NHL Power Rankings: Stanley Cup Final matchups that could only happen this season
In this week's NHL Power Rankings, we're going to look at some of the best potential Stanley Cup Final matchups for this season that wouldn't be possible in a normal season.
The 2020-21 season has a new format for divisional alignment and playoff that allows teams that normally play in the same conference or even division to potentially meet in the Stanley Cup finals. That is exciting.
Just as a brief refresher on this year's playoff format: The four best teams in each division qualify for the playoffs, in which they play in the first two rounds in a bracket of 1 against 4 and 2 against 3. The four teams that win these brackets advance to the semi-finals, where they are re-seeded 1 through 4 based on their regular season scores. At this point, we get some potentially unique Stanley Cup Final matchups.
To be considered for this week's power rankings, it must be a matchup that can only take place this season and would otherwise not take place in the league's normal alignment and playoff format.
These can only be matchups involving teams that normally play in the same conference or division.
What possible matchups do we want?
To this week's power rankings!
The best possible matchups
1. New York Islanders versus Toronto Maple Leafs. John Tavares against his former team. The Toronto media compares Kyle Dubas to Lou Lamoriello and laments the Maple Leafs' decision to hand over the franchise to the former. Regardless of the winner, this series would produce hot nuclear-quality takes. We can only be so lucky.
2. Boston Bruins versus Toronto Maple Leafs. This is the best of all. Longtime rivals dating back to the original six days, individual star power on both sides and currently two very good teams with a history of playoff matchups that have been great. The Bruins have absolutely tormented the Maple Leafs in the playoffs of the past decade, winning three different Game 7s in 2013, 2018 and 2019. Imagine you are a Maple Leafs fan. Your team will eventually end up in a situation where it can break through in the playoffs. It has reached the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since the Original Six era. Then the final boss is revealed and it's your longtime nemesis.
[See Also: NHL Officially Introduces Game for 56-Game 2020-21 Season]
3. Boston Bruins versus Montreal Canadiens. What remains to be said here is historically one of the fiercest rivalries in sport. In a normal year, I wouldn't consider this team a competitor in Montreal, but the All-Canadian Division and playoff format open the door. It should also be a much improved team. Maybe?
4. Edmonton Oilers versus Colorado Avalanche. I just think this would be an incredibly entertaining series, mostly because of the insane amount of star power. The main attraction would be the two most dominant offensive forces in the league - Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon - competing against each other.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning versus Boston Bruins. The intrigue is simple, and it's the fact that these have been two of the best teams in the league for the past three years. It would only be appropriate for them to meet in the Stanley Cup Final.
6. Colorado Avalanche versus Vancouver Canucks. Very similar to the Oilers-Avalanche matchup. I just think that would be fun. Two teams with great young stars. MacKinnon and Elias Pettersson forward. Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes on defense. Lots to like here. You also have former Capitals teammates Philipp Grubauer and Braden Holtby as a likely goalkeeper matchup.
The rivalry and bitterness matchups
7. Calgary Flames versus Los Angeles Kings. Let's face it, this would really just be a rivalry between Matthew Tkachuk and Drew Doughty. But what a rivalry this is. Given the Kings are early on in rebuilding, this almost certainly won't happen. We can still dream.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins versus Columbus Blue Jackets. The only thing John Tortorella loathes more than a post-game press conference is pretty much anything to do with the penguins. They've had some legendary run-ins over the years, and that was only ever for regular season and first-round matchups. Imagine the intensity of all the marbles.
9. Dallas Stars versus Minnesota Wild. Old Minnesota versus New Minnesota. This would mean more to the fan base (well, Minnesota's fan base) than it does to the players.
10. Arizona Coyotes versus Winnipeg Jets. Winnipeg Whiteout versus Arizona Whiteout.
11. Buffalo Sabers versus Toronto Maple Leafs. Old school rivalry and two great individual talents at the helm in Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel.
[See also: ProHockeyTalks 2020 NHL Free Agency Tracker]
12. Chicago Blackhawks versus St. Louis Blues. Strong rivalry with some recent postseason history. Chicago is unlikely to start rebuilding and have large defensive and goal gaps, but it would be fun anyway.
The matchups "Hey, I remember you"
13. Colorado Avalanche versus Nashville Predators. Matt Duchene wanted to leave Colorado, and the Avalanche took advantage of this deal (which sent Duchene to Ottawa) to rebuild their defenses as part of a three-team deal with Nashville. Then Duchene ended up as a free agent in Nashville.
14. New York Rangers versus Columbus Blue Jackets. Tortorella against his former team. Artemi Panarin against the team he left in the free agency.
15. Carolina Hurricanes versus Boston Bruins. The Dougie Hamilton championship series. Also a really good hockey matchup considering the two squads.
16. Pittsburgh Penguins versus Carolina Hurricanes. Jim Rutherford has led both teams to championships (the Hurricanes for one and the Penguins for two) and the Hurricanes Center Jordan Staal won a championship with Pittsburgh. Lots of familiarity here.
17. New Jersey Devils versus Montreal Canadiens. Canadians once thought P.K. Subban could help them win a championship. In that match he was able to prevent them from winning it.
These just seem to be fun
18. Washington Capitals versus Toronto Maple Leafs. The top two goalscorers in the league (Alex Ovechkin and Matthews) compete against each other.
19. Philadelphia Flyers versus Montreal Canadiens. I'll admit I wanted to have a Flyers matchup against someone here, but all of their greatest beefs are in their current division. So I thought it would be fun to see them face off against Shea Weber all those years after the bid sheet failed. Plus, Carter Hart and Carey Price would make a great goalkeeping matchup.
20. St. Louis Blues vs. Dallas Stars. Two of the top Western Conference teams and the last two Western Conference representatives in the Stanley Cup Finals.
More NHL Power Rankings
NHL Power Rankings: Top Players in the Second Year of This Season NHL Power Rankings: Best Annual Rents in NHL History NHL Power Rankings: NHL General Manager Rankings
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk for NBC Sports. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.
NHL Power Rankings: Stanley Cup Final Matchups, which could only take place this season, originally appeared on NBCSports.com
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