Updated: November 2, 2013 6:17AM
Hawks fans might not be happy to lose the Red Wings (and Blue Jackets) to the Eastern Conference and get the Jets in return, but it certainly made the path back to the Stanley Cup Final a little easier. Expect the Blues — maybe the second-best team in the conference — to re-emerge as the Hawks’ biggest rival as the games against the Red Wings dwindle and the heat with the Canucks fades.
The biggest difference with realignment is the postseason setup: The top three teams from each division advance, plus two wild cards. The second- and third-place teams in each division will meet in the first round every season, with the other series based on most points vs. fewest points.
2. Goalie pads
In an effort to increase scoring and lessen goalie dominance, the NHL reduced the size of goalie pads this season. Corey Crawford lost about 2 inches off the top of his pads. Reactions have been mixed through the preseason, with some goalies saying the five-hole is more open and others saying there’s little to no difference.
3. Shallower nets
The nets are 4 inches shallower and narrower, though the opening is still 6 feet by 4 feet. That creates a little more space in Wayne Gretzky’s old office behind the goal. The idea is to allow for more playmaking and easier wrap-around attempts in another effort to goose goal-scoring.
4. Video review for high sticks (double minors or majors, stops embellishment)
Embellishment has become an issue in recent seasons, and the NHL now will use replay to make sure a player really was hit in the face with a high stick on all double-minor and major penalty calls.
5. Hybrid icing
The players voted Monday to implement hybrid icing, effective immediately. In an effort to increase player safety and avoid big collisions along the end boards, hybrid icing allows an official to blow a play dead when the defending player is leading or tied in the race for the puck once he hits the faceoff dots in his zone.