Part One; The 2020 Stanley Cup has been won by the….

Marc Elliott

MOUNT ROYAL… What if life as we knew it had never changed because of a global pandemic? What if there had been no work, school or basic disruptions of life due to a viral epidemic? What if the world of sports had continued forth as we would normally be enjoying it at this time of year?

The Men's NCAA D1 Frozen Four would be kicking off as you read this edition of the Worldwide Duluth Reader. Major League baseball would be underway for the regular season. Tonight, as I write, there would have been a Men’s Final Four Champion crowned. The Women's Champion would have been determined last night.The NBA would still be in full swing. And my beloved NHL would be on the doorstep to the Stanley Cup tourney.  

The regular season would have concluded this Saturday past, and fans the world over would be crafting their brackets and making plans to be at the games or hosting some watch parties at their homes.

As of today the NHL is still on hold as are all other sports, amateur or professional. And as much talk as there has been regarding the resumption of play and when that might occur, we appear to be nowhere near a return to normalcy yet. And there are no signs as to when we might be. So, I wait and hold out hope.

As far as sports go, sure I miss them, especially my usual heavy intake of hockey. But honestly, I’m more concerned with the human race right now and how we might be when we emerge from this event at some point. I’m more concerned with how our country will look when this deadly situation eases up upon us. I’m worried everyday about my grandkids and kids, family and friends. It is an unsettling matter…  

When it does return, and it will, I believe that I will probably appreciate hockey more than I ever have, and all sports for that matter. They have been a huge part of my life.

So, I thought the other day, what if the NHL season had never been disrupted? What would a Cup tournament look like for this year? I started examining as much data as I possibly could and came up with a final standings for the purpose of determining a playoff structure and went from there.

Getting to a final standings was arrived at using a simple points per game average played out to 82 games. When decimal points appeared, I used simple rounding rules, going up or down as needed. In the event of a tie, I used the normal league tiebreakers.  

I didn’t use a hard and fast formula in determining series winners. That was a combination of data, stats, head to head history, home/away performance, team W-L trends for the season, L10 records, goaltenders, coaches, abdominal gastric reckoning and more.

If I was trying to achieve one solid formulaic method for doing this, I’d probably still be experiencing mental contortions. Those do exist though. There aren’t many of them, and of the ones I’ve examined, few, if any of them ever call a tournament, or choose a winner correctly.

I may as well tell you now that the MN Wild didn’t get in. They got 91 points in the exercise and didn’t make it.

Let's get to it…

In the WEST, Central division; C1) COL, C2) STL, C3) DAL.

In the Pacific; P1) VGK, P2) EDM, P3) VAN. Wild Card WC1) NSH, WC2) WIN.

In the EAST, Atlantic division; A1) BOS, A2) TAM, A3) TOR.

In the Metro; M1) WAS, M2) PHI, M3) PIT.

Wild Card WC1) CAR WC2) NYI.

This results in the following brackets:  

A1 Bos vs. WC2 NYI.

A2 TBL vs. A3 TOR

M1 WAS vs. WC1 CAR

M2 PHI vs. M3 PIT

C1 COL vs. WC2 WIN

C2 STL vs. C3 DAL

P1 VGK vs. WC1 NSH

P2 EDM vs. P3 VAN  

In the Eastern series 1, based on head to head, goaltending and the NYI late season struggles, I’ll take BOS.

In series 2, TOR has the better head to head record this year, but when it becomes crunch time I’ll take TBL’s coaching, defense and Andrei Vasilevskiy’s play in goal over TOR.

In series 3, I like WAS’s overall game, goaltending and experience level to carry them over CAR, but neither team was playing well at the time of the schedule interruption, and CAR had both goalies on IR.

In the 4th series, I am anything but a PHI fan and PIT’s excellence during the Crosby-Malkin era has earned my respect. But in spite of a couple of trade maneuvers, PIT’s overall game hasn’t elevated. Flyers 1st season veteran coach Alain Vignault has the Flyers playing peak puck and they prevail.  

In the Western series 1, COL and WIN stood even in their season matchups, I’d have to give WIN an edge in goal and in team play, but even with their ‘X’ factor in Coach Paul Maurice, I don’t think they can stop COL.

In the 2nd series STL has owned DAL (4-0-0-1 this yr) since beating them in double OT in last year's tourney. I can’t come up with a reason for them not continuing forth with that.

In series 3 the VGK will face NSH. While the Pred’s have been one of the hotter 2nd half clubs, the VGK have been hotter. The VGK roll.

And in series 4, EDM has some of the best talent and special teams on earth, but give up almost as many goals as they score. Goalie Jacob Markstrom wins this series for VAN.  

In Round 2, in the East, the TBL hold an advantage over BOS in head to head play this year (3-1) and I feel if they are on their game goalie Vasilevskiy finishes the job. I can’t explain why, but PHI has owned WAS this season. (3-1) I have visions of the Flyers young goalie Hart falling at some point, but not here, plus give me Vignault over Rierdon behind the benches.

For the West, COL and STL were even in their season series. I’d like to think that the Blues pedigree brings them to another Conference Final, but if the Av’s machine is going full blast, I think it will be COL here.

The VGK and VAN had only played twice thus far this season, (1-1) but this has the makings of a great matchup. If VAN struggles to score and Marc Andre’ is “on” this series will be the end of the road for VAN this year.  

So, am I “off my rocker” at this point or are these some prognostications that could happen? I think there is some merit here. There absolutely IS parity in the NHL, and if last season's tourney proved anything it’s that fans had best be prepared for the unlikely. NEXT WEEK, the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final!