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NHL, NHLPA resolve two key Stanley Cup playoff format issues

NHL, NHLPA resolve two key Stanley Cup playoff format issues

While the NHL revealed the basic outline of the Stanley Cup playoff format on May 26 there were still specifics that needed to be worked out, including the length of postseason series and whether to keep a bracket format.

On Thursday, the NHL and NHLPA resolved those issues. According to the league, each round after the play-in round will be a best-of-seven series and teams will be re-seeded after each round. The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun was the first to report the news. 

The NHL halted play on March 12 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic before announcing last month a return-to-play plan that was light on specifics. 

While the play-in round will remain a best-of-five series, the remaining four rounds after that will be a best-of-seven which will look familiar to NHL fans. It takes 16 wins to win the Stanley Cup under normal circumstances and it still does, excluding the play-in round which the league has made clear it does not consider a part of the playoffs.

The reason why the length of each series was an issue was because of time constraints. The NHL intends to play a full 82-game season in 2020-21, but the longer the 2020 postseason takes, the later it will be before the next season can begin. A regular NHL postseason lasts about two months. With the play-in round and four best-of-seven rounds, the 2020 postseason could last a bit longer.

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Another issue was what to do with seeding. The NHL and NHLPA elected to scrub the bracket format in favor of re-seeding after each round. This was the way the playoffs were typically organized prior to the divisional playoff format.

With no home-ice advantage for any team - everyone will be restricted to hub cities and playing games without fans - the league needed to give some benefit to the top seeds so as not to invalidate both the regular season and the round-robin games each of the top four teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences will play. Re-seeding was really the only option. If the No. 12 Montreal Canadiens upset the No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins, for example, the top seed should play Montreal which would be the lowest seed left in the conference.

A bracket format, however, is built on the assumption the top seed will win each matchup meaning the No. 4 would have been set up to play the winner of No. 5 vs. No. 12 - Montreal in this example - while the No. 1 team would have to play the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 play-in series regardless of whether there were any upsets in that round. 

From the NHL's perspective, one of the benefits to the divisional format was being able to organize the postseason in a bracket that fans could follow. In this situation, however, trying to keep the bracket didn't make sense given the wide disparity between the seeds and the obvious disadvantage to the top seeds in the event of an upset.

These updates show continued progress between the NHL and NHLPA, but the big issues regarding health and safety protocols still need to be worked out before we see the return of hockey.

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NHL, NHLPA finalize protocols for the 2020 postseason

NHL, NHLPA finalize protocols for the 2020 postseason

At long last, the NHL and NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) have agreed on the protocols under which the season can formally resume. The news was first reported Sunday by TSN's Bob McKenzie. The details of a new CBA that has been negotiated as part of the NHL and NHLPA's efforts to bring back hockey, however, is still being finalized. Hockey cannot resume until both the protocols for 2020 and the new CBA memorandum of understanding are ratified by the league's board of governors, the NHLPA's executive committee and a full membership vote by the players.

The full details of the protocols have not been formally released, but aspects have been leaked over the past week as both sides inched closer to an agreement. As expected, any player will have the option of opting out of Phase 3 (training camp) and Phase 4 (resumption of the season) without penalty, but the player must notify the team by July 7.

Teams will also be limited to 30 skaters in Phase 3 with an unlimited number of goalies. In Phase 4, that number goes down to 28 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies so presumably this should not be an issue for most teams. It does, however, allow two extra players in case a team is caught off guard by a player opting out.

In addition, Frank Seravalli reported players' families will be allowed to join the players for the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final which will take place in Edmonton. Elliotte Friedman also reported there will be significant punishments for individuals who try to leave the bubble.

The league formally paused its season on March 12. Since that time, the remainder of the regular season was canceled and the postseason re-structured to include 24 teams. Two round-robin tournaments will take place among the top four teams in the East and West to determine seeding while the remaining teams will all play a best-of-five play-in round. From there, the playoffs will begin with all four remaining rounds being a best-of-seven and with teams being reseeded after each round to determine matchups.

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Remembering the highlights of each of the Capitals' American players

Remembering the highlights of each of the Capitals' American players

The Capitals have a superstar Russian, an incredible Swedish center, a Canadian netminder, but the team also boasts several American players as well. On the 4th of July when American celebrate the birth of our nation, lets put down the barbecue, apple pie and fireworks for a few minutes to remember some of the top highlights from each of the team's Americans.

Travis Boyd: 4 goals for Hayden

In Feb. 2018, Boyd turned hardship into an inspirational moment. While with the Hershey Bears, Boyd's daughter, Hayden, developed a serious infection and had to go to the hospital. Boyd went with her on a Sunday and did not leave until Friday morning to prepare for that night's game, a game in which he would score four goals.

John Carlson: The golden goal

Carlson has numerous highlights from his career with the Caps, but on Indepence Day it seems only fitting to look back at his biggest goal for his country. Carlson represented Team USA in the 2010 World Junior Championships which was hosted by Canada that year. USA made it all the way to the final where the played the host nation. Tied at 5 through regulation, Carlson scored the golden goal off a 2-on-1 as he caught the goalie leaning anticipating the pass.

Nic Dowd: Historic penalty shot

In Game 5 of the Caps' series against the Carolina Hurricanes in 2019, Nic Dowd was slashed by defenseman Dougie Hamilton while he was in alone on goalie Petr Mrazek. Dowd was awarded the first penalty shot of his career and he delivered, dekeing right to open up Mrazek's pads and tucking the puck through the 5-hole. In addition to being his first penalty shot goal, the goal was also Dowd's first-career playoff point.

The goal also had some historic significance for the team as it was Washington's first ever playoff penalty shot goal.

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Garnet Hathaway: Shows his toughness against the Rangers

On Oct. 18, the Caps hosted the New York Rangers and it proved to be an pretty epic night for Hathaway. He was knocked out of the game in the second period with a broken nose after a big hit from Jacob Trouba, came back in the third, drew a cross-check, fought Brendan Smith (again, with a broken nose), the Caps scored on the resulting power play and Hathaway returned to score the empty-netter.

That’s a pretty unbelievable game.

Nick Jensen: Assisting on goal No. 700

Jensen has been with the Capitals for about a year and a half, but he will forever be linked to the team's greatest franchise player thanks to one assist.

Against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 22, Jensen grabbed a loose puck behind the offensive goal line and sent it back behind the net to keep the offensive cycle going. That allowed Evgeny Kuznetsov to find Alex Ovechkin who scored career goal No. 700.


T.J. Oshie: T.J. Sochi

Who could forget about Oshie's incredible performance at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi?

Playing against Team Russia, USA leaned heavily on Oshie in the shootout. He would score four times on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky as USA walked away victorious.

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