It won’t be a secret when the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers intersect in the first round of the NHL Qualifiers. Feeling would be similar between Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leaves.
Lightning’s artistic director, John Cooper, said, “I don’t mean to say it’s kind of fun, but it’s because you know a lot about what to expect.”
The bizarre NHL season will give way to unique Stanley Cup matches. The first two rounds within the divisions will be held for the first time in nearly 30 years and teams will be reclassified for the fourth quarter.
“It’s just another case that makes our year so unique,” said Kelly Macramon, General Manager of Vegas Golden Knights. You can see the matches we used to see in the Stanley Cup Final. ”
The season is so unique that by the time Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks conclude their campaign, some of the first rounds of qualifying will have already been two games past. A total of 57 games have been postponed this season, leaving the qualifiers to start slightly later than expected when the Washington Capitals host the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.
After growing to 24 teams to complete the 2020 season, the playoffs are back to their usual total of 16 rosters, including four from each division temporarily renewed. The first two-round format was used within the division by the NHL from 1982 to 1993.
“There really won’t be any secrets,” said Carolina Hurricans coach Rod Brend Amore, one of the six coaches who played in the old form.
Cooper believes that the first game in each series will be like a second or third game, as the teams will not need to get to know each other. There have already been at least eight clashes in the past four months.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said: “There is really some hostility when you’ve faced the same team eight times and now they’re both in the qualifiers.” Instead of there being escalation until match 4, and suddenly the cruelty starts, you’ll see it soon. ”
David Boyle, General Manager of Predators, thinks this familiarity will create a better streak. The NHL has long tried to increase the competition, and although these are not the desirable conditions for doing so, the eight playoffs will be played with the pedal to the ground.
“There are a number of things that are less interesting this year, but we can’t complain about the discounts being higher,” Boyle said. It is very good for hockey. ”
There will likely be various styles of hockey across the divisions. First, there will be no fans in Canada’s arenas while in the United States, there will be no fewer than 4,000 spectators at the start of the series.
“We are used to not playing in front of the crowd,” said Winnipeg Gates striker Nate Thompson. In the protected environment (last summer), each team has to create their own momentum. ”
There won’t be a protected environment this time around, and the NHL is quietly relaxing pandemic protocols for each team seeing 85% of its travel unit members get fully vaccinated. Players and coaches, however, know that no one should look too far.
Associated Press reporters Theresa M Walker, Aaron Bird, and Tim Reynolds also contributed to this article.