As things currently stand, the Lightning, with 122, and Bruins (103) top the NHL points standings
But because they are division opponents — and barring a first-round upset — they likely will meet in the second round of the playoffs.
One player has an idea that could change that.
Keith Yandle of the Florida Panthers would like to see the top team be allowed to pick its playoff opponents.
“The way the game is going, all the (advanced statistics), you could pick the team you match up best with," Yandle recently told SportsNet’s Elliotte Friedman. "Better travel, everything.”
Could he see it ever happening?
“Yeah, not really,” he said. “That’s tough.”
While the idea would reward top teams for their regular-season success, ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski writes, those teams might be reluctant to choose an opponent they aren’t already scheduled to face.
“Would a higher seed dare select someone they’re not already slated to face in the traditional bracket, and face the potential embarrassment of losing because of that choice?” Wyshynski writes. “Would they dare give a team bulletin-board material the size of a highway billboard by declaring, through that selection, that they are the weakest team in the field?”
The exception, Wyshynski writes, would be "a late-season injury to a star player or goaltender that renders a lower seed vulnerable.”
David Rogers of The Comeback calls Yandle’s idea “a creative solution to the current problem.”
“Who wouldn’t want to watch some form of selection show where teams choose their own destiny?” he writes. “Imagine a scenario where a top seed picks a rival, assuming it’ll be an easy win, only to get stomped would be pure entertainment. Those opening-round playoff matches would take on an extremely personal feel.”
Under the current format, teams are not reseeded after the opening round. So, if the Lightning gets past its first-round opponent, it would face either the Bruins or Maple Leafs (fifth overall, 97 points) in the second round. The idea is to drive divisional rivalries.
While there doesn’t seem to be consensus around how best to change it, players, teams and fans agree that the current system doesn’t work.
“They took something that wasn’t broken — the 1-through-8 format — and tried to fix it,” Wyshynski writes. “In the process, they managed to devalue the NHL’s elephantine 82-regular season for its best teams."