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New playoff format would have the Leafs in a play-in series battling for the right to face the Boston Bruins, because of course

Death, taxes, and the Toronto Maple Leafs facing the Boston Bruins in the playoffs. This time, though, it’s a new spin on the same old situation.

According to Elliotte Friedman, the NHL is working on a conference-based playoff setup that would have 12 teams in two different hub cities rather than the four-division format that had been discussed previously. In this format, seeding would be based on points percentage at the time of the pause and the top four teams in each conference would get a bye while the next eight teams would take part in play-in series to move on.

Here’s how it would shake out…

• 5. Pittsburgh vs. 12. Montreal (winner plays four seed, Philadelphia Flyers)
• 6. Carolina vs. 11. Rangers (winner plays three seed, Washington Capitals)
• 7. Islanders vs. 10. Florida (winner plays two seed, Tampa Bay Lightning)
• 8. Toronto vs. 9. Columbus (winner plays one seed, Boston Bruins)

So, in this instance, the Leafs would take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round. If they managed to get past Columbus, they would then face the Boston Bruins, because of course.

Taking down the Blue Jackets wouldn’t be an easy task in itself. Despite losing Matt Duchene, Sergei Bobrovsky, Artemi Panarin, and Ryan Dzingel in free agency last summer, Columbus still managed to be surprisingly good this season. A lot of that had to do with good team defence and insanely good play from goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, who seemingly popped up out of the blue this season.

The Blue Jackets would also get the benefit of returning to full health during the quarantine. Seth Jones, the team’s top defenceman, suffered a fractured ankle back in February and was expected to be a potentially season-ending injury. Since the season got shoved back a few months, Jones will be good to return to action if this plan goes forward.

And then, if the Leafs manage to get by Columbus, they would be facing a familiar foe in the Boston Bruins. It does seem sort of unfair that the No. 8 seeded Leafs would be facing the No. 1 seeded Bruins while the No. 12 seeded Habs, if they won their series, would face the No. 4 seeded Flyers, but nobody ever said life is fair.