In the 2013-2014 season, the National Hockey League introduced the wildcard format. Under the new postseason system, the top three teams in each division make the playoffs, with two wild-cards in each conference for a total of eight playoff teams from each conference. Many fans enjoy the wildcard format because it prevents one division from dominating the playoffs by requiring at least three teams from each division to make the playoffs. However, many fans disagree with the way the wildcard seeding is set up for postseason play.
According to the NHL website, the teams are split into two separate brackets by division in the first round. Each bracket consists of the top three divisional qualifiers and one of the wild cards. The lower seeded wild card plays against the division winner with the best record while the other wild card plays against the other division winner. The other two series match the second and third place teams from the divisions. Many fans disagree with this system because at least one of the top three teams in each division will be eliminated first round, with a possibility of two teams being eliminated. However, this format leads to the possibility of an underdog story, like this year.
We have now entered the second round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and all four of the division champions have been eliminated. The Tampa Bay Lightning were the first to go after being swept by the second eastern conference wildcard team, the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Calgary Flames were the next to fall after the second Western Conference wild card team, the Colorado Avalanche, knocked them out in five games. After Calgary fell, the Nashville Predators lost to the Dallas Stars in an overtime, game six thriller, 2-1. The last of the division champions to lose were the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Washington Capitals, who lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in game seven, 5-2.
Those who love to root for the Cinderella story should be thrilled with the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year because after the first round ended, the bracket guaranteed two wildcard teams to make the conference championship.
Of the eight teams remaining in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, three of them have never won a Stanley Cup: the St. Louis Blues, the San Jose Sharks and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Boston Bruins are the most recent champions remaining, searching for their first Stanley Cup since 2011. The Carolina Hurricanes are looking for their second Stanley Cup in franchise history this year, having won it in 2006. The Colorado Avalanche are hoping for their first Stanley Cup since 2001 and the Dallas Stars are looking for their first since 1999. Finally, the New York Islanders are looking for their first Stanley Cup since 1983 after they won the cup four consecutive years. Will this year’s Stanley Cup Champion hail from the Eastern Conference like it has the last three years thanks to the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins? Or will the champion rise from the Western Conference for the first time since the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2015? Will we finally see a wildcard team win the Stanley Cup for the first time? We will know soon enough.
Contact Jack Breitowich at [email protected]