Do Long Layoffs in Stanley Cup Playoffs Hurt Team’s Chances?
“The layoff will be good for them. It’ll give them time to heal up and come back stronger for the next round.”
You hear that all the time from players, coaches, fans and pundits of a team with a suddenly open schedule, particularly those in the NHL playoffs, where the four-round, best-of-7 meat grinder takes its toll on even the toughest of men.
It makes logical sense. On paper. Everybody is playing with some kind of ache or pain in the NHL playoffs. Rest should be a good thing.
But history shows otherwise. That’s why, NHL betting fans considering the Boston Bruins to win the Stanley Cup should take a hard look at recent history - including one of their own series in these playoffs.
Rest for the Wary: NHL Teams Struggle With Too Much Time
The fact is, teams with long layoffs between rounds have more often than not been unsuccessful, even against opponents that are supposed to be too tired, worn out and banged up to compete.
However, the greatest coach of all time in NHL history, Scotty Bowman, says trying to manufacture a winning edge after a long layoff is no easy task. He has won more Stanley Cups than anyone (14), but he still remembers the effect a nine-day layoff had on his Buffalo Sabres team in the 1980 playoffs.
Buffalo, the No. 2 seed in the 16-team playoff, won the first two rounds, against Vancouver and Chicago, with ease. But they had a nine-day layoff between Round 2 and Round 3. They lost the first two games at home to the New York Islanders, losing the series in six games.
“We were rusty in the first two games at home and never recovered,” Bowman recalled to Gambling.com. “Those first few days after a series aren’t bad, because guys are still thinking about what they just went through. But after five or six days, players maybe start getting a bit bored and thinking about other things.”
There are plenty of other examples of why hockey bettors should be wary of teams coming off a long layoff:
- 2019 Columbus Blue Jackets | The No. 2 wild card in the East, in one of the biggest upsets in NHL playoff history, swept the Tampa Bay Lightning, which had tied the NHL record for most wins in a regular season, on April 16. The Bruins closed out Toronto in seven games on April 23. The Bruins had home-ice advantage in the series, but with just two days between series, Columbus became the trendy pick. Boston won Game 1 against a Blue Jackets club that seemed to have lost some of their timing and took the series in six games.
- 2019 New York Islanders |The Islanders were all the rage after sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round last month. Then came a 10-day layoff before playing their next opponent, Carolina, who had to go seven games to subdue defending Stanley Cup champion Washington on April 24. Carolina traveled to Brooklyn on the 25th and opened Game 1 of the second round there on April 26. The rested, ready Islanders were swept in four straight.
- 2018 Vegas Golden Knights | Vegas had an eight-day break between the Western finals and the Cup Finals against Washington - who had three fewer rest days - and lost in six games.
- 2011 Detroit Red Wings | Detroit had from April 20-29 between games of the first and second round after a sweep of Phoenix, while its next-opponent, San Jose, played until April 25 in its six-game win against Los Angeles. The Red Wings definitely looked rusty in losing the first two games and wound up losing the series.
- 2009 Boston Bruins | The No. 1 Eastern Conference-seed Bruins had from April 22-May 1 off between Rounds 1 and 2, while second-round opponent Carolina had to play until April 28 to beat New Jersey in seven. The Bruins lost the series in seven to No. 6 seed Carolina, dropping three of the first four games.
- 2009 Vancouver Canucks \ Vancouver had a nine-day layoff (April 21-30) before playing Chicago in the second round. The Blackhawks had to play until April 27 of their first-round series, but lower-seeded Chicago beat the Canucks in six games.
How Teams Cope With Long Layoff
The Bruins are trying to stave off the boredom. Off since May 16, after completing a sweep of Carolina in the Eastern Conference finals, the Bruins have consulted with their football brethren up the road, the New England Patriots, on how to stay sharp during a long layoff between a championship round.
The Bruins will play an intrasquad scrimmage Thursday night at TD Garden, a two-period game (25 minutes each), which will try to mimic in every way the conditions of a real game.
That means: morning skate for both Team White and Team Black, admission to anybody who wants to show up (provided you pay a $20 ticket fee) and referees.
If it works, great, a maybe the Bruins will break the curse of the long layoff, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind despite their favored status in the upcoming Finals against St. Louis (Boston is -155 at 888Sport).
Thing is, St. Louis will have had a pretty good layoff, too. They last played on Tuesday, giving them almost a week between games. Bowman, ever the hockey fan, wishes it was starting now.
“This is too long a delay until the Finals,” he chuckled.