NHL Announces 24-Team Playoff Format

The NHL has officially announced the format for the 2019-20 postseason. There have been reports about the way the league would handle a playoff situation but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league’s official plans Tuesday in a televised press conference.

First and foremost, Bettman emphasized the health and safety of the players and their families. He’d also break down the plans for the NHL’s return in phases.

Phase 2, as mentioned by Bettman, would take place in early June and would include clubs return to their home facilities for voluntary, small group on-ice and off-ice training. This will be crucial for all 24 teams involved as they haven’t been able to do anything of the sort since the season was postponed.

Gary Bettman
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

After Phase 2 is completed, Phase 3 will take place. This next phase in the plan will start no earlier than July 1 and essentially be a formal training camp for teams.

What most people are looking forward to, however, is meaningful hockey games being broadcasted to their television sets. That’s where Phase 4 comes into play.

For Phase 4, the NHL will divide the two conferences into two Hub cities for conference-based Round Robin tournaments, qualifying rounds and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As there is still so much uncertainty surrounding the climate of things with COVID-19 still a major concern, the timing and sites for these games are to be determined.

Bettman mentioned that there is no shortage of cities in consideration for these Hub Cities with Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver all in the mix.

Each team is also limited to a 50-personnel cap for their teams which will include players, coaches and the like.

Format for 2020 NHL Playoffs

The 24 teams will resume play based on the top-12 teams in each conference based on points percentage at the pause as of March 12. The 2019-20 season is officially complete.

The top-four teams in each conference will play in an intra-conference round robin to determine the Round 1 seeding with regular-season overtime rules applying in these games.

These teams in the Eastern Conference include the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers.

In the Western Conference, these teams include the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars.

The remaining eight teams in each conference will play in a best-of-five qualifying-round series which would look like the following:

Eastern Conference:

5 Pittsburgh vs. 12 Montreal
6 Carolina vs. 11 Rangers
7 Islanders vs. 10 Florida
8 Toronto vs. 9 Columbus

Western Conference

5 Edmonton vs. 12 Chicago
6 Nashville vs. 11 Arizona
7 Vancouver vs. 10 Minnesota
8 Calgary vs. 9 Winnipeg

The winners of these match-ups would advance to the official first round of the playoffs.

What this format does is allow for teams who were leading in the regular season standings to get live-game action against some of the best talent in the NHL without the risk of being eliminated before the playoffs resume.

It also allows for teams who were on the bubble to compete and earn their way into a playoff spot given the fact that the regular season is now officially completed.

All-in-all, this format looks to be very well thought-out and isn’t as negative as many were expecting it to be. The NHL is setting the tone with this format and fans and teams now have a more clear idea of what to expect moving forward.

The 2020 NHL Draft Lottery format was also discussed and the details can be found here.