A little update on a story I first reported on in early March regarding what happens with the Canadian division winner once we’re down to the NHL semifinals.
As I wrote on March 5, the idea of the Toronto Maple Leafs, for example, playing past the second round of the playoffs in nearby Buffalo remains on the table. And given where the COVID-19 numbers are these days in my country, it’s looking less like fantasy and at least like a realistic possibility that this happens.
The new wrinkle now is that the NHL will want to put the Canadian division playoff winner in a U.S. NHL facility closer to its semifinal opponent.
So sure, if the Leafs happen to come out of the Canadian division and match up with the New York Islanders, then yes Buffalo would still make sense for the Leafs in that case. But if it’s Toronto-Vegas in the final four, then maybe Arizona or L.A. would make more sense for the Leafs? Or if it’s Colorado-Toronto, would Chicago make sense for the Leafs as a home base?
Again, whether it’s Edmonton, Winnipeg or Montreal (or Calgary!) coming out of the Canadian division, the league will have a plan in place.
Here’s another wrinkle to consider: I’m told whichever U.S. adoptive city the league would potentially choose for the Canadian division winner, it’s most likely that’s their home for the remainder of the playoffs. They wouldn’t move the Canadian team around to another locale if it reached the Stanley Cup Final no matter what the championship matchup is.