Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 03/14/14 at 01:12 PM ET
from the CP at The Hockey News,
Anytime his St. Louis Blues face the Chicago Blackhawks or Colorado Avalanche, general manager Doug Armstrong doesn't consider it just a regular-season game in the Central Division.
"The way the season is, this season you're going, 'All right, let's play good tonight because it's not going to take very long before we see these guys,' " he said.
That's because the NHL's new division-centric playoff format is designed to build rivalries. If long-term hatred is the plus side, one negative—at least in the Western Conference—is that first-round matchups are guaranteed to eliminate at least one, if not two, legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.
In each conference, the second- and third-place teams in each division have to play right away. And while that means two of the Blues, Blackhawks, Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings won't make it, the point is that would've happened under the old format, too.
The problem, which originally looked like it would stem from 14 teams in the Eastern Conference and 16 in the West, is instead that six of the league's top eight teams reside in the Western Conference.
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