Canadiens' Shea Weber excited about 24-team playoff: 'It gives us a chance to keep playing'Sporting News — email@example.com (Sporting News)
Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber welcomes an opportunity to play for a Stanley Cup. If the reported 24-team playoff format is approved, then the Canadiens would qualify as the No. 12 seed in the Eastern Conference.
"Obviously, I think we're excited. It's fair to all the teams that are in the playoffs, but at the same time that gives us a chance to win. It gives us a chance to keep playing," Weber said Friday in an interview with TSN 1040 Vancouver. "Obviously, the situation we were in, we weren't officially out but it would have been a tough road ahead to get in. I think now it gives us a little bit of hope."
Montreal would not be worthy of a playoff spot unless the field were greatly expanded. When the NHL paused the season on March 12, the Canadiens were 10 points out of a berth with 11 games remaining. The entire league being idle gives teams like them an opportunity to make a deep playoff run.
"I think you look at any year in the playoffs, we've had eight-seeds win before. This is a little bit more so than that, but at the same time, there's no momentum right now. The teams haven't been playing for a couple of months. It's like we're all starting fresh. It's the start of a year," Weber said from his home in Kelowna, B.C. "At this stage, if the team clicks at the right time and your goalie gets hot, which I think we got one of the best goalies in the world, next thing you know you're two, three rounds deep, you got the momentum, ball's rolling and you just never know."
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The Habs would be a fearful playoff team considering they would have a well-rested Carey Price, one of the game's best goalies. The 2015 Vezina and Hart Trophy winner has posted a goals-against-average below 2.50 in each of his last three playoff appearances.
Weber addressed the legitimacy of winning the Stanley Cup if the expanded playoff format is approved. While this would not be a typical season, he said teams would still be playing for a championship.
"It's not like a normal season where a team has to save some up with 82 games. Eighty-two games is a grind. It's hard," Weber said. "You see how hard it is to get into the playoffs. I think everyone is going to consider it, whether they give it an asterisk or just say, you know, this is what it was.
"It's still a Stanley Cup. Any chance you get to play for the Stanley Cup, whether given the situation we're in, there's really no other way . . . The Return to Play Committee and the NHL sees fit, so this is the situation we're given and whoever the best is right now is going to be the champion. I mean, you can't take that away from you whether it's a full-season played properly or this playoff format they got now."
The 34-year-old captain said he expecting there to be injuries when players ramp up training for the season resumption.
"I think everyone knows that it's a process, especially over the summer. You train how long and you know when to peak, when training camp is and when the season starts, so it's going to be difficult," Weber said. "I would expect injuries, especially (in) the condensed playoff format however it's going to work out.
"I think the games are going to be closer than they would be during the season. Teams are going to have to carry more players on their roster because there's definitely going to be injuries. It's going to be intense, playoff-style hockey without the ramp-up of a regular season. There's definitely going to be some stuff, hopefully nothing too major and things aren't long-term."
Weber acknowledged that there are differing opinions on games being played in "hub cities." Teammate Phillip Danault has expressed concern about potentially being away from his family for an extended period of time. The veteran blueliner said there's no perfect way of resuming the season.
"The league and the Return to Play Committee and the PA [National Hockey League Players' Association] are trying to do the best they can," Weber said. "Firstly, the safety is what they're most worried about, which they should be, and that's what all the guys are concerned about the most. Then, figuring out these 'hub cities,' how to get families involved. It's all part of the process.
"It's not going to be perfect because it's just not a perfect world. You just got to make the best of what situation is given and where we are right now."