NHL playoff image takes shape
The original plan called for the 2021 NHL regular season to end last Saturday and the Stanley Cup Playoffs to open tonight. That was dropped after many games were postponed due to coronavirus concerns – most notably the team-wide outbreak that sidelined the Vancouver Canucks for more than three weeks. At that point yesterday, we still had no idea when the playoffs would start, only two of the eight clashes were confirmed and the full 16-team squad was not even defined.Today, the picture of the playoffs seems a little clearer. Here’s what we know and don’t know as the 56-game regular season wraps up over the next nine days:
First of all, a little reminder of the playoff format: In order to avoid the quarantine rules associated with crossing the Canada-U.S. Border, the NHL realigned its four divisions and asked teams to play all their regular season games within their division. This will continue for the first two rounds of the playoffs. In the first round, the seed of each division plays No.4 and No.2 faces No.3. The winners of these series meet to determine the division champion. The four division champions are then reseeded based on regular season points, No.1 against No.4 and No.2 against No.3. The winners of these series play for the Stanley Cup. All series are the best of the seven.
The field of 16 teams is now defined. By scoring a point in last night’s overtime loss to Edmonton, Montreal grabbed last place in the playoffs. They will join the Oilers, Toronto and Winnipeg in the all-Canadian Northern Division bracket. The Western playoff teams are Vegas, Colorado, Minnesota and St. Louis. In Central, it’s Carolina, Florida, defending the defending Stanley Cup champions in Tampa Bay and Nashville. In the East, Pittsburgh, Washington, Boston and the Islanders. Notably absent, Dallas, who lost four points in the Central after reaching the Stanley Cup final in September.
Half of the first round clashes are locked. In Central, which wrapped up its regular season schedule last night, top seed Carolina will play fourth in Nashville, while No. 2 Florida and Tampa Bay face off in the first-ever series. of the NHL playoffs. In the East, whose regular season ends tonight, it will be No.1 Pittsburgh vs. No.4 Islanders, and No.2 Washington vs. No.3 Boston. The West, which ends its program Thursday night, is still fluid: the No. 4 Saint-Louis is the only team locked in its seed. Vegas and Colorado are still fighting for the first, and Minnesota can still move on to the second. In the North, whose regular season won’t end until next Wednesday, we know Toronto is the No.1 seed and Edmonton is No.2. The first Leafs-Habs playoff since 1979.
There will be at least one playoff game this weekend. The first game of the Caps-Bruins series is Saturday at 7:15 p.m. ET. It’s the only playoff game scheduled for now, but NHL Assistant Commissioner Bill Daly said yesterday that more all-American clashes could begin before the North ends its regular season with three trivial games in Vancouver. -Calgary Sunday, next Tuesday and next Wednesday. Daly said the North playoffs could open as early as Wednesday night.
The champion of the North may have to move to the United States for the semi-finals. Daly said the NHL has asked the Canadian government for a national interest exemption from its border restrictions that would allow the winner of the North to continue playing in his arena and, with his US-based opponent, travel to inside and outside the country without quarantine. If the request is denied, Daly said, the Northern Champion will likely be transferred to one of the U.S. NHL cities.
Daniel Walcott, Mathieu Joseph and Gemel Smith of the Lightning made NHL history. The trio of forwards starting from Tampa Bay for last night’s regular season finale against Florida are believed to be the all-black front row in the NHL. It is also one of the few in the history of professional hockey. Earlier this season, Los Angeles Kings AHL affiliate dressed an all-black line of Akil Thomas, Quinton Byfield and Devante Smith-Pelly. Thomas said his father, Khalil Thomas, once played on a minor league team that trained five black skaters. Herb Carnegie, his brother Ossie Carnegie and Manny McIntyre also formed an all-black line in some pro teams in the 1940s. Learn more about the historic Lightning line here.
The Raptors are officially eliminated from postseason competition. Toronto’s slim chance of qualifying for the Eastern Conference play-in tournament ended last night when Indiana beat Cleveland. With four games to go in their regular season, the Raptors (27-41) can no longer reach 10th place – the last of four places that qualify for the play-in. It has been a difficult year for the 2018-19 NBA champions, who were forced to play their home games in Tampa due to border restrictions and endured a coronavirus outbreak in March that toppled them in the standings and left them behind. effectively ruined their season. This is the first time in eight years that Toronto has missed the playoffs. Learn more about the challenges the Raptors faced and follow Nick Nurse’s thoughts on the season here.
Canadian bowler François Lavoie made his way into the semifinals of the PBA playoffs. The 28-year-old from Quebec will face seeded Kyle Troup of the United States on Saturday after knocking out defending champion Bill O’Neill in a decisive quarterfinal game. Lavoie, fourth seed, is having a great year. He won one of the five majors of the PBA Tour, then beat the other four big winners of the Super Slam, which won him US $ 100,000. If Lavoie upsets Troup on Saturday, he will play for the PBA Playoff Championship on Sunday afternoon.
The curling season is actually not over yet. The women’s world championship, which ended on Sunday, was the last event in the Calgary bubble and the last major conventional curling tournament of 2020-21. But contrary to what I wrote in yesterday’s newsletter, the season is not quite over. The mixed doubles world championship begins Monday in Scotland. Kerri Einarson and Brad Gushue will represent Canada, which has never won the tournament (it has been held 12 times). A top-seven finish secures Canada a spot in the mixed doubles event at the 2022 Olympics, where it would defend the gold medal won by Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris in 2018.
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