Tuesday, July 28, 2020

One sentence to get hyped for all 64 possible round-one matchups

We’re just a few days away from the return of the NHL, with the start of a play-in round to determine which four teams in each conference will advance to the first round of the playoffs, plus a round robin to determine seeding for the remaining teams. It’s a tournament format we’ve never seen before, and after four months without hockey, nobody would blame you if you find yourself desperately looking forward to that first week.

Where people might blame you would be if you were already looking even further ahead, and trying to figure out who’s going to play who in the round of 16. After all, we’ve got sixteen teams playing for survival and eight more playing for their seeding, and no idea how it might all shake out. Do the math, and we wind up with 64 possible matchups for what will officially be considered round one. If you really wanted to start thinking ahead, you’d have to consider every one of them.

Would that be crazy? No! But would it be? Yeah, a little, sure, but I’m doing it anyway. Look, you’ve seen what I’ve been up to for the last few months, it’s possible that I’m just a little bit too excited to have actual hockey to write about again. We’re doing this.

And by “this,” I mean coming up with one single sentence to pump the tires of all 64 potential first-round matchups. It probably goes without saying that this will be easier for some matchups than others, but that’s fine. Got to get those creativity muscles back into game shape, after all. Let’s start thinking positive and figure out why each of these 64 matchups is worth looking forward to.

Canadiens vs. Bruins

Quite possibly the greatest rivalry in hockey history, and it has a way of transforming even run-of-the-mill stuff like too-many-men penalties and handshake lines into something dramatic, so you don’t need my help to sell this one.

Canadiens vs. Lightning

The last time they met in the playoffs, they gave us a controversial overtime goal that spawned offside review, so whatever this series produced couldn’t possibly be any worse.

Canadiens vs. Capitals

It would be a 10th anniversary rematch of the only playoff meeting between the teams, which was one of the most memorable upsets of the cap era (with an added dose of Ilya Kovalchuk intrigue).

Canadiens vs. Flyers

They’ve had a couple of meetings in the cap era, but the real memories come from the 1980s, when the rivalry was so intense that the NHL had to make up new rules to get them to stop pummeling each other.

Coyotes vs. Blues

This series would feature the top two pending UFAs in Taylor Hall and Alex Pietrangelo, and there might only be enough money left in a flat cap world for whoever wins.

Coyotes vs. Avalanche

Sometimes the story of a series is a simple one, like when the highest-scoring roster in a conference faces the second-stingiest defensive team and we get to test that whole “defense is what wins in the playoffs” theory.

Coyotes vs. Golden Knights

This was the desert-based rivalry the NHL had in mind when the Golden Knights first arrived, before they wandered off and decided to feud with the California teams instead.

Coyotes vs. Stars

Phil Kessel vs. Tyler Seguin has never not been fun.

Hurricanes vs. Bruins

It would be a rematch from last year’s Eastern Conference finals that should have been so much better than it actually was, plus it would be fun when the Canes showed up in Whaler uniforms just to confuse everyone.

Hurricanes vs. Lightning

Admit it, two Cup-winning Southern contenders having a playoff series in an empty arena in Canada would be pretty hilarious.

Hurricanes vs. Capitals

Last year’s opening round series was amazing and this one could be a ton of fun, with a ready-made revenge narrative for the Capitals (but maybe also Andrei Svechnikov?).

Hurricanes vs. Flyers

Get ready for roughly a million photos of a 20-something Rod Brind’Amour with his shirt off.

Blackhawks vs. Blues

One of the oldest and best rivalries in hockey would be rekindled, and having it play out in August lowers the risk of any holiday-themed massacres.

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