Ramblings: Hockey Again At Last! Also Projections for the Round-Robin (Aug 1)

Ian Gooding

2020-08-01

It all starts today! Or tomorrow, if you're a night owl reading this not long after I've posted it. Either way, the 2019-20 postseason that we've been waiting so long for is about to begin!

Think back to when this whole pandemic hit and the league shut down. The pause went from days to weeks and then to months. Did you honestly believe that the NHL would finish its season in some way, shape or form? Did you think it should?

Not to be Debbie Downer, but there's still the looming possibility that this could all be shut down with a massive outbreak either in Edmonton, Toronto, or both. Remember how many voices said that the NHL should just shut it down for 2019-20 as it drew up its return to play? The necessary adjustments were made, and now we just have to hope everything goes according to plan in the bubble.

I'm optimistic that the NHL's plan will work, though, and for two reasons. First, the league set up a bubble, which has a better chance of avoiding the kind of problems that arise from travelling from stadium to stadium like MLB is currently experiencing with a few of its teams. Second, the league went to Canada, where the number of COVID cases hasn't exploded the way it has in some areas of the United States. We can all admit that these games won't have the same feel as other playoffs have, but it sure beats the alternative.

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In case you missed it, our writers made their play-in predictions on both the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Because the focus was on these do-or-die five-game series for these 16 teams, we decided not to focus on the other eight teams playing in the seeding round-robin. I've set aside some space in here to discuss it today, though.

This is the first time the NHL has used any sort of seeding round-robin to determine next-round playoff matchups. That means we don't have any historical precedent on how teams normally handle this. Teams playing exhibition games (which included the round-robin teams) seemed to take the games more seriously than typical preseason games. For that reason, I'd expect these eight competitors to roster at least mostly competitive rosters for these round-robin games.  

We could see most teams use two goalies over their three games. We could also see teams try some line combinations that are different from the usual. On the other hand, teams could treat these games as a dress rehearsal for the games that will matter in the round of 16. The seeding might really matter too. Maybe not so much about running the table with a 3-0 record, but perhaps avoiding entering an actual playoff round with three consecutive losses and the possibility of facing a #5 seeded team that could include Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid.

One further wrinkle: If two teams finish the round-robin with the same record, the tiebreaker is regular-season record. For that reason, some weight has to be given to regular-season record, even if the result of any of this is completely unpredictable.

Without further ado, here are my projections for th