NHL 24-Team Playoff Format Confirmed Following Official Regular-Season End
- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has officially announced the end of the regular season and that the league will continue with a 24-team Stanley Cup playoff
- The first-round matchups (as well as the division-leading teams receiving a bye into the first round) have been confirmed by the NHL
- Each conference will have its teams compete within a single hub city’s arena. Due to Canada’s 14-day self-isolation period for travelers, the sport’s birthplace may not participate in the playoffs by providing a hub city
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Earlier this week, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced two major news pieces: one was the official ending of the NHL’s 2019-20 regular season. The second was that the league would move forward, should all the cards fall into place, with a 24-team Stanley Cup playoff, where the teams of each conference would share a hub city’s arena and that the top teams from each division will get an automatic bye into the first round.
First, let’s take a look at the potential ‘hub cities’. The NHL listed ten potential cities that could help host these unprecedented playoffs.
The list is as follows:
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
- Minneapolis-St. Paul
However, as vocal as the league’s top brass have been about their desire to have (at least) one Canadian city participate in these playoffs as a host, the country of Canada itself may not want that. As the sports’ birthplace, Canada and hockey go hand-in-hand. However, at the time of this writing, the Canadian government has yet to open the border with the U.S. for non-essential travel and is still imposing its 14-day self-isolation period for those who are returning to the country following travel. Upon entering the country, this would cause the NHL playoffs to take a two-week pause if they insisted on playing in the country.
Secondly, let’s take a look at the teams getting a bye into the first-round. It was announced that the top teams in each division will receive an automatic bye into the first round of the playoffs. These teams will face each other once in order to determine the first-round seeding. It’s been so long since we looked at the standings, so let’s take a look at how the top team of each division ended fared this year:
- Central Division – St. Louis Blues, 94 points
- Pacific Division – Vegas Golden Knights, 86 points
- Metropolitan Division – Washington Capitals, 90 points
- Atlantic Division – Boston Bruins, 100 points
It has been reported that, as well as being able to carry 28 skaters and as many goalies as desired, each team will play two exhibition games prior to the start of the playoffs to try to shake off any rust.
While the top-four teams will play each other once to determine the seeding of the first round, the remaining eight teams in each conference will compete in an opening-round where four best-of-five series will take place. The four winners of those matchups will continue into the first round of the playoffs. Whereas the top-four teams competing for seeding will follow regular-season overtime rules (3-on-3 followed by shootout), the best-of-five matchups will carry continuous overtime.
Following the qualifying round, the league has yet to announce if the qualifying teams will be re-seeded for the first round or if the league will use a bracket system.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the matchups for the qualifying round in which seeds 5-12 will battle it out. Odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook.
NHL Qualifying Round Odds
|Edmonton Oilers – 167|
|Chicago Blackhawks + 135|
|Nashville Predators – 143|
|Arizona Coyotes + 116|
|Vancouver Canucks – 122|
|Minnesota Wild + 100|
|Calgary Flames – 118|
|Winnipeg Jets – 106|
|Pittsburgh Penguins – 195|
|Montreal Canadiens + 155|
|Carolina Hurricanes – 136|
|New York Rangers + 110|
|New York Islanders – 122|
|Florida Panthers + 100|
|Toronto Maple Leafs – 175|
|Columbus Blue Jackets + 140|
But, wait, WSN, we hear you asking; a 24-team playoffs still means there are seven NHL teams unaccounted for.
The seven teams mathematically eliminated from the 24-team list are as follows: Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and Anaheim Ducks. These seven teams, although not competing, have now been made eligible by the league to make trades with one another. On top of that, these seven teams will have greatly increased odds of receiving the number-one draft pick at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. The lottery is set to take place on June 26.
A date has yet to be determined on when these playoffs could begin, but when they do, Bettman told the media that he believes the league can get through not just the qualifying round, but the first- and second-rounds of the playoffs in just over one month.