Boston Bruins

By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com

The Bruins may very well finish as the second-best team in the entire National Hockey League.

Their reward for their success only bested by a Tampa Bay team that might break the single-season record for wins? A first-round date with the league’s fifth-best team in terms of points, the Maple Leafs. And should the Bruins advance beyond that series, the odds say that a date with that Presidents’ Trophy-winning Lightning team awaits Bruce Cassidy’s squad.

In other words, the league’s current playoff structure appears beyond flawed.

Something not even Bruins president Cam Neely could deny when speaking with reporters before the start of Wednesday’s Bruins-Rangers tilt at TD Garden.

“Obviously the last couple years you look at it and say it’s maybe not fair when you’re the top teams in the league and you fight hard to get home ice advantage and that’s what you shoot for and, you know, then you end up playing some tough teams before you even get out of your division,” Neely said. “You know, we don’t want to look past anybody. We’ve got a really strong division with Toronto and Tampa, so would I like to see two play seven? Probably.”

If the league adopted a simply one through eight concept in each conference, the Bruins would instead find themselves in a first-round battle with the Hurricanes, a team currently three victories and seven points behind the Maple Leafs. If the league instead adopted a division winners are the one and two and then it’s ranked by points for three through eight, the Bruins would face off against the Islanders (the conference’s sixth-best group), a team one win and three points behind the Leafs.

In either format, the Bruins would by definition be in a better spot as a reward for their excellence over an 82-game season that’s become somewhat meaningless for some under this new format.

It’s also an odd move, all things considered, as this new playoff format puts an emphasis on going through your division… while also reeling back on divisional play (the Bruins wrapped up their four-game season series with the Maple Leafs all the way back in January).

“I would think so,” Neely said of having more in-division meetings to justify this format. “Or like, we would play those teams more than we do now, and I think that would make a bigger difference.

“You look at our schedule this year, we’ve got teams in our division that we haven’t seen in a while and won’t see until the playoffs. So scheduling, I know it’s not that easy with certain buildings that are very busy like ours, but I would agree. I mean, if you played a team eight times in the regular season and played them in the playoffs, the following season there’s some nastiness there.”

But unfortunately for those in ultra-competitive and/or top-heavy divisions such as the Atlantic, there does not seem to be an appetite for change, according to Neely.

“There’s some camps that like to add teams and some that would like to change the format, but right now I don’t see much happening, at least from the last meeting,” said Neely. 

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. He has also been a voting member of the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association since 2013. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.