The NHL has a plan for a return to playing hockey. We could finally be getting sports back. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced a 24-team playoff format on Tuesday. This is if the league can resume play amid the COVID-19 pandemic. If the league does return to play as they hope for, a favorite for the NHL’s storied Stanley Cup could be a team that has never won the trophy before.
NHL teams have a plan for their quest at the Stanley Cup
In NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s announcement on Tuesday, he laid out a plan for a 24-team playoff format. However, the league will not return until it is safe to do so, according to NHL.com.
“As we seek some return to normalcy, this is an important day, particularly for NHL fans,” Bettman said, according to NHL.com. “Since March 12, we have been hopeful and optimistic that by developing all options and alternatives, we could get to this point. I know I join sports fans everywhere when I say we cannot wait for our players to hit the ice again.”Gary Bettman
The format for the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs will include the top 12 teams from each conference based on points percentage. The top four teams get a bye and will play in a round-robin tournament to determine playoff seeding, according to NHL.com. The No. 5 through No. 12 seeds will play in best-of-five series to qualify for what is considered the first round of the playoffs. The series will be in two hub cities.
The Columbus Blue Jackets look to build off of last season
Since first playing in the NHL in the 2000-01 season, the Columbus Blue Jackets have yet to have a lot of success. They have only made the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs five times in total. However, the Jackets have qualified for the playoffs each of the last three seasons. They have yet to even make the Stanley Cup Final once, though.
Last season was when the Blue Jackets really had success. In the First Round of the playoffs last season, no one really gave the Blue Jackets a shot. They took on the Tampa Bay Lightning, who tied the NHL record for most wins in a season last year with 62, according to NHL.com. The Lightning did not look like the dominant team they had been all season, though. The Blue Jackets ultimately swept them, winning 4-3 in Game 1, 5-1 in Game 2, 3-1 in Game 3, and 7-3 in Game 4.
However, the Blue Jackets lost to the Boston Bruins in six games in the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Blue Jackets could be a favorite for the Stanley Cup
The Columbus Blue Jackets enter the 24-team playoffs as the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference, NHL.com reported. So, no, they are not one of the conference’s top teams. However, they have a good shot at going on a deep run and possibly winning the Stanley Cup. The Blue Jackets were 33-22-15 before the NHL suspended its season. They will face the eight-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs, who were 36-25-9.
The biggest thing for the Blue Jackets is that the break allowed them to get healthy. They should be getting top players like Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones, and Oliver Bjorkstrand back from injuries, according to NHL.com. Atkinson had not played since Feb. 8, missing an entire month of action as the Blue Jackets’ last game was on March 8. Atkinson tied the team record for most goals in a season last year with 41. Jones, on the other hand, was fifth on the team in points last season. He had also not played since Feb. 8. Bjorkstrand was eighth on the team in points last season, and he had not played since Feb. 20.
The Blue Jackets have gone 3-5-6 since Feb. 8. Getting all of those guys back could be huge for them. It could definitely give them a boost points-wise, and will take some pressure off Pierre-Luc Dubois, who leads the team in points this year with 49.
Everyone will most likely be rusty when they return to the ice. However, the Blue Jackets are coming off a season where they just beat one of the best teams of all-time in the playoffs. Getting those guys back, who all played a significant role in the win over the Lightning last year, will be absolutely huge for the Blue Jackets and could be horrible for the Maple Leafs. Once they get into a rhythm during their series with Toronto, they can certainly use that momentum to go on deep a run in the playoffs and potentially win the team’s first Stanley Cup.
Stats courtesy of Hockey Reference