The Flyers' outlook for the NHL's 24-team return-to-play format appeared to improve Thursday.
The 2020 playoffs will consist of reseeding after every round instead of a bracket style. The NHL and NHLPA also agreed that each round will feature best-of-seven series following the best-of-five qualifying round.
How is this a good thing for the Flyers? As the fourth and final seed in the round-robin tournament, they can only improve their standing, which we already knew. The Flyers have a chance to climb as high as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and can't fall any lower than their current spot at No. 4.
But the reward of being the No. 1 seed was uncertain as the league was still determining the whole reseed vs. bracket dilemma. On paper, the top seed would not have been as attractive in a bracket format given it would face the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup no matter what. Now, the No. 1 seed will face the lowest remaining seed to prevail after the qualifying round. So say the 12th-seeded Canadiens upset the fifth-seeded Penguins, the top seed will face Montreal. Whereas in a bracket style, the fourth-seeded club would have benefitted from such a situation by facing the lowest-seeded Canadiens, while the No. 1 seed would face a No. 8 or No. 9 seed.
The Flyers are truly in a no-lose situation. They already have their bye and getting the No. 1 seed means a better matchup now. If the Flyers do well in the round-robin tournament, they climb. If they struggle, they stay put. Not a bad spot at all. And there's no reason they should dislike their chances against the Bruins, Lightning and Capitals.
The bracket style would have made for more parity and drama, particularly in a betting aspect. But the league and its players have also stressed keeping the integrity of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Ultimately, the top seeds should be rewarded for their work in the regular season and be given the best possible matchups.
Here are the East's qualifying-round matchups and seed Nos. 1-12.
No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets
No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers
No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers
No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens
8. Maple Leafs
9. Blue Jackets
For the timeline of a possible resumption and the decisions still to be made, click here.
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