Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
During the second intermission last night's game between the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings, former player and current Wings analyst Chris Osgood said he'd like to tweek the playoff format a bit by adding a "winner-take-all" one game play-in between the 8th and 9th seeds in the conference.
His reasoning is simple. "Not only does this add another team into the playoffs, but it's another exciting night for the fans," he said on Fox Sports' intermission report. "
Osgood also added that it give the No. 1 seed a little added bonus. "When you finish first in your conference," Osgood continued, "What do you really earn by it? The eighth-place team is a very good team and it's usually a tough scenario. Now the team that wins that game between the eight and nine [will] have to fly and play back-to-back games on opening night in the other team's rink. It gives [the No. 1 seed] a little bit of an advantage in that first game of the first round.
"For finishing first, it's a little bit of a perk."
Osgood has a point as the eighth seed has won six of 20 first-round matchups since the 2004 NHL lockout. From the 2006 playoffs to 2012, four teams (EDM, '06; DET, '09; MTL, '10; LAK, '12) not only made it past the first round, but they all made it to the conference finals. Three of those teams--EDM, DET and LAK--made it to the Stanley Cup Finals while one of them, the 2012 Los Angeles Kings, won the Stanley Cup.
I like the idea. As a hockey fan I can't get enough of the game and having a one-game play-in adds another layer of intensity to the best playoffs in the four major North American sports. And if Commisioner Gary Bettman can isolate the games in primetime, the exposure would be well worth it.
That said, I like the addendum co-analyst Darren Eliot included. Eliot said nothing should be done until the conferences are balanced as the West has two less teams at this point. "It's intriguing," said Eliot of Osgood's idea. "but too me it's like, more of a good thing isn't always better."
Take heart in the fact that it won't be anywhere near what it was like in the 80's when there were 16 playoff teams in a 21-team league.
Some notes on the game last night:
--Gotta love the Sabres resiliency last night as they twice overcame two-goal deficits to eventually take the lead in the third period. Granted they couldn't hold it and would fall in the shootout, but they scored four goals for the third consecutive game and almost overcame shaky goaltending against a Wings team that's dominated them over the past few years.
--That's the Evander Kane I've been waiting for this regular season. He played with moxie, with speed and with an edge. And he also scored two goals. That's what this team needs moving forward.
--There will always be a comparison between American's Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin. Both are friends off the ice and are highly skilled on the ice, but know this, Sabres fans. When looking at stats this early in their careers while comparing them, Detroit's Larkin has been on captain Henrik Zetterberg's wing most of the season. Zetterberg has four goals and 16 assists on the season.
--Good to see Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons get a goal last night. Nice tip too. He's been in a third-line role for head coach Dan Bylsma most of the season and he got some love for it. Last night he was on Eichel's wing. Which is a good thing. Eichel needs a complimentary player who can do the things he doesn't, like when Girgensons worked the half-wall and fed Zach Bogosian for the go-ahead goal. Stay tuned.
--Rasmus Ristolainen had three assists last night and would've had four save for forward Jamie McGinn getting a skate on Kane's second goal. Ristolainen sent the puck through to the back-boards where it popped out in front, tipped off of McGinn's skate, was nudged ever so slightly by Brian Gionta with his stick before Kane jumped on it, eventually potting his own rebound into a gaping net. Ristolainen was originally credited with the secondary assist before it was changed.
--Linus Ullmark allowed four goals, a couple he'd probably like to have back (both by Abdlekader) but ended up stopping 42 of 46 Red Wing shots. He faced 20 in the second period alone, a season-high for the Wings in a period. Ullmark's save percentage was .913 even with the four goals. Ullmark did make some real good saves including one with is mask on a Pavel Datsyuk back hand from within tight late in the game, but stopping one of those weak ones would've made a big difference.
--Sabres d-man Josh Gorges doesn't drop the gloves all that often as of late. Hockeyfights.com has his last fight on February 9, 2013, but last night Detroit's Justin Albdekader sent him awkwardly into the boards last night and Gorges didn't take too kindly too it. They dropped the gloves. For Detroit, it was only the second fighting major this season, second lowest in the league. The Toronto Maple Leafs have yet to register a fighting major and are coached by former Wings bench-boss Mike Babcock. Abdelkader, by the way, recorded the Gordie Howe Hattrick with that fight.
--Kane and Zetterberg were in the corner last night just short of dropping the gloves after Kane did some...umm...agitating. Two Red Wings players came barreling into the fray followed quickly by the Sabres Ryan O'Reilly. Sam Reinhart was tied up by a Wings player while Sabres d-men Cody Franson and Jake McCabe were no where to be seen. It's understandable that Franson would shy away from confrontation, but I was surprised McCabe wasn't in there.
----Eichel was rather quiet last night, mainly because the Red Wings savvy stickwork and high hockey IQ. They were on Eichel all night pestering the crap out of him. Buffalo plays Detroit again on December 14th, so we'll see ho much he learned. His shot at redemption in the shootout went just wide. He's now 0-2 in the shootout on the season, but methinks he'll remain in the shootout equation for Buffalo.
--The Sabres are off until Friday when they host the Arizona Coyotes. They'll then travel to Edmonton to take on the Oiler on Sunday then head to Vancouver for a Monday night tilt with the Canucks. Their three-game western swing ends next Thursday in Calgary against the Flames.