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Why on Earth did Hurricanes complain about NHL playoff format?

Why on Earth did Hurricanes complain about NHL playoff format?

The Carolina Hurricanes have never been afraid to go their own way in recent years.

They did it to fun-loving effect with the postgame Storm Surge celebrations that spurred Don Cherry into calling them “a bunch of jerks” and then cleverly used that as a part of their marketing campaign.

It was Carolina just this past season that vaulted David Ayres into legendary EBUG status when he went from Toronto Marlies Zamboni driver all the way to cult hero after becoming a winning emergency goalie against the Maple Leafs.

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Along the way they’ve built themselves into a solid Eastern Conference hockey club that made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final last season and were poised to secure a wild card spot when the 2019-20 regular season went on pause almost three months ago.

And that’s where the issues come in with “the bunch of jerks.”

The Hurricanes were one of only two NHL teams that voted “no” on the return to play proposal that was overwhelmingly approved last week with 24 teams qualifying for a postseason that includes a play-in round to get things going.

It was certainly a vocal, passionate discussion among the player reps on last week’s NHLPA call with some preferring a modified “finish the season” option that would have seen the teams all play a handful of games to determine the bubble playoff spots in question.

The other team to vote “no” was the Tampa Bay Lightning, who had issues with the intensity of the games the top seeds will be warming up with while the 5-12 seeds play a do-or-die play-in round to determine the final eight playoff teams.

There’s a legit gripe in there that the top seeds will be mired at a lower compete level once the “real” Stanley Cup playoff rounds commence following the play-in round.

But it sure feels like the Hurricanes are coming at it from a place where they felt like teams like the Panthers, Canadiens and Rangers don’t deserve to be in the postseason at all. Carolina’s player rep for the NHLPA, Jordan Martinook, said as much when talking with reporters this weekend about the NHLPA vote from the Hurricanes.

"For where we were and where our team thought we could get to, it hurts our odds,” said Martinook on a Zoom call with reporters. "It's not like we didn't want to play or anything, it's just that we felt this particular option maybe didn't benefit us and it's not gonna benefit every team. This is just the stance that we took. (This format) doesn’t really benefit the teams that are in 5, 6, 7 and 8 so it kinda hinders those teams. Then it obviously gives a lot to 9, 10, 11 and 12. It didn’t really benefit our team in any way."

What Martinook fails to mention is that the Hurricanes were just two points away from being the “9, 10, 11 or 12” teams themselves when the season went on pause. The Hurricanes were a bubble team in a wild card spot when things went on pause in mid-March, but they were also just a couple of points ahead of the teams they now say are being gifted a playoff spot with a month of regular season games left to play.

Honestly, teams like the No. 3 seed Penguins, Maple Leafs, Dallas Stars or Calgary Flames have a whole lot more to complain about now that they have been tossed in with the rest of the NHL riff-raff of wild card hopefuls and bubble team invites. It would have been more meaningful if any number of those teams had been the ones raising concerns rather than a wild card bubble team that’s going to benefit greatly with some key injured players now presumably healthy enough to compete. 

It feels like pretty weak sauce that Carolina was the one doing the complaining about the format. 

But none of those higher seed teams wavered when it came time to vote to return to play and instead did what was best for the league as a whole rather than continuing to haggle on a play-in format that’s never going to be perfect, or without its detractors.

To his and Carolina’s credit, Martinook admitted as much while discussing the team decision for the Hurricanes.

"It's going to be good for the game. It's going to grow the game. It's going to keep a lot of fan bases in it and we want to do anything we can to keep people excited in the times that we're in," said Martinook. "We're not looking past that. We want the NHL to do the best we can, and we want the players to help the world and give people something to rally around.”

The Hurricanes might say they were voting “no” for the benefit of everyone across the league, but Martinook himself said the play-in format “hurts our odds.” It hurts Carolina’s odds because now the 'Canes are now forced to win a play-in, best-of-five series to make the final 16-team playoff field, and they have to do it against a dangerous Rangers team that defeated them all four times they met during the regular season.

How much of it is actually about Carolina players being pissed they now might have to beat a Blueshirts team in the playoffs that had their number during the season? The Hurricanes players would tell you it’s got nothing to do with their play-in match-up, but this humble hockey writer finds that fairly hard to believe.

We’ll never really know for sure as 29 other NHL clubs voted “yes” to the proposal and voted “yes” to getting back to the business of hockey sooner rather than later with a Phase 2 return to the ice expected to happen in the next few weeks. That’s all that really matters now that the NHLPA vote is in the rear-view mirror and the league has released a 21-page memo detailing the care it's going to take in returning to play NHL games.  

The bottom line: We’re not ready to call the Hurricanes “a bunch of jerks” for the way they voted over the weekend. But maybe Grapes wasn’t all that far off the mark when it comes to a Carolina team that proves time and time again they do things their own way.

NHL round robin, qualifying series schedule 2020: Dates, scores for every game

NHL round robin, qualifying series schedule 2020: Dates, scores for every game

The NHL is officially returning to play.

The league and NHLPA ratified the Return to Play Plan and a new CBA deal Friday, paving the way for the 2019-20 season to finish. The regular season is over, but the league is not yet jumping into the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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The top four teams in each conference will determine their seeding for the first round by playing a round robin format. The teams ranked No. 5 through No. 12 in each conference will square off in a qualifying round that will use a Best-of-5 series format. The four winners of the qualifying series in each conference will be matched up against the top four teams for the first round based on seeding.

These games will take place in two host cities. The Eastern Conference games will be played at Scotiabank Place in Toronto, and the Western Conference matchups will be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

Here's the schedule for every round robin game and qualifying round series. Check back to this article after each game for scores and updated schedules.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND ROBIN
Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers 4, Bruins 1
Monday, Aug. 3: Lightning 3, Capitals 2 (SO)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Lightning 3, Bruins 2
Thursday, Aug. 6: Flyers 3, Capitals 1
Sunday, Aug. 8: Flyers 4, Lightning 1
Saturday, Aug. 9: Capitals 2, Bruins 1

QUALIFYING ROUND
(No. 5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (No. 12) Montreal Canadiens
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2 (OT)
Game 2, Monday, Aug. 3: Penguins 3, Canadiens 1
Game 3, Wednesday, Aug. 5: Canadiens 4, Penguins 3
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Canadiens 2, Penguins 0
Canadiens win series 3-1

(No. 6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (No. 11) New York Rangers
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Hurricanes 3, Rangers 2
Game 2, Monday, Aug. 3: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1
Game 3, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1
Hurricanes win series 3-0

(No. 7) New York Islanders vs. (No. 10) Florida Panthers
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Islanders 2, Panthers 1
Game 2, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Islanders 4, Panthers 2
Game 3, Wednesday, Aug. 5: Panthers 3, Islanders 2
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders 5, Panthers 1
Islanders win series 3-1

(No. 8) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (No. 9) Columbus Blue Jackets
Game 1, Sunday, Aug. 2: Blue Jackets 2, Maple Leafs 0
Game 2, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Maple Leafs 3, Blue Jackets 0
Game 3, Thursday, Aug. 6: Blue Jackets 4, Leafs 3 (OT)
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Maple Leafs 4, Blue Jackets 3 (OT)
Game 5, Sunday, Aug. 9: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs

WESTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND ROBIN
Sunday, Aug. 2: Avalanche 2, Blues 1
Monday, Aug. 3: Golden Knights 5, Stars 3
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Avalanche 4, Stars 0
Thursday, Aug. 6: Golden Knights 6, Blues 4
Saturday, Aug. 8: Golden Knights 4, Avalanche 3 (OT)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Stars 2, Blues 1 (SO)

QUALIFYING ROUND
(No. 5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (No. 12) Chicago Blackhawks
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Blackhawks 6, Oilers 4
Game 2, Monday, Aug. 3: Oilers 6, Blackhawks 3
Game 3, Wednesday, Aug. 5: Blackhawks 4, Oilers 3
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Blackhawks 3, Oilers 2
Blackhawks win series 3-1

(No. 6) Nashville Predators vs. (No. 11) Arizona Coyotes
Game 1, Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes 4, Predators 3
Game 2, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Predators 4, Coyotes 2
Game 3, Wednesday, Aug. 5: Coyotes 4, Predators 1
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (OT)
Coyotes win series 3-1

(No. 7) Vancouver Canucks vs. (No. 10) Minnesota Wild
Game 1, Sunday, Aug. 2: Wild 3, Canucks 0
Game 2, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Canucks 4, Wild 3
Game 3, Thursday, Aug. 6: Canucks 3, Wild 0
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Canucks 5, Wild 4 (OT)
Canucks win series 3-1

(No. 8) Calgary Flames vs. (No. 9) Winnipeg Jets
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Flames 4, Jets 1
Game 2, Monday, Aug. 3: Jets 3, Flames 2
Game 3, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Flames 6, Jets 2
Game 4, Thursday, Aug. 6: Flames 4, Jets 0
Flames win series 3-1

Bruins vs. Capitals Overreactions: Power play struggles a concern entering playoffs?

Bruins vs. Capitals Overreactions: Power play struggles a concern entering playoffs?

The NHL round robin is finally over for the Boston Bruins, and soon their quest to return to the Stanley Cup Final will resume.

The Bruins lost 2-1 to the Washington Capitals on Sunday in their third and final round robin game. Boston dropped all three matchups and earned the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs for their lackluster results.

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The B's will play the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round. It's a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference Final, which Boston won in a sweep.

Let's take a look at three instant overreactions from Bruins vs. Capitals and assess their merit (All advanced stats via Natural Stat Trick).

1. Lack of power play success is a concern
Verdict: Overreaction

The Bruins entered Sunday as one of four teams in the league's 24-team restart that still hadn't scored a power-play goal, and Boston wasn't able to change that fact against the Capitals. The B's went 0-for-2 on the power play versus Washington, leaving the Original Six club with an 0-for-9 mark on the man advantage through the three round robin games. 

So, why shouldn't we be concerned over the Bruins power play? Well, for starters, Boston had the second-best power play during the regular season at 25.2 percent. Only the Edmonton Oilers scored more power-play goals than the B's. The Bruins also have several players with high-end offensive skill to put on their player play units, including Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug. Boston's top line struggled in the round robin with zero goals and one assist, but when it inevitably heats up, the power play will benefit as well.

It's important not to take too much from a three-game sample size of the power play right after a four-month layoff. That said, the Bruins need their power play to be more effective in the first round of the playoffs if they're going to give themselves the highest possible chance at advancing. 

2. Bruins' round robin struggles will carry into Round 1
Verdict: Overreaction

The round robin was important, make no mistake about that. Even though seeding is less crucial than usual because home ice advantage is not a factor in the Toronto bubble, earning a high seed would still have been helpful in forging the easiest possible road to the Stanley Cup Final. The league will re-seed after each round of the playoffs instead of using a traditional bracket, so the No. 1 seed will play the lowest-seeded opponent in each round. 

The Bruins, judging by their comments and on-ice play, don't seem too concerned about seeding. In fairness, the most important things for the Bruins in the round robin were to get their legs back after not playing for a while and avoid injuries. The Bruins will enter Round 1 of the playoffs with a pretty healthy roster, and while their performance in the round robin was certainly less-than-stellar, they played better in the last two games compared to the awful 4-1 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers in the opener.

The next games actually matter, and for a veteran group with loads of playoff and championship experience, we should see a hungrier and more motivated Bruins team when the puck drops in Game 1 against the Hurricanes.

3. David Krejci line took an important step forward vs. Capitals
Verdict: Not an overreaction

The Bruins' second line of Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and Ondrej Kase played together for the first time in the round robin Sunday, and it gave an encouraging performance.

Overall, the Krejci line held a 10-5 advantage in shot attempts, a 4-1 edge in shots on goal and a 3-1 lead in scoring chances during 5-on-5 action against the Capitals.

Kase was making his round robin debut and made a nice pass to DeBrusk on Boston's only goal. Krejci also picked up an assist on the play.

This goal for DeBrusk was huge. The 23-year-old left winger had scored only one goal in his previous 16 games dating back to the regular season. Hopefully for the B's, this goal helps to spark some consistency in DeBrusk's game entering the playoffs.

Secondary scoring is going to be a huge factor for the Bruins in the postseason, and this second line will play a huge part in whether Boston generates enough offense to make a deep run.