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Rangers the big winners, Caps among losers of archaic NHL Playoff format

Rangers the big winners, Caps among losers of archaic NHL Playoff format

The second round of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs are about to get started, and if you take a look at the bracket, you'll notice something strange.

The President's Trophy-winning Capitals have to face the Penguins, the team that finished just behind the Capitals for the NHL lead in points.

What that means is that the two best teams from the regular season have to play each other in the second round of the NHL Playoffs.

RELATED: CAPITALS vs. PENGUINS SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED

The reason the No. 1 and No. 2 teams are playing each other so early is because the NHL restructured the playoff format in order to have divisional teams face off against each other first, hoping to strengthen rivalries. It's an incredibly stupid idea, as Capitals forward Daniel Winnik has stated on several occasions.

The problem with the format is that when a division performs to the extent of what the Metropolitan did in 2017, the three top teams in the Eastern Conference end up in the same pod because the NHL wants divisional teams to play each other early in the playoffs.

When you add in the sheer chaos of playoff hockey, in which a No. 1 seed almost always gets eliminated early, the NHL ends up with wildly uneven paths to the Stanley Cup Final.

Consider this: When the No. 1 seed Capitals take on the No. 2 Penguins, it will mark the first time in six years that the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds faced off against each other in the playoffs. Having the top two teams face off in the playoffs should be the goal of the NHL on a yearly basis instead of a once-in-a-decade factoid.

But because the Capitals and Penguins are facing each other in the second round and not —say— the Eastern Conference Finals, it means there is at least one team with an unnecessary and highly favorable draw.

That team in 2017 is the New York Rangers.

The Rangers finished in fourth place in the Metro Division (48-28-6), but with 103 points, would have been good enough for second place in the Atlantic. The Rangers faced off against the Atlantic-Division champions Montreal Canadiens, a team that earned a No. 1 seed despite having the fourth best record in the East.

The Rangers knocked off the Canadiens and now face the Senators, the second-place team in the Atlantic.

If the Rangers advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, they will have avoided the top three seeds by points in the first two rounds. 

RELATED: NHL PLAYOFF POWER RANKINGS

This is what the East Bracket looks like under the current format:
1M: Capitals, 118pts
WC: Maple Leafs, 95pts

2M Penguins, 111pts
​3M: Blue Jackets, 108pts

2A: Senators, 98pts
3A: Bruins, 95pts

1A: Canadiens, 103pts
1WC: Rangers, 102pts

This is what the East bracket would look like under a standard playoff format
1. Capitals, 118pts
8. Maple Leafs, 95pts

4. Canadiens, 103pts
5. Rangers, 102pts 

3. Blue Jackets, 108pts 
6. Senators, 98pts

2. Penguins, 111pts 
7. Bruins, 95pts

A points-based playoff bracket would not change much in the first round: The No. 1 seed Capitals would still face the No. 8 seed Maple Leafs, and the No. 5 Rangers would still face the No. 4 Canadiens. But what it impacts is the second round. The Capitals would face the winner of the Rangers-Canadiens series, instead of the Penguins-Blue Jackets winner. 

A points-based bracket would reward the teams at the top of the Eastern Conference, not just the respective divisions. It would also prevent lower seeded teams from having an easier path to the Eastern Conference Finals in the event of a first-round upset. 

The NHL wants to build rivalries in early playoff series instead of what playoffs are intended to do: Weed out the lesser teams setting up a conference championship series between the two best teams.

We know that won't happen this season in the East, and the Rangers are the team benefiting from it the most. 

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Caps leave All-Star Game with plenty of highlights, but no wins

Caps leave All-Star Game with plenty of highlights, but no wins

ST. LOUIS -- There was no All-Star championship for the Metropolitan Division All-Stars this year. The Metro was not able to defend its crown in 2020 as it fell 9-5 to the Atlantic Division in the first game of the All-Star Game tournament on Saturday.

Despite the early loss, the Capitals certainly left their mark on the event. Here were the highlights:

An ovation for Oshie

T.J. Oshie began his NHL career in St. Louis and remains a fan favorite there even now in the midst of his fifth season in Washington. That was evident when Oshie was introduced to the crowd to thunderous applause.

“I think it's a pretty cool story,” Oshie said. “It's something that I'm going to enjoy telling the kids and grandkids down the road. But I think the coolest part for me was just the cheers from the fans when my name was called a couple times there. I enjoyed playing here. I love playing in D.C. though, but I had some good experiences here, some heartbreaks, some pretty good teams we played on. Just to get back here, just kind of crazy that my first All-Star Game ended up being in St. Louis. It was a great weekend, it was fun, the fans were awesome as always.”

The starting lineup

Todd Reirden went with what he knew to start the game as Oshie and John Carlson both started the game with Braden Holtby in net. The only non-Cap to start was New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal.

The Barzal, Oshie, Carlson trio seemed to find some chemistry through the game and Oshie had nothing but positive things to say of the speedy forward after the game.

“Obviously his skill level's off the charts, just skating, his stickhandling and vision on the ice,” Oshie said. “Obviously we would've liked to put up some more goals, but it's nice trying to get open and have him find me than chase him around the ice and just try to not get made a fool of. It was awesome. He's a great kid. It was nice kind of getting to know him off the ice here these last couple days.”

While Oshie wished for more production, that line actually acquitted itself nicely. Oshie recorded one goal and one assist, Carlson had one goal and Barzal had two assists.

Carlson scores a milestone

The Atlantic Division jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but Carlson scored the first goal of the game for the Metro.

Holtby broke up a scoring chance for the Atlantic as he blocked a centering pass with his stick which sparked the breakout in the other direction. Carlson and Barzal had a 2-on-1 opportunity and Barzal set up Carlson for the shot past a helpless Frederik Anderson. Oshie recorded a secondary assist on the goal.

That was not just the Caps’ first goal of the game, it was the first goal by a Caps defenseman at the All-Star Game in franchise history, according to the team. Quite the milestone.

“That’s great,” Carlson said. “I guess I had no idea.”

Oshie scores in St. Louis

I mean, he had to, right? His first All-Star game coming in St. Louis, there was no way Oshie was going to walk away from this game without scoring.

The Metro Division cycled in the offensive zone and Seth Jones dropped the puck off to Oshie near the blue line. He cut up the middle then fired a shot to the corner to beat Anderson, making him the eighth player in Caps’ franchise history to score at an All-Star Game.

Coach Osh in the house

Oshie’s family has always been the talk of Washington because of how adorable his daughters are and that was on full display again on Saturday. But it was Oshie’s dad who stole the show.

Oshie’s father suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. That makes traveling very difficult. After Oshie’s goal, however, the broadcast cut to Oshie waving up to his father who had been able to make the trip to St. Louis.

“It's always great to have Coach Osh around,” Oshie said. “He missed our fathers' trip this year, it's kind of hard for him to travel, but we were able to make it work for him to come to St. Louis where a lot of the people you see working down here behind the scenes probably know him better than they know me, so he got to see some old friends. Just special to have him here to witness my first All-Star Game in person.”

Oshie added, “There's certain milestones that I've made in my career that I want him to be a part of if he's able to make it and this was one of them He came to St. Louis quite a bit when I played and he has a lot of friends here, a lot of people that treat him really good as well. This was something that I didn't want him to miss."

Holtby ends on a high-note

Let’s face it, the All-Star Game does not favor the goalies. A 3-on-3 tournament is meant to promote as much scoring as possible. As a result, it is often a tough night for the netminders and that was true for Holtby who made five saves on nine shots in his single period of play. But Holtby was able to end his night on a high note with one of the top saves of the game.

David Pastrnak set up Shea Weber on the far-side for what looked like a lay-up on Holtby, but Holtby was able to stretch the pad for the fantastic toe save to deny Weber.

“It felt good to make a save,” Holtby said.

“It's difficult, but it's fun too,” Holtby said of the 3-on-3 format. “It's challenging. I think guys are starting to figure it out a little bit more with the cross-ice pass and stuff. But it's fun to be a part of.”

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Oshie gets warm All-Star welcome on St. Louis return, scores with dad in attendance

Oshie gets warm All-Star welcome on St. Louis return, scores with dad in attendance

Former St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie was welcomed back to Enterprise Arena fondly by the NHL All-Star crowd that included his family.

At the end of Oshie's entrance on to the ice, the camera showed plenty of Blues players cheering for him. In seven seasons with St. Louis, Oshie played 443 games and tallied 310 points (110 G, 200 A) and a +71 plus/minus rating. He even served as an alternate captain for his final two seasons before being traded to the Capitals for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley and a 2016 third-round draft pick. 

That wasn't all for Oshie's All-Star performance -- he scored 5:29 into the first period to give the Metropolitan Division team a 3-2 lead.

Oshie is the eighth Capitals player in franchise history to score in the NHL All-Star Game.

Oshie's family, including his dad, Tim, affectionately known as "Coach Osh," was in attendance to witness his first All-Star appearance, making the moment even more special.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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