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Proposing a 2020 postseason format NBA, NHL

Oct 2, 2019; St. Louis, MO, USA; A view of the Stanley Cup prior to the St. Louis Blues home opener against the Washington Capitals at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

In times like this, it’s important to look ahead at better times, especially for sports fans. 

With such similar schedules, the NBA and NHL were in the home stretch of their respective seasons when the coronavirus pandemic forced both leagues to shut down indefinitely two weeks ago. 

The playoffs are right around the corner for both leagues, whose championships are decided in June — the NBA wrapping things up a bit later in the middle of the month. 

But with play postponed, both the NHL and NBA are faced with pushing back their schedules to unprecedented time or completely canceling the season altogether. 

Here at amNewYork Metro, we’re not in the business of toying with the idea of cancellation. After the ordeals we’ve been through as a nation, the least we can get is a proper conclusion to two of the biggest sporting leagues in North America. 

So we’ve drawn up an identical, potential postseason scenario that both leagues can take to provide an exciting conclusion to an unprecedented season. 

Where to we pick things up?

The playoffs would start almost immediately after getting the all-clear from the CDC and proper health officials. But league play would not start immediately in the playoffs. 

To properly seed all playoff matchups, each team in the league should play an identical number of games. 

In the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks have each played a league-high 67 games out of 82. The other 28 teams in the league would have to play the proper amount of games to reach that season-total number, too. 

In the NHL, eight teams have played a league-high 71 games out of 82 with others holding as many as three games in hand. With standings based on a points system, there are 13 teams in the playoff conversation (ranked ninth to 21st) that are separated by six points or fewer. The final few games to even out the standings would be vital in deciphering postseason matchups. 

How many teams make the playoffs?

Rather than eight teams from each conference making the playoffs in both the NBA and NHL, the shortened regular-season schedule should allow more teams to play abbreviated postseason series. 

That means 12 teams in each conference, 24 in total, would make the playoffs. 

The top four seeds in each conference would get a bye in the first round while seeds 5-12 would play a best-of-three series. 

Here is how those matchups in both leagues would look today:

NBA Playoff format: 1st Round

Eastern Conference

#1 Milwaukee Bucks (bye)

#2 Toronto Raptors (bye)

#3 Boston Celtics (bye)

#4 Miami Heat (bye)

#5 Indiana Pacers vs. #12 New York Knicks

#6 Philadelphia 76ers vs. #11 Chicago Bulls

#7 Brooklyn Nets vs. #10 Charlotte Hornets

#8 Orlando Magic vs. #9 Washington Wizards

Western Conference

#1 Los Angeles Lakers (bye)

#2 Los Angeles Clippers (bye)

#3 Denver Nuggets (bye)

#4 Utah Jazz (bye)

#5 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #12 San Antonio Spurs

#6 Houston Rockets vs. #11 Sacramento Kings

#7 Dallas Mavericks vs. #10 New Orleans Pelicans

#8 Memphis Grizzlies vs. #9 Portland Trail Blazers

NHL Playoff format: 1st Round

Eastern Conference

#1 Boston Bruins (bye)

#2 Tampa Bay Lightning (bye)

#3 Washington Capitals (bye)

#4 Philadelphia Flyers (bye)

#5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #12 Montreal Canadiens

#6 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. #11 Florida Panthers

#7 Carolina Hurricanes vs. #10 New York Rangers

#8 Columbus Blue Jackets vs. #9 New York Islanders

Western Conference

#1 St. Louis Blues (bye)

#2 Colorado Avalanche (bye)

#3 Vegas Golden Knights (bye)

#4 Edmonton Oilers (bye)

#5 Dallas Stars vs. #12 Chicago Blackhawks

#6 Winnipeg Jets vs. #11 Arizona Coyotes

#7 Calgary Flames vs. #10 Minnesota Wild

#8 Nashville Predators vs. #9 Vancouver Canucks

Then what?

After the best-of-three series, each conference is down to a traditional eight teams. 

To end the season earlier, though, the conference quarterfinal and semifinal rounds would be played in a best-of-five format.

It is only until the conference championship and finals for both leagues that it reverts to a best-of-seven format. 

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