The 2019-2020 NHL regular season is officially over. On Tuesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that league will transition into a 24-team, conferenced-based playoff format when play resumes. He also announced and explained the specific details that the NHL will operate under once the playoffs begin.
Here are the details about the playoff format that Bettman outlined:
- There is no set start date for the return of play
- Two hub cities -- one for Eastern Conference games and one for Western Conference games -- will be announced at a later date
- Teams will be limited to 50 personnel in their respective hub city. A small number of support staff will also be permitted in event arenas
- A comprehensive COVID-19 testing system will be put in place
- Phase 2 of the return to play plan is expected to begin in early June, but there's still no official date
- Phase 3 will include the start of training camp and is targeted for early July
- Phase 4, which has no target date yet, will include the return of play with clubs facing off in two hub cities for round robins, qualifying rounds, and the Stanley Cup Playoffs
The NHL is currently considering Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Vancouver as hub cities.
In this particular playoff format, the top four seeds (determined by points percentage) in the East would be the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers. The top four teams in the West would be the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars. Those eight teams will face off in a Round Robin in order to determine seeding for the First Round.
Here's what the play-in round in each conference will look like:
- No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens
- No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers
- No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers
- No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets
- No. 5 Oilers vs. No. 12 Blackhawks
- No. 6 Predators vs. No. 11 Coyotes
- No. 7 Canucks vs. No. 10 Wild
- No. 8 Flames vs. No. 9 Jets
Bettman also announced that the league has not yet decided if it will be a bracket format or determined by seeding following the opening round. The First Round will be in a best-of-five series format while the Second Round will transition to a best-of-seven series format. The Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals will also be in a traditional best-of-seven format.