The 2020 postseason will be unlike any other and, as a result, there are a lot of unknowns. As the July 10 start to training camp approaches, let's look at the biggest unknowns facing the Capitals.
Today's question: Will the round robin help or hurt?
Out of 24 teams that have qualified for the 2020 postseason, only eight are guaranteed to make it to the first round. As one of the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference, the Caps are one of those eight, but no one is quite sure how teams will look when the season resumes and with that uncertainty comes the possibility that the bye past the play-in round might not actually be a positive.
Obviously a bye is not a bad thing, the issue is more about what the round robin that those top four teams will have to play is going to look like.
The top four teams from each conference will play in a round-robin tournament to determine playoff seeding for the first round. It is expected that each of the 24 teams will only be able to play one exhibition game before the postseason begins. This means that most teams will go from one exhibition game straight into a do-or-die best of five play-in series while the top seeds like the Caps will get three round-robin games before starting the playoffs.
After so much time away from the ice and away from the team, everyone is going to look rusty when they return to play. No one wants to go straight from an abbreviated training camp into a do-or-die playoff series so the fact that Washington will have three extra games to play and a spot in the first round of the playoffs is a huge advantage. But what happens in the second round?
When Washington gets its first chance to step onto the ice in the postseason it won't be against teams coming off exhibition games. Instead, the Caps will be playing a team that battled through a legitimate playoff series. While Washington will be trying to dial up the intensity to playoff levels, their opponent will already be there.
The round robin is completely unchartered territory. Maybe the bye-in round will see teams suffer a number of injuries as they ramp up the intensity after several months off and allowing the top seeds breeze past their weakened opponents in the first round. Maybe three round-robin games will be all it takes to get the Capitals back up to game speed and ready for the playoffs. Or maybe teams coming off of a playoff series will be better prepared than an opponent coming off three glorified exhibition games in which case the Caps will find themselves back on their heels very quickly.
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