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NHL Returning With 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs

Written by:
Dan Shapiro
Published on:
May/26/2020

We now know the format of the NHL season once it resumes.  When it resumes we don't know as of yet.  Training camps are not set to begin July 1 at the earliest and will presumably last around two weeks.  This would mean a reboot of the 2020 NHL season no earlier than July 15.


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The tournament will begin with a 16-team, eight-series Qualifying Round and a Seeding Round Robin among the top four teams in each conference to determine seeds for the First Round.

The 12 qualifying teams from the Eastern and Western conferences were determined by points percentage as of that date. Seven teams did not qualify. 

"I want to make clear that the health and safety of our players, coaches, essential support staff and our communities are paramount," Commissioner Gary Bettman said in announcing the Return to Play Plan. "While nothing is without risk, ensuring health and safety has been central to all of our planning so far and will remain so. 

"Let me assure you that the reason we are doing this is because our fans have told us in overwhelming numbers that they want to complete the season if at all possible. And our players and our teams are clear that they want to play and bring the season to its rightful conclusion." 

The NHL season was put on pause March 12 due to the Covid-19 pandemic that shut down most sports globally.

The Qualifying Round and Seeding Round Robin will be held at two hub cities to be identified -- one for the 12 participating Eastern Conference teams and one for the 12 Western Conference teams - and begin at a date to be determined. Candidates for the hub cities include Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver. 

Testing ability and Covid-19 projections will determine where the games will be played. 

In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins (44-14-12, 100 points), Tampa Bay Lightning (43-21-6, 92 points), Washington Capitals (41-20-8, 90 points) and Philadelphia Flyers (41-21-7, 89 points) will each have a bye and play each other once to determine the order of the top four seeds for the first round of the playoffs. 

The Eastern Conference qualifying round will have four best-of-5 series: the Pittsburgh Penguins (40-23-6, 86 points) vs. the Montreal Canadiens (31-31-9, 71 points); the Carolina Hurricanes (38-25-5, 81 points) vs. the New York Rangers (37-28-5, 79 points); the New York Islanders (35-23-10, 80 points) vs. the Florida Panthers (35-26-8, 78 points); and the Toronto Maple Leafs (36-25-9, 81 points) vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15, 81 points). 

In the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues (42-19-10, 94 points), Colorado Avalanche (42-20-8, 92 points), Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8, 86 points) and Dallas Stars (37-24-8, 82 points) will each have a bye and play round-robin to determine their seeding order. 

The Western Conference best-of-5 qualifying round series are: the Edmonton Oilers (37-25-9, 83 points) vs. the Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8, 72 points); the Nashville Predators (35-26-8, 78 points) vs. the Arizona Coyotes (33-29-8, 74 points); the Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6, 78 points) vs. the Minnesota Wild (35-27-7, 77 points); and the Calgary Flames (36-27-7, 79 points) vs. the Winnipeg Jets (37-28-6, 80 points). 

Seven teams did not qualify for the playoffs and their season is over: the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings. Each of them will participate in the NHL Draft Lottery, which will hold its first phase June 26. 

Games in the qualifying round will be played with playoff overtime rules. The round-robin games will be played with regular-season overtime and shootout rules with ties in the standings broken by regular-season points percentage. 

After the round-robins and the qualifying round, the conference-based playoffs will be continue in the two hub cities. Each of the winners of the qualifying round will advance to face one of the round-robin teams in the first round. The Return to Play Committee is discussing whether those first-round series will be set through seeding or by bracket. 

Commissioner Bettman said the NHL believes the qualifying and first two rounds of the playoffs can be completed in a little more than a month.

The conference finals and Stanley Cup Final will each be a best-of-7 series.

The NHL plans to make as much as $500 million in TV revenue if the playoffs are completed, according to reports. 

- Dan Shapiro, Gambling911.com

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