The NHL has made a strong recovery from the four-month lockout. In the first four weeks of the season, attendance is strong and television ratings are up.
However, for the NHL to take hold of its niche in the sporting world, it must have an outstanding postseason filled with exciting matchups.
Normally, teams will build up rivalries over the course of any seven-game series. However, there are certain big-name teams that would bring greater excitement to the playoffs.
Conversely, there are some "overachievers" that may not have the followings to give the NHL the maximum exposure and excitement.
One of the series that the NHL would like to avoid is another matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round.
Last year, the Coyotes and Blackhawks met in the opening round of the playoffs and the two teams started the series with five straight overtime games. The Coyotes won three of those games before closing out the Blackhawks 4-0 in the sixth game.
The series was exciting enough, but it was marred when Raffi Torres of the Coyotes injured Blackhawks star Marian Hossa with a blindside head shot.
Hossa missed the rest of the series and Torres was given a 25-game suspension (that was later reduced to 21 games).
The NHL does not need a rerun this season.
Another series that the NHL does not need to see is a matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Ottawa Senators.
That's not the kind of series that is going to draw enough eyes to the television. While Erik Karlsson is a legitimate star for the Senators and the Staal brothers (Eric and Jordan) have given the Hurricanes a much more competitive edge, these two teams are unlikely to reach American audiences. That's not good for the game.
The Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens are the two most storied rivals in the league. They have met 33 times in the postseason, more than any other pair of teams in the NHL.
When they get together, it's almost always memorable. However, a first-round matchup between those two teams is not necessarily the best idea.
It's simply too repetitive. They have met in the first round in three of the last five playoff seasons.
If they were to meet later on, that would be exciting and memorable, but meeting in the first round might take too much out of the winner for them to be at their best in subsequent rounds.
The NHL does not need another Philadelphia-Pittsburgh matchup in the first round either. When the two teams met last year, it was a non-stop goalfest that was devoid of quality goaltending.
The Flyers eliminated the Penguins in six games. The Penguins allowed 30 goals in the series, including 16 goals in back-to-back games (Games 2 and 3). The Flyers weren't much better, giving up 27 goals in six games.
That series was freakish and not the kind of performance that the NHL wants to feature every year.
A series between the Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars might be just the opposite of what the Flyers and Penguins did last year.
Of the eight top teams in the Western Conference as of Feb. 11, the Preds and the Stars are the two lowest-scoring clubs.
This series might not feature enough offense to keep the series exciting.
None of these series would be unattractive, but they just would not feature the NHL at its best.
That's important every year, but never more so than this year when the NHL is trying to overcome the pain of a four-month lockout.
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