Report: NHL’s 24-team playoffs gaining clarity, potential matchups listed

REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

The NHL’s return to finish the 2019-20 season is continuing to clarify its parameters. 

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski reported that the NHL and players union are discussing a 24-team, conference-based postseason format that would be played at two central-hub cities — one conference per site.

The host cities have not been revealed as of yet.

Jumping straight into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it would return to its bracketed format rather than the divisional wild-card format the league has used since 2013. 

The top four seeds in each conference based on points percentage at the time of the NHL’s postponement due to the coronavirus outbreak would receive byes through a best-of-five-game play-in series that would pit the teams ranked 5 through 12 in each conference.

While the lower seeds duke it out, the top four teams in each division would partake in three-game tournaments that would act like a preseason to ensure there is no disadvantage between them and the play-in winners that returned to competitive play earlier.

Those play-in series would determine the traditional eight-team bracket per conference, allowing the NHL to then return to its traditional best-of-seven format beginning with the conference quarterfinals. 

Under this format, this is how the first round of the playoffs would look:

Eastern Conference

Top Seeds to receive bye

  1. Boston Bruins
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning
  3. Washington Capitals
  4. Philadelphia Flyers

Play-in Series

No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 12 Montreal Canadiens

No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. No. 11 New York Rangers

No. 7 New York Islanders vs. No. 10 Florida Panthers

No. 8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Columbus Blue Jackets


Western Conference

Top Seeds to receive bye

  1. St. Louis Blues
  2. Colorado Avalanche
  3. Vegas Golden Knights
  4. Dallas Stars

Play-in series

No. 5 Edmonton Oilers vs. No. 12 Chicago Blackhawks

No. 6 Nashville Predators vs. No. 11 Arizona Coyotes

No. 7 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 10 Minnesota Wild

No. 8 Calgary Flames vs. No. 9 Winnipeg Jets


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