Monday, May 2, 2022

A season-ending Top 16, plus a look back at the rankings, Gold Plan standings and more

for the whole “who wins the Stanley Cup” thing. We’ll get to that.

First things first, let’s talk about Friday. The NHL wrapped up its season, or at least planned to, with a 15-game slate that was meant to be the big finale. It didn’t end up that way, partly because the Jets and Kraken still had yesterday’s makeup game to get through and mostly because none of the 16 playoff spots were on the line. You’d have been forgiven for taking the night off, much like several star players did. But if so, you missed one of the most weirdly entertaining nights of the entire season.

Let’s summarize. You had the Predators needing a win to avoid the mighty Avalanche, going into Arizona for the last game at Glendale and pummeling the Coyotes on the way to a 4-0 lead, and then incomprehensibly blowing it to lose 5-4 and provide this year’s “first-round matchup that literally 100% of the experts will predict the same way except for that one contrarian guy” series. Nice work, Nashville.

We had an EBUG playing for the Ducks, then casually revealing that he was blind in one eye. We had another goalie singing the national anthem. We had some bad blood and a potentially serious injury in Minnesota. We had the worst team in the league smoking the best team by a 10-2 final because why not. We had a (possibly long-overdue) coach firing. And we had one final call from the legendary Rick Jeanneret.

For a bunch of games that mostly didn’t matter, that’s a pretty fun night.

OK, let’s get to the rankings. As is tradition, we’ll dump the top-five format this week and give you a full 16-team rundown of all the playoff teams. We’ve been mostly wrong all year, we might as well go out with the opportunity to be super wrong.

First, some facts and figures. We finished the year with 12 different teams having cracked the top five, 11 more appearing in the bottom five, and nine who didn’t show up on either list. In a sign that I wasn’t completely out to lunch, this year didn’t see any teams pull off the feat of appearing on both lists, and I’m not sure anyone came all that close. Looking back on both lists, I don’t see anything that jumps out as a truly awful call, even in those dangerous first few weeks when it’s way too early but we do it anyway.

Only one top five team missed the playoffs, and that was the Golden Knights, who showed up a few times, although never higher than fifth after week one. That’s not a great call, but I don’t think we’re alone on misjudging the Knights (and before you say you saw it coming all along, remember I have your contest entries). None of the bottom five teams made it, although the Canucks at least made us pay attention down the stretch.

Of the nine no-shows, the one that sparked the highest volume of, uh, constructive feedback was the Maple Leafs, who hovered in the top five discussion all year but never got an invite thanks to what many of you saw as transparent reverse-homerism. The Bruins also had a case on a few occasions, while the Kings, Predators and Stars all made the playoffs. I showed some restraint in keeping the Islanders out of the bottom five during their early struggles, and the Red Wings somewhat surprisingly never got the call either, along with the Sharks and the Jets.

Just two teams held a top five spot in every single week of the rankings, with the Panthers and Hurricanes being the only permanent fixtures. (The Avalanche, despite holding down top spot more than any other team, got a one-week timeout in early November.) Meanwhile, the Coyotes were the only consistent presence in the bottom five, holding down the one or two-spot every single week. Montreal didn’t debut until week three and then stayed all season, tying the Kraken for most bottom-five appearances by a team that wasn’t Arizona.

On to the Top 16…

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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

No comments:

Post a Comment