For Flyers, playoff format could have pros and cons

James van Riemsdyk
      From a Flyers perspective, the round-robin portion of the proposed 24-team playoff tournament would appear to be somewhat of a two-edged sword.
      By finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference standings, the Flyers are already guaranteed entry into what will eventually amount to a traditional 16-team format.
      Here’s the good side of it: The Flyers don’t have to break training camp and go hellbent for leather like the eight teams being forced to qualify for the next round.
      Here’s what might not be the good side of it: The Flyers won’t have to play desperate hockey the way teams like the Penguins, Blue Jackets and Hurricanes will. Teams such as that might be a little more battle-tested moving forward than the Flyers, Boston, Tampa Bay and Washington.
      James van Riemsdyk addressed the format during an interview with NBCSN’s Mike Tirico on Friday.
      Van Riemsdyk, the Flyers NHL Players’ Association rep and a member of the Return-to-Play committee, indicated there really isn’t an ideal formula for how this all plays out, providing conditions with the pandemic continue to improve.
      “With these things, we’re trying to make the best of a situation that’s not ideal,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “It’s coming up with a format that we thought was fair enough for everyone.
      “I think there are still things we’re trying to discuss. You look at a team like Boston (which won the Presidents’ Trophy for most points) for example – they had such a great regular season to date. We want to make sure that things are placed properly. . .acknowledge the season they’ve had so far.’’
      Of course, playing all the games in two “hub’’ cities (one East, one West) with no fans will preclude most aspects of home-ice advantage for the higher-seeded teams but at least there are things like last line change, etc.
      “We’re still trying to throw things off the wall,’’ JVR said, “and see what makes the most sense.’’
      Phase 2, which includes allowing about six players at a time to skate (without coaches), should be kicking in around early July. Some players, such as Ivan Provorov and Claude Giroux, have been skating on their own at private rinks.
      It’s important that players get as much time on skates as possible to avoid injuries once play does resume.
      Van Riemsdyk was asked if he’s feels optimistic the NHL can return should all the proper health precautions be taken.
      “Through the whole process, I’ve tried to remain optimistic,’’ the Middletown, N.J. native said. “Just being on the Return-to-Play committee, you realize how everyone is prioritizing the safety aspect.
      “So nothing that we do will come at the expense of that. Knowing that’s our thought process makes me comfortable. I think it will become obvious one way or another if we’re able to play. I’m going to remain optimistic but I think it’s probably still too soon to say for sure one way or another.’’
      >Brind’Amour unhappy with playoff format
      Not all teams were happy with the tournament format.
      For instance, Carolina wound up in a first-round match-up with the Rangers and the Hurricanes were swept, 4-0, by the Blueshirts during the regular season.
      Coach Rod Brind’Amour sounds a little miffed that the Rangers, who were not among the top eight teams in the East (the Hurricanes were) when the season came to a halt, get a rare opportunity to pull off a “good fortune’’ upset.
      No big shocker then that Carolina was one of just two teams who voted against the 24-team plan.
      Speaking on the “ESPN on Ice’’ podcast on Wednesday, the former Flyer great made his feelings known.
      “I think the bigger issue felt like, and especially our guys, was like ‘What was the 68 games we played for?’ The bulk of the season was completed and they just threw that out,’’ Brind’Amour said. “I think that’s how (the Hurricanes) felt. And I think that’s justifiable in a way.’’
      In a best-of-five series, the Hurricanes’ season could be over in a hurry.
      Tampa Bay was the other team to vote against the format.
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Wayne Fish
About Wayne Fish 1089 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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