Monday, June 22, 2020

The chaos lover’s rooting guide to the playoffs and lottery

We finally know what the NHL will look like when the season resumes, and I have to say, I’m pretty sure my favorite team is set up to dominate.

No, not the Maple Leafs. I mean my other favorite team: Team Chaos.

I’ve been on the Team Chaos bandwagon for years, and they’ve come through with some pretty special seasons. There was “expansion team rolls over the league and makes the final,” and “terrible team takes Sidney Crosby’s dynasty to overtime in Game 7 of the conference final” and “128-point juggernaut gets swept in the first round.” Unlike some other teams I could mention, Team Chaos rarely lets me down.

But this year? This year could be something else. The league’s new format seems like it was designed by Team Chaos representatives. We’ve taken an unprecedented 24-team format with a postseason round that may or may not count as the playoffs and combined it with the potential for a double-lottery that could see one of the league’s best teams win the first overall pick despite finishing top ten in the standings. The potential scenarios in play boggle the mind.

We don’t even have to get into the real-world situations that could cause legitimate chaos, such as an outbreak of positive tests or players refusing to report. Let’s pretend that everything plays out exactly the way the league wants it to. That could still lead us down some truly bizarre paths.

Today, we’re going to explore some of those possibilities. Here are 15 of the weirdest scenarios I could come up with, and how appealing they would be to a diehard Team Chaos fan.

Scenario: Carey Price single-handedly wins the Cup

One of my favorite movie moments is the diner scene from “Mulholland Drive.” Two characters we don’t know meet for lunch and one of them, clearly disturbed, explains a nightmare he’s been having. In the dream, he walks out of the diner and down the alleyway behind it, at which point a horrifying figure appears and he dies. He wants to confront his fear by seeing what’s really back there — “to get rid of this god-awful feeling.” With his friend trailing him, the man gathers his courage. Then he walks out of the diner and down the alleyway behind it, at which point a horrifying figure appears and he dies.

The scene is terrifying because there’s no twist. There’s no misdirection. The movie tells you exactly what’s going to happen and why you should be afraid of it, and then it unfolds precisely as promised. And somehow, that makes it so much scarier than any surprise could have been.

The NHL version of the figure behind the diner is Carey Price, who is apparently the scariest goaltender in the world. He’s been mentioned by name in multiple objections to the play-in format. This despite the fact that it’s been years since the numbers suggest he’s been an elite goaltender, or even an especially good one. Forget about the stats or the standings or even what your own eyes tell you. Carey Price is the monster in your nightmare — and he’s going to get you.

And that means there’s nothing scarier than having all our fears turn out to be exactly right, as Price takes the ice and immediately Voltrons himself into 1986 Patrick Roy and 1971 Ken Dryden and 1984 Steve Penney and 2010 Jaroslav Halak and 1950s Jacques Plante, then goes five rounds without allowing a single goal while every GM in the league screams “I TOLD YOU SO” into the void.

Chaos meter: 80/100. This one’s pretty darn good, but there are so many other options that I have to leave some room at the top of the scale. Onwards …

Scenario: We get a Cup Final rematch between the Blues and Bruins

It’s been months since anyone looked at the standings, so it’s easy enough to forget that the Bruins and Blues had the best records in their conferences. In theory, if everything goes according to expectations, they’d meet again in the final.

Will everything go according to expectations? Not according to pretty much everyone; we’re all expecting plenty of upsets, thanks to short series and rusty teams. But maybe we get a curveball and just end up with a rematch of the classic seven-game 2019 Final. Only this time, in October instead of June.

It would result in a good matchup, but the timing would feel all wrong. Kind of like a Brad Marchand line change.

Chaos meter: 10/100. Would this be kind of cool? Sure. Would it be chaos? Let’s just say we can do a lot better.

Scenario: The Presidents’ Trophy champion Boston Bruins are the fourth seed in their own conference

This is the better Bruins’ scenario if you’re on the Team Chaos bandwagon.

Here’s a fun fact about history’s Presidents’ Trophy winners: They’ve always been the top seed, with home ice throughout the playoffs. They had to be; that was the only way it could work. But this year, thanks to the weird decision to let a three-game round robin determine the seeding for each conference’s top four teams, the Bruins could get off to a slow start, lose a few games and end up being the fourth seed in the East.

You know, the same East that they’re currently leading by eight points in the regular season. A regular season that we’ve been told is now over, meaning the Bruins officially finished on top.

A Presidents’ Trophy winner that doesn’t even have home-ice advantage after the first round of the playoffs. That wouldn’t be possible in a pre-pandemic world. It almost certainly shouldn’t be possible today. But it is, which means it has to happen.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

(Want to read this post on The Athletic for free? Sign up for a free 90-day trial.)

No comments:

Post a Comment