It's playoff hockey time! With a few teams kicking things off tonight, a couple of fanbases are going to feel great when the night's over, and a few are going to feel a little worried. Regardless, this is what it's all about. The reason the NHL's best work so hard all season: an opportunity to lift the Stanley Cup in June.
This year's playoffs will provide great hockey, no question about it. But there's one glaring issue that anyone who's clicked over to see the standings can't help but notice: there are a few teams higher up on the list than they should be.
Thanks to the NHL's point system, where a team is awarded two points per win and one point for a loss in overtime, at first glance this doesn't seem like a big deal.
However, the point system skews the results. If you actually look at a team's wins and losses, you find that the Panthers lost more games than they won this year.
I'm not making this up; see for yourself. In 82 games, the Panthers won 38 games, lost 26 in regulation and lost 18 in overtime. Using my computer's calculator: 26 + 18 = 44!
44 total losses!
You know who else had 44 total losses or more in the East? Here are a few: Tampa Bay Lightning (44), Winnipeg Jets (45), Carolina Hurricanes (49). Those teams finished 10th, 11th and 12th this season.
Imagine football fans, if the year the Seattle Seahawks made the playoffs and got home-field advantage with a 7-9 record, another team made the playoffs with a losing record too. You would have rioted in the streets.
Creating compelling division races at the end of the season is a great thing. Everyone loves seeing rivalries reach their boiling points as teams jockey for position going into the postseason. But the truth is, this system is hurting the postseason to make the last week of the regular season more interesting. No matter how you frame it, that's never a good thing.
The winds of change are on the horizon for the NHL, with conference realignment coming soon. Hopefully, this issue will be rectified as well.