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A 24-team playoff could mean Penguins vs. Montreal

The format the NHL is drilling down on might not be favorable for the Pens

Pittsburgh Penguins v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

The NHL and the NHLPA are meeting to determine just when and how the league will restart the 2019-20 season. Nothing is finalized yet, but it looks like progress is happening and announcements are soon coming.

Some highlights:

Let’s be clear: nothing is set in stone. The teams and players must still approve it, but discussions on the proposal could happen as soon as Thursday.

The top four seeds (based on points percentage) in the East would be Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia. Top four in the West would be St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas.

They would receive byes through the play-in, but participate in a three-game tournament to get some action. I confess I’m not certain of all the details on if or how it would affect playoff seeding.

The rest of the playoffs would be “bracketed.” That means, in both conferences 5 vs. 12 (winner plays four seed), 6 vs. 11 (winner plays three seed), 7 vs. 10 (winner plays two seed) and 8 vs. 9 (winner plays one seed).

So that would mean an opening round of: Pittsburgh/Montreal; Carolina/Rangers; Islanders/Florida and Toronto/Columbus in the East

Friedman would go on to say the opening round would be a best of five game series, then all future series would be the standard best of seven. I assume since the Penguins are fifth in the east in points percentage (and also third in the Metro) that they would play the Philadelphia Flyers, should they make it to the second round, since the Flyers are fourth in the east (and second in the Metro). Pens/Flyers seems to align that way.

But, first Pittsburgh would have to get there. A best of five series is very quick. Especially after what will be a three month layoff, a slow start of a bad opening game or two could prove to be a terrible hole to be in.

Montreal would be an interesting opponent. On the surface, you think Carey Price. Price, .909 save% only ranked 27th in the NHL in that category this season, but is certainly one of the most formidable and imposing goalies in the game today. The Canadiens were 19th in the NHL in Goals For/game and 19th in Goals Against/game as well. Considering they would be the 12th seed in the East (which, multiplied by two conferences means the Pens should play the 23rd or 24th best team in the league), they’ve seemed to over-perform that ever so slightly.

Still, the Habs aren’t a very good team this year. They wouldn’t have made a 16-team playoff if the season had concluded as normal. The Penguins shouldn’t lose to them, on paper they are a far superior team right now. Pittsburgh did two of three games between the teams this season. Montreal beat the Pens 4-1 on December 10th, but Pittsburgh took the next two winning 3-2 in OT on January 10th and then the Pens took down MTL 4-1 on February 14th.

But, it’s been a weird year. A five game series opens the door for possibilities after an unprecedented amount of time off. Who knows how that will impact players upon return.

All we do know, is that pretty soon we might get some agreements on what is next.

There’s still a lot of details to sort out and have the league and players agree on. There was some news that the league was leaning towards just two “hub” cities, one of them reportedly likely to be Las Vegas, but we’ll see if that comes to fruition as well.