Playoffs Match-Ups: Changes Are Overdue

By JD Lagrange – The 2021-2022 season’s NHL Playoffs are well underway and there are some very interesting matchups happening in the first round. Playoffs’ hockey is so much more interesting but unfortunately, the experience has been tarnished by poor officiating and questionable decisions by the NHL Players Safety. But that’s on par with the regular season and it’s a whole different topic in itself.

Every year, with the way the playoffs’ format is structured, we see some mind boggling matchups. We see higher up teams having to face tougher competition than teams that finished below them in the standings. This year, he are the final matchups for the first round of the playoffs. In brackets is where the teams finished in the overall NHL standings.


The Florida Panthers won the Presidents’ Trophy yet, it’s the Colorado Avalanche facing the weaker team in the playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs finished fourth overall and as a reward, they are playing the team that finished eight overall. The Wild, the Flames, the Rangers and the Oilers are all facing teams that finished lower than the Leafs’ opponents. As much as I dislike Toronto, this makes no sense.

For years, I’ve been a proponent of changing the playoffs’ format in an attempt to fix this. Let’s face it, the NHL came up with that format back when they put a bigger emphasis on creating rivalries from within divisions, back when they made them play more often against each others. But they changed that scheduling when fans (and teams) demanded for each team to play each other at least twice in a season. So the divisions really don’t mean much anymore anyway.

I can only see two other options to make things more fair. Either revert back to the top team playing the bottom team regardless of conference, or if travel is important, rank teams based on their standings within the conference.

League-wide standings

If they played 1 vs 16, 2 vs 15, etc… here’s what the matchups would have looked like for this year’s playoffs. On the left are the current matchups, on the right, the league-wide matchups based on overall standings.


In the new format, Carolina and Los Angeles would be piling on the airmiles for sure, but the travel for the other teams isn’t too bad. That being said, it is important to note that four of the far western coastal teams are not in the playoffs this year. Vancouver, Seattle, Anaheim and San Jose are out, as is Winnipeg in the north. The potential for extra travel is substantial and a top team could be at a disadvantage by traveling more, even to face a weaker team.

Conference standings

Perhaps the happy medium would be to revert back to the conference standings and drop the divisions for playoffs’ purposes. I would even go further by dropping the divisions, period, even for regular season. Here is this year’s playoffs’ picture if they played 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, etc… within their own conferences. Again, this year’s matchups on the left.


The travel is no different than it is during the regular season yet, it makes for a more even playing field. Oh you will always have upsets in the first round, that will never change. Mostly, it gives the regular season, playing a gruelling 82-games schedule, mean more by providing a bit of a rewards for the playoffs. Perhaps it’s time for the NHL to take that step. In fact, they missed the boat by not doing it starting this year since the league now has an even 16 teams in each conference, with the arrival of Seattle into the NHL.

Watch for Part Two of this article as we will explore a different way of tallying regular season’s points, which would also have an impact on the playoffs’ matchups. Stay tuned…

More reading…

One thought on “Playoffs Match-Ups: Changes Are Overdue

Comments are closed.