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NHL Power Rankings: Which play-in playoff series would be the most exciting? – Yahoo Sports

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With the NHL just announcing how Phase 2 will work — but not even exactly when it will start — the NHL has a long way to go before a 24-team playoff format might actually happen. That “long way to go” part gives us a lot of time to mull over different possibilities, though. So let’s mull, then.

A lot must still be determined, but if everything holds, there will be eight “play-in” series (four per conference, featuring the 5th through 12th seeds). Each series would include a best-of-five format.

So which of those current, play-in series would be the best? Which would brim with drama, even with fans relegated to watch at home? Let’s rank them. You can also see the proposed 24-team NHL playoff format at the bottom of this post.

1. Penguins vs. Canadiens

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Look, it’s true that there’s a lot of evidence that the Carey Price players imagine has not been the Carey Price players actually face most nights over the past, say, three years.” data-reactid=”18″>Look, it’s true that there’s a lot of evidence that the Carey Price players imagine has not been the Carey Price players actually face most nights over the past, say, three years.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="But in your heart of hearts, can you truly dismiss how fun it could be to see “Carey Price vs. Sidney Crosby” in headlines? Especially when you can throw Evgeni Malkin in the mix? Then maybe Brendan Gallagher to add some humorous wrinkles on TikTok?” data-reactid=”19″>But in your heart of hearts, can you truly dismiss how fun it could be to see “Carey Price vs. Sidney Crosby” in headlines? Especially when you can throw Evgeni Malkin in the mix? Then maybe Brendan Gallagher to add some humorous wrinkles on TikTok?

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The actual, not just imagined, hockey would really sell it. Even with a more defensive bent at times in 2019-20, the Penguins remain one of the league’s most electric teams. Sometimes that electricity stems from the static energy of making mistakes. For all of the Canadiens’ flaws, they are the sort of smaller, speedy, skilled team that might carry upset potential during these uncertain times. Montreal boasts the possession numbers of a viable team, too.” data-reactid=”20″>The actual, not just imagined, hockey would really sell it. Even with a more defensive bent at times in 2019-20, the Penguins remain one of the league’s most electric teams. Sometimes that electricity stems from the static energy of making mistakes. For all of the Canadiens’ flaws, they are the sort of smaller, speedy, skilled team that might carry upset potential during these uncertain times. Montreal boasts the possession numbers of a viable team, too.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Maybe Shea Weber can shoot a puck through a net and make us forget about the state of the world for at least a few moments?” data-reactid=”21″>Maybe Shea Weber can shoot a puck through a net and make us forget about the state of the world for at least a few moments?

Bonus points if this would set the stage for the Penguins facing the Flyers, who currently stand as the East’s fourth seed.

<h3 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="2. Oilers vs. Blackhawks” data-reactid=”23″>2. Oilers vs. Blackhawks

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="When in doubt, go with star power. You could do a lot worse than Connor McDavid vs. Patrick Kane. Heck, you could do worse than Leon Draisaitl vs. Jonathan Toews, too.” data-reactid=”24″>When in doubt, go with star power. You could do a lot worse than Connor McDavid vs. Patrick Kane. Heck, you could do worse than Leon Draisaitl vs. Jonathan Toews, too.

In a macro sense, there are some parallels between the way the teams are built, too. McDavid and Draisaitl often feel the burden of carrying not-so-balanced Oilers teams. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are a very top-heavy, deeply flawed team. But their top players are dangerous.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Corey Crawford‘s quietly strong finish to 2019-20 sprinkles in some extra intrigue as well.” data-reactid=”26″>Corey Crawford‘s quietly strong finish to 2019-20 sprinkles in some extra intrigue as well.

If nothing else, this could be messy-but-fun.

<h3 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="3. Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets” data-reactid=”28″>3. Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets

Sometimes you stick to star power. Other times, you subsist on the potential for soap opera drama.

On one side, you have the explosive Maple Leafs, whose explosiveness can backfire. The media will seize on any of their stumbles, and this talented team nonetheless gives critics plenty to chew on.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="On the other, you have John Tortorella, who basically has a quota for dramatic press conferences. The NHL basically&nbsp;owes us some controversial calls to leave Torts fuming. It’s basically an unwritten right for us hockey fans. Don’t let us down during this play-in series, then, NHL.” data-reactid=”31″>On the other, you have John Tortorella, who basically has a quota for dramatic press conferences. The NHL basically owes us some controversial calls to leave Torts fuming. It’s basically an unwritten right for us hockey fans. Don’t let us down during this play-in series, then, NHL.

The contrast between a defensive-minded team and an explosive offense can let us olds rattle off “irresistible force vs. immovable object” references if we really feel saucy.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Speaking of saucy, it’s possible the Maple Leafs would go on to face the (gulp) Bruins.” data-reactid=”33″>Speaking of saucy, it’s possible the Maple Leafs would go on to face the (gulp) Bruins.

4. Flames vs. Jets

If this happened a year earlier, it might take the top spot. Both teams have fallen quite a bit, though, making this a series where you wonder if they can reclaim past magic.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Even with tempered expectations, the Jets and Flames bring a lot to the table. Matthew Tkachuk has all of that pent-up pest energy from the pandemic pause. Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine can fill up highlight reels. Mark Giordano vs. Blake Wheeler would be fun.” data-reactid=”36″>Even with tempered expectations, the Jets and Flames bring a lot to the table. Matthew Tkachuk has all of that pent-up pest energy from the pandemic pause. Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine can fill up highlight reels. Mark Giordano vs. Blake Wheeler would be fun.

From an actual hockey standpoint, this series might deserve a better spot on the list.

5. Hurricanes vs. Rangers

You have to assume that the Hurricanes will come up with some sort of viral sensation, right? They’ll stumble upon something.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Luckily, the Hurricanes can back up that sizzle with the steak of good hockey. Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho also give Carolina more star power than most might realize.” data-reactid=”40″>Luckily, the Hurricanes can back up that sizzle with the steak of good hockey. Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho also give Carolina more star power than most might realize.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="All of that aside, it will be tough to resist this becoming “The Artemi Panarin Show.” He generated justified Hart Trophy hype, and the Rangers were finishing pretty strong this season.” data-reactid=”45″>All of that aside, it will be tough to resist this becoming “The Artemi Panarin Show.” He generated justified Hart Trophy hype, and the Rangers were finishing pretty strong this season.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="(I’m admittedly artificially boosting this on the hope that we’ll get one last Rangers playoff run from Henrik Lundqvist, by the way.)” data-reactid=”46″>(I’m admittedly artificially boosting this on the hope that we’ll get one last Rangers playoff run from Henrik Lundqvist, by the way.)

<h3 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="6. Canucks vs. Wild” data-reactid=”47″>6. Canucks vs. Wild

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="I’m not sure the hockey world has totally clued in to how great Elias Pettersson is. The play-in for the NHL’s 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs seem like a great opportunity to see the light.” data-reactid=”48″>I’m not sure the hockey world has totally clued in to how great Elias Pettersson is. The play-in for the NHL’s 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs seem like a great opportunity to see the light.

And, hey, some funny Bruce Boudreau facial expressions won’t hurt, either.

7. Predators vs. Coyotes

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="There’s no way we can sneak P.K. Subban back onto the Predators for entertaining purposes, is there? (*Puts hand to imaginary earpiece*) It appears there is no way.” data-reactid=”51″>There’s no way we can sneak P.K. Subban back onto the Predators for entertaining purposes, is there? (*Puts hand to imaginary earpiece*) It appears there is no way.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="These two teams can play some high-quality hockey when they’re on. For all of Nashville’s headaches, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis were incredible this season. Maybe Pekka Rinne can get back on track, and create a memorable goalie duel with Darcy Kuemper? (Kuemper deserves more credit for his elite work from the past two seasons.)” data-reactid=”52″>These two teams can play some high-quality hockey when they’re on. For all of Nashville’s headaches, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis were incredible this season. Maybe Pekka Rinne can get back on track, and create a memorable goalie duel with Darcy Kuemper? (Kuemper deserves more credit for his elite work from the past two seasons.)

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Even with no Subban, there are players to watch. How might Taylor Hall perform with a lot to prove, and his next contract hovering? Will Phil Kessel rebound, or at least amuse us?” data-reactid=”53″>Even with no Subban, there are players to watch. How might Taylor Hall perform with a lot to prove, and his next contract hovering? Will Phil Kessel rebound, or at least amuse us?

8. Islanders vs. Panthers

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="As much as people might want to replay John Tavares‘ series-clinching goal (it ruled), that clip might honestly bother both Panthers&nbsp;and Islanders fans at this point.” data-reactid=”55″>As much as people might want to replay John Tavares‘ series-clinching goal (it ruled), that clip might honestly bother both Panthers and Islanders fans at this point.

*cough* And yet I must …

 

There’s not really much of a rivalry here, yet even as the eighth-ranked NHL play-in series, it’s not that hard to find reasons to get excited.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Can the Islanders contain an explosive Panthers offense starring Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov? Maybe Sergei Bobrovsky can get his mojo back after a wildly disappointing first Florida foray? Joel Quenneville vs. Barry Trotz is kind of fun. And, really, take any excuse you can to witness the splendor of Mathew Barzal.” data-reactid=”61″>Can the Islanders contain an explosive Panthers offense starring Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov? Maybe Sergei Bobrovsky can get his mojo back after a wildly disappointing first Florida foray? Joel Quenneville vs. Barry Trotz is kind of fun. And, really, take any excuse you can to witness the splendor of Mathew Barzal.

However you rank the NHL’s potential play-in series, the odds are strong that you’ll get some fun hockey. Will it be strange to watch it without fans? Sure, but the talent and intrigue might just make it all work.

Brushing up on the NHL’s proposed 24-team playoff format, including play-in series

As a reminder, here’s how it might look, and what we’re basing the play-in series upon.

<h4 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="EASTERN CONFERENCE” data-reactid=”65″>EASTERN CONFERENCE

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="ROUND 1 BYES
Bruins
Lightning
Capitals
Flyers” data-reactid=”66″>ROUND 1 BYES
Bruins
Lightning
Capitals
Flyers

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="PLAY-IN ROUND
(5) Penguins
vs. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;— Winner plays No. 4 seed
(12) Canadiens” data-reactid=”67″>PLAY-IN ROUND
(5) Penguins
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 4 seed
(12) Canadiens

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="(6) Hurricanes
vs. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;— Winner plays No. 3 seed
(11) Rangers” data-reactid=”68″>(6) Hurricanes
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 3 seed
(11) Rangers

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="(7) Islanders
vs. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;— Winner plays No. 2 seed
(10) Panthers” data-reactid=”69″>(7) Islanders
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 2 seed
(10) Panthers

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="(8) Maple Leafs
vs. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;— Winner plays No. 1 seed
(9) Blue Jackets” data-reactid=”70″>(8) Maple Leafs
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 1 seed
(9) Blue Jackets

<h4 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="WESTERN CONFERENCE” data-reactid=”71″>WESTERN CONFERENCE

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="ROUND 1 BYES
Blues
Avalanche
Golden Knights
Stars” data-reactid=”72″>ROUND 1 BYES
Blues
Avalanche
Golden Knights
Stars

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="PLAY-IN ROUND
(5) Oilers
vs.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;— Winner plays No. 4 seed
(12) Blackhawks” data-reactid=”73″>PLAY-IN ROUND
(5) Oilers
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 4 seed
(12) Blackhawks

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="(6) Predators
vs.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;— Winner plays No. 3 seed
(11) Coyotes” data-reactid=”74″>(6) Predators
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 3 seed
(11) Coyotes

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="(7) Canucks
vs.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;— Winner plays No. 2 seed
(10) Wild” data-reactid=”75″>(7) Canucks
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 2 seed
(10) Wild

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="(8) Flames
vs.&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; — Winner plays No. 1 seed
(9) Jets” data-reactid=”76″>(8) Flames
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 1 seed
(9) Jets

MORE POWER RANKINGS:

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="James O’Brien&nbsp;is a writer for&nbsp;Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at&nbsp;phtblog@nbcsports.com&nbsp;or follow him on Twitter&nbsp;@cyclelikesedins.” data-reactid=”87″>James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="NHL Power Rankings: Which play-in playoff series would be the most exciting? originally appeared on NBCSports.com” data-reactid=”88″>NHL Power Rankings: Which play-in playoff series would be the most exciting? originally appeared on NBCSports.com

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