If there’s a change to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it could help the Minnesota Wild save what has been a frustrating season for them.
The NHL has postponed its season thanks to the novel coronavirus. With recent guidelines set by the CDC and various states, it doesn’t appear we’re going to see any hockey games until mid-May at the earliest. The Minnesota Wild could be the beneficiaries if the NHL decides to switch to a 24-team playoff.
If the league stuck with its current 16-team format (eight teams per conference), the Wild would be on the outside looking in. The NHL would probably turn to point percentage if they have to shorten or even get rid of the rest of the regular season. Considering they don’t want to mess up the 2020-21 season, it’s possible the latter will happen.
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The Wild rank 10th in the Western Conference in point percentage, which would leave them just outside the postseason. However, a 24-team format would give them the chance to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where just about anything can happen. The Wild could easily make some noise, and maybe even play spoilers.
First of all, they’re relatively healthy. That’s a good thing, as they’d need to be to make a postseason run. Secondly, the Wild have been playing like a playoff team in 2020, as they have the fourth-best point percentage in the Western Conference since New Year’s Day.
Thirdly, with the 24-team format, the Wild would be the 10th seed in the Western Conference. Assuming they don’t have to play in some kind of play-in round (which remains a remote possibility), they’d draw the Colorado Avalanche in the first round.
The Wild have done surprisingly well against the Avalanche this season, as they’ve gone 2-2-0 against them. You could even argue they’ve outplayed them throughout the four games, as they have positive underlying stats in just about every category against them this season.
Fourthly, the Wild would be dangerous because they’d be a team with absolutely nothing to lose. They weren’t supposed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs anyway. And as they say, the most dangerous enemy is one who has nothing to lose. If the Wild go out and lose in the first round to the Avalanche, guess what? Everyone expected them to, anyway.
It would be the Avalanche who would be under pressure. They’re the ones who many expect to make a deep run in the postseason. The Wild could capitalize on that, much like the 2011-12 Washington Capitals took down the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins in the first round.
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While it’s debatable whether or not it would be a good thing for the Minnesota Wild to make a run in the playoffs, a 24-team playoff could give them the spark they need to surprise the league.