus Blue Jackets (.579), Florida Panthers (.565), New York Rangers (.564)
St. Louis Blues (.662) vs. Calgary Flames (.564)
Colorado Avalanche (.657) vs. Dallas Stars (.594)
Vegas Golden Knights (.606) vs. Nashville Predators (.595)
Edmonton Oilers (.585) vs. Vancouver Canucks (.565)
Just outside: Winnipeg Jets (.563), Minnesota Wild (.558), Arizona Coyotes (.529)
They suggested cutting each series in Rounds 1-3 to a best of five with the Stanley Cup Final remaining a best of seven series.
However, it would be unfair for teams like the Jets, who are out of the tournament by a thousandth of a percentage, to be out without getting a shot to gain some ground in the race.
“Everything for consideration is on the table,” commissioner Gary Bettman told Sportsnet on Friday. “My hope and expectation is that we can finish the season in some form and award the Stanley Cup.”
Even though the Detroit Red Wings have already secured dead last in the NHL this season, it would be unfair to teams at the bottom battling for draft lottery stakes as only two points separate the 30th-place Ottawa Senators and 28th-place Los Angeles Kings and the Senators are just 10 points out of the 23rd spot, which is currently occupied by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Barring an even longer delay due to the coronavirus, the NHL intends for next season to be a regular one but with most teams having already played around 70 games this season, it would only be fitting to complete it.
Bettman will be discussing what the rest of the 2019-20 season holds with the board of governors in the next few days. Until those plans are announced, all we can do is guess and wait.
By Harrison Brown