While the other playoff teams fight for first round positioning in a five-game play-in, the top teams from each division and the next-two highest point percentage teams will have a playoff seeding round-robin. The reasoning behind this is two-fold. First, it gives teams who have the bye in the play-in round a chance to get some skates on the ice so they’re not playing the first round cold. Secondly, the season ended between ten and twelve games early for teams. When you have two teams locked in a playoff battle, like, say, St. Louis and Colorado, they’ve missed the opportunity to either lock down a divisional title or fight their way up to one. This has some special weight behind it considering that the Avalanche were only two points behind the Blues when the season was called - with one game remaining between the two teams.
When the NHL announced their return to play plan, their playoff format suddenly included eight more teams than usual, with the inclusion of a bye week for the top four teams in either conference. The top four in the Western Conference are the Blues, the Golden Knights, the Avalanche, and the Dallas Stars. These four, instead of a play-in, will be having a quick round robin round. Per the NHL, “[t]he round-robin games will be played with regular-season overtime and shootout rules with ties in the standings broken by regular-season points percentage.” The winner of each play-in round will go on to the traditional eight team quarterfinal round set-up.
It’s important for the Blues to do well here, because with the league re-seeding after every round, winning the round-robin could potentially mean that the Blues play the Blackhawks, Wild, or Coyotes.
The trick is, how did the Blues do against the rest of the top four?
- Dallas Stars: 4-0-1 (9 out of 10 points)
- Vegas Golden Knights: 1-0-2 (4 out of 6 points)
- Colorado Avalanche: 2-2-0 (4 out of 8 points)
Since the rules for seeding will be regular season style, the Blues face pretty decent odds of doing well, with getting 17 out of a possible 24 points against these three opponents. The trick with a round-robin, though, is that you’re taking care of yourself, but the other teams need to take care of each other, too.
Dallas was 1-0-1 against Vegas, and went 4-0 against Colorado. Vegas was 1-1-0 against Dallas, and 0-2 against the Avalanche. It’s important to note that the scores in their two losses against the Avs were very lopsided. On October 25th, they lost 6-1; on December 23rd, they lost 7-3.
Colorado finished 0-2-2 against the Stars and 2-0 against the Golden Knights.
The Blues’ match against the Dallas Stars might not go south, but the Blues need to show against the Golden Knights (no losing huge leads this time) and will also need to look into bringing their A game against Colorado.
It’s a brief round intended for getting feet wet, and seeding doesn’t necessarily determine the successful team, so it’s easy to overlook the round-robin round. But if it has the potential to help the Blues continue their plowing over of the Blackhawks, then it could be more important than people think.