Montreal Canadiens: Could There Be A Playoff Format That Includes the Habs This Year?

MONTREAL, QC - DECEMBER 11: The Montreal Canadiens celebrate an overtime victory against the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre on December 11, 2019 in Montreal, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - DECEMBER 11: The Montreal Canadiens celebrate an overtime victory against the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre on December 11, 2019 in Montreal, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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The Montreal Canadiens were going to miss the playoffs for a third straight year. Could the NHL come up with a unique playoff format this season that includes the Habs?

The Montreal Canadiens were certainly going to miss the playoffs this season if the calendar continued on as planned. With the league on hiatus because of the spread of the coronavirus, the regular season is in jeopardy.

The league has not announced a formal plan for continuing games in the future which has led to speculation about what will happen. If the league play is suspended for a month or more, there is no way they can just pick up where they left off and finish an 82 game regular season and then go on with four rounds of Best-of-7 playoff series.

So, what will the league do? These last four weeks of regular season games were going to be fascinating in determining who gets into the playoffs and who doesn’t. It would be too bad if we don’t get to witness a playoff race, especially in the tighter divisions like the Pacific where teams were going from first to fifth in a hurry.

So, the league could try to squeeze in a full 82 game season, but that might impact the best part of the NHL schedule – the playoffs. Everyone wants to see as many postseason games as possible, so making time for regular season games and scaling back the postseason to shorter series is not the best solution either.

One theory that was thrown out there by Darren Dreger on TSN yesterday was an expanded format. If the league just takes the top 16 teams into the playoffs as the standings sit right now, it wouldn’t really be fair to those teams that are just outside the playoffs and have played less games. To let those teams in, based on points percentage wouldn’t be fair to the teams that are technically in the playoffs right now, even though they played more games.

Dreger mentioned it is possible that instead of doing any more regular season games, the playoffs could be expanded to include more teams. This is obviously purely speculative at this point, but it would be an interesting idea for the league.

What if, instead of having 16 teams make the playoffs, the league expands it to 24? This way, the top two teams in each division could have a bye through the first round and the third place team in each division would host the sixth place team in their division in a three game series.

In the Atlantic Division, the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning would automatically move on and the Toronto Maple Leafs would host the Buffalo Sabres in a best-of-3. The Florida Panthers would play host to the Canadiens in a three game series in this scenario.

It would be an amazingly exciting way to jump back into hockey action after having an extended break. It would also only take four days to complete each series and then allow the postseason to carry on as it normally does. Maybe it would be pushed back a couple of weeks, but instead of fitting in three more weeks of regular season games, a “play-in series” that includes every team that is currently in playoff contention would be a fascinating way to fill buildings in most markets this spring.

It would be a unique conclusion to the season, but under these circumstances, the NHL is going to have to get creative. A 24 team playoff would make every game remaining extremely important and give every team that had a chance at the postseason an opportunity to go on a playoff run.