Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the NHL and NHLPA are working on playoffs for 24 teams, an idea that has gained ground in recent days according to several reports.
The format, says Friedman, would include eight of the top five play-in series, involving teams ranked from # 5 to # 12 in each conference. The top four teams in each conference would not have to play in the playoffs, but would participate in their own three-game tournament to prepare for the game, which will affect playoff ranking according to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.
The NHL return-to-play format currently under discussion allows jockeying between the four best teams in each conference (BOS / TB / WASH / PHI… STL / COL / VGK / DAL). This would see them play against each other – three conference games – the results helping to determine the seed.
– Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 21, 2020
The last seven teams in the overall NHL standings will not return to action this season.
The idea has yet to be approved by players and teams, although it appears to have many benefits.
The playoffs would take place in a conference with teams ranked by percentage points, which means the Vancouver Canucks will finish seventh in the Western Conference. This would be a best-of-five series against the No. 10 seeded Minnesota Wild.
The Canucks-Wild series winner would play the No. 2 seed (currently the Colorado Avalanche) in a seven-game streak, making it the first round of the traditional 16-team Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Where the games will be held remains a mystery, as the main cities have yet to be chosen, although they will almost certainly be fanless. It has been recently suggested that the NHL will choose two hub cities (one in each conference), instead of four, which was originally reported.
After the eight playoffs, the NHL would end up with a 16-team Stanley Cup Playoff Tournament, with a seven-game streak to decide each round as usual.
Whether the NHL considers the play-offs as “playoffs” will matter for several reasons, as this could have ramifications for the lottery project as well as the completion of deals like that of JT Miller.
The Canucks and the Wild faced each other three times in 2019-20, the Canucks winning 4-1 in Minnesota on January 12 and the Wild winning 4-2 at home on February 6 and 4-3 in a Rogers-style shootout Arena on February 19. Vancouver and Minnesota faced each other once in the playoffs before, the Wild upset the Canucks in Game 7 of the second round in 2003.
Here is what the proposed format would look like:
- St Louis Blues
- Colorado Avalanche
- Vegas Golden Knights
- Dallas Stars
- # 5 Edmonton Oilers vs # 12 Chicago Blackhawks (winner plays # 4)
- # 6 Nashville Predators vs # 11 Arizona Coyotes (the winner plays # 3)
- # 7 Vancouver Canucks vs # 10 Minnesota Wild (winner plays # 2)
- # 8 Calgary Flames vs # 9 Winnipeg Jets (winner plays # 1)
- Boston Bruins
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Washington Capitals
- Philadelphia Flyers
- # 5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs # 12 Montreal Canadiens (winner plays # 4)
- Carolina Hurricanes # 6 vs New York Rangers # 11 (the winner plays # 3)
- # 7 New York Islanders vs # 10 Florida Panthers (winner plays # 2)
- # 8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs # 9 Columbus Blue Jackets (winner plays # 1)
The last seven teams:
- Buffalo Sabers
- New Jersey Devils
- Anaheim ducks
- Los Angeles Kings
- San Jose sharks
- Ottawa Senators
- Detroit Red Wings