Crazy Playoff Format Has Bettors & Handicappers Frustrated

Doug Upstone

Thursday, March 23, 2017 6:07 PM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 23, 2017 6:07 PM UTC

It used to be so simple: the Stanley Cup playoffs from 1993-94 through 2013 had the Eastern and Western Conference teams ranked 1-8 based on regular-season record and re-seeded after each round. It's not so simple these days. 

Starting with the 2013-14 season, the NHL went to more divisional postseason method, similar to what the league had from 1983-1993 for the Stanley Cup playoffs -- this time with a little twist. The reason it was changed after 1993 was because if one particular division was loaded with outstanding teams, those teams' path was much harder to advance, while a club that was weaker could reach the conference finals having faced much easier competition.

Last year, St. Louis finished 3rd in total points and Chicago was tied for 5th overall, yet because they finished in 2nd and 3rd place, respectively, in the Central Division, they played in the first round of the playoffs. The Blues won in seven. 

This year the scene shifts to the Metropolitan Division, where presently Washington, Pittsburgh and Columbus have the most points in the NHL. Whichever two teams don't finish in first place will have to play each other in the first round, knocking out one the best teams this early. There is growing sentiment this is bad for hockey.

"It's stupid. It's the stupidest thing ever," Capitals forward Daniel Winnik said. "It doesn't work. It doesn't make sense."

Your reward for being among the best teams for 82 games to play a virtual equal is ridiculous. I asked fellow handicapper Sean Higgs, who is having another fantastic season, up +20 units, about this.

"Terrible, stupid," Higgs said. "This completely diminishes regular season accomplishments. Betting hockey in the Stanley Cup is completely different and harder than the regular season. Then you add in a potential matchup like the champs in the Penguins having to face the Blue Jackets in the opening round, crazy!"

So when you are looking over the NHL odds for the playoffs and cannot find hardly any edge, thank the brilliant people running the league.

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