The sheer volume of questions about the NHL's season restart this summer can leave one feeling woozy. Will teams and players come back? Can they come back? Should they come back? And that's not even getting into the mysteries concerning locations, schedules, and the hundreds of health and safety considerations necessary for playing out the 2019-20 season in a global pandemic.
But putting the mountainous logistical and ethical questions aside -- if that's possible -- there's also a hockey tournament to be played to determine the Stanley Cup champion, one featuring 24 teams. There are 12 teams in each conference, with the top four teams facing each other in a round robin and the other eight teams playing in a bracketed qualification round. Full details of the format can be found here.
As the 24 postseason teams return to the ice and vie for the Cup, what are the biggest questions facing each club? Glad you asked:
How badly were they jobbed by the playoff format?
The Bruins were the NHL's best team by leaps and bounds during the regular season. Before the season was paused on March 12, they were the only team to break 100 points and the only team with a points percentage greater than .700 (at .714, to be exact). They led the NHL in wins (44), regulation wins (38) and regulation or overtime wins (44), as well as in goal differential (plus-53). They were eight points ahead of the Lightning with 12 games to go, giving Boston a 94.4% chance of winning the Atlantic Division.
What did the Bruins get for all of this achievement, under the league's new playoff format? The promise of a top-four seed and a tiebreaker against three other teams in the round robin. But here's the thing: The Bruins had a combined record of 3-3-4 against the Lightning, Capitals and Flyers. They were 2-0-1 against the Islanders, who would have been the second wild card and their first-round opponent in a traditional 16-team tournament.
"It's never a perfect scenario. It's not going to be as set in stone as it was after an 82-game season," captain Zdeno Chara said. "But I think you have to give these guys a lot of credit for working hard on the format that was presented."