Why the NHL needs to shorten the first round of playoffs

Don’t get me wrong, I love the NHL playoffs. No reasonable sports fan will argue that hockey has one of, if not the best, postseasons in American sports.

But playing seven games in the first round makes little sense.

In a 48-game, lockout-shortened season, maybe. Assuming full 82-game seasons in the foreseeable future, not so much.

In the NBA, where the first round is a snooze-inducing practice round for the Miamis and San Antonios of the world, the change would be a no-brainer.

Hockey actually excites in the first round, though. So why change it?

The 2013-14 NHL season began Oct. 1 and will likely end in late June. With the extra two-week break for the Sochi Olympics, that’s nine months from start to finish.

If the Coyotes ever made it to the finals, they’d be playing on ice and driving home in 110-degree weather.

In a less-demanding sport like baseball, the nine-month model works.

Hockey and baseball are polar opposites, though. In hockey, the physicality of the sport starts to take its toll early in the postseason.

Since there’s more than a month left for Stanley Cup Finals teams, the most logical move would be to shorten the first round by two games and reduce the chance of season-ending injuries.

No, it’s not the ideal situation for the companies that televise the playoffs, but is it worth the two extra games if players are going to get injured?

Change the first round to five games, and we won’t be finishing a winter sport in the summer. And maybe teams will get a chance to show off their full and healthy rosters in the most important round of all.

Reach the assistant sports editor at bmargiot@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @BenMargiott

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