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Finalizing The Playoff Format
By Michael Walters
The National Hockey League(NHL) provided more details about the 24 team playoff format today.
It was originally determined that the Qualifying Round would be a best-of-five series. The Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final were to be a best-of-seven series. The NHL was debating whether to do five or seven games series for Round 1 and 2 of the playoffs. The league has elected to go with the best-of-seven format for the first two rounds, so all rounds will be the same format after the Qualifying Round.
In the Qualifying Round, the higher-seeded team will be the home team in Games 1, 2, and 5. The lower-seeded team will be the home team in Games 3 and 4.
During the first round, second round and conference finals, the higher-seeded team will be the home team in Games 1, 2, 5, and 7. The lower-seeded team will be the home team in Games 3, 4, and 6.
In the Stanley Cup Final, the team with the higher regular-season points percentage will be the home team in Games 1, 2, 5, and 7. The team with the lower regular-season points percentage will be the home team in Games 3, 4, and 6.
When the initial plan was approved, there was a discussion about whether to have the schedule be dictated by a bracket format as currently used or the older re-seeding format. The NHL has elected to go with the re-seeding format. So for example after Round 1, the highest seed with face the lowest seed. The next highest will face the next lowest and so on.
Round Robin Tiebreaker
As part of the approved plan, the top four teams in each conference will participate in a Round-Robin to determine how they will be seeded. If there is a tie among any of the teams, the NHL decided the tiebreaker will be based on regular-season points percentage.
Other Details Still To Be Determined
The Qualifying Round and Round-Robin will be held at two hub cities, which are yet to be determined. One will be for the 12 Eastern Conference teams and one for the 12 Western Conference teams.
The potential locations for the hub cities include the following cities: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Vancouver. Bettman says a decision on which two hub cities will be made in about 3-4 weeks.
Phase 2 will begin on June 8th, which allows players to work out in small groups at their team facilities. This is completely voluntary. The NHL put out a memo outlining the protocol for play to resume. A summary of the guidelines can be found here: NHL Provides Return To Play Protocol.
Phase 3 and 4 still need to be finalized. Phase 3 is when training camps will start. They are scheduled to start no earlier than July 1, which will be dictated by medical professionals. Phase 4 is when the playoffs will begin.
It is unknown when the playoffs will officially begin. Given the timeline, it seems the earliest would be sometime in July.
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June 4th, 2020