The top 6 teams in each conference (eastern and western) earn the right to play post-season hockey. The top two teams in each conference earn a first round bye, so those four teams get to sit back and relax while the remaining 8 teams beat each other up. #3 seed vs. #6 seed, and #4 seed vs. #5 seed. The first round of playoffs, called the "qualifying round," are a best of three format (first team to win two games wins the series). The catch here is that the higher seeded team in each series will host ALL first round series games. Each round after the first round will be a best of 5 format (first team to win three games wins the series).
Was that confusing enough? Well, here's a quote from a recent USHL article in which they talk about this "new and improved" playoff format:
So there you have it. Clear as mud.
I have mentioned previously on this blog how important it is for the Stars to get to that 4th or 3rd spot in the western conference so they don't have to play every first round game on the road. It's tough to guess who the Stars will matchup against in the first round, but it appears it could be one of three teams: the Omaha Lancers, the Fargo Force, or the Sioux Falls Stampede. With most teams still having 7 or less regular season games remaining, we can expect a lot of movement in the western conference standings. Time will only tell where the Stars will land after the regular season is complete, and who they will play.
The Stars are on a bit of a hot streak, having won 5 of their last 6 games, so if this streak can continue, and we get a little help from the teams above us (ie losing), there is still hope the Stars can earn that #3 or #4 seed and host every first round game at the IceBox.
Click here to view the most recent USHL standings and see where the Stars are at in relation to the other teams in the western conference.
Click here to view the USHL Playoff Bracket on Pointstreak.
Okay, I've babbled long enough and now I want to hear from all of you. Thoughts on this new format? Is the USHL including too many teams? Are you a fan of the higher seed hosting every playoff game in their rink in the first round? If you're like me, and you aren't a fan of this new playoff system, how would you improve on it? I'd love to hear all of your opinions.