NHL Playoffs Explained – Continued

Top view of the Ottawa Senators playing the Anaheim Ducks.

On March 12, the National Hockey League decided to pause the 2019-20 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This happened just a day after the basketball league took the same step to end their season. Sports around the world quickly shut down their games, matches, and tournaments. Sports fans were left wondering what to do on weekends. 

It’s been months since the NHL season was in full swing. At one stage, there were concerns that the league may not restart at all. However, in the last week, there have been some serious developments with regards to resuming the league. If all goes according to plan, we can tentatively get excited about the NHL returning to our screens. 

So, what is in store for the league post-COVID-19 and what can we look forward to when the league resumes play?

2019-2020 NHL winners

First off, it’s important to understand, going forward, that the league isn’t going to be like the normal NHL season. It certainly isn’t a simple continuation from when the league was paused. You can consider the 2019-2020 regular season finished. 

With the completion of the regular season, the awards went ahead as per usual. The Boston Bruins are the Presidents’ Trophy winners; the Art Ross Trophy was awarded to a German-born player, Leon Draisaitl, for the first time ever, and Alex Ovechkin and David Pastrnak shared the goal-scoring title spoils with 48 each. 

Teams that failed to qualify for the new format

We’ll get into the new season format in detail below, but before digging any deeper, fans must know that the Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, and New Jersey Devils won’t play again this season.  They will be entered into the draft lottery on June 26.

What is the new format?

Calgary Flames celebrates win against the Dallas Stars.

The new format was created out of a collaboration of various stakeholders and the “return to play” committee. Over the last month, they have been consistently meeting to find a way forward. The approved format is going to temporarily replace the divisional wild-card format that has been in the league since the 2012-2013 season.

The usual format includes 16 teams. However, this has been expanded to 24 teams to include the teams that were in a “playoff bubble” when the sport was put on hold. 

The competitive format of the return to play initiative will look as follows:

There will be an East and West conference in which the teams will be seeded by points percentage. 

  • Round Robin: First Round seeding will be between the top 4 teams in their respective leagues.
  • Qualifying Round: The other 8 teams in each league will play a best-of-5 series in order to advance to the First Round.
  • First Round and Second Round: This will be a seeding vs. bracket format, with the length of the series still to be decided on (between five and seven).
  • Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final: The finals will then be played on a best-of-7 series.

Eastern Conference

The Eastern Conference will be made up of the following 12 teams:

TeamConference RankP%
Boston Bruins1.714
Tampa Bay Lightning2.657
Washington Capitals3.652
Philadelphia Flyers4.645
Pittsburgh Penguins5.623
Carolina Hurricanes6.596
New York Islanders7.588
Toronto Maple Leafs8.579
Columbus Blue Jackets9.579
Florida Panthers10.565
New York Rangers11.564
Montreal Canadiens12.500

Round Robin

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

Qualifying Round

#5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #12 Montreal Canadiens

#6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. #11 New York Rangers

#7 New York Islanders vs. #10 Florida Panthers

#8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. #9 Columbus Blue Jackets

Western Conference

The Western Conference will be made up as follows:

TeamConference RankP%
St Louis Blues1.662
Colorado Avalanche2.657
Vegas Golden Knights3.606
Dallas Stars4.594
Edmonton Oilers5.585
Nashville Predators6.565
Vancouver Canucks7.565
Calgary Flames8.564
Winnipeg Jets9.563
Minnesota Wild10.558
Arizona Coyotes11.529
Chicago Blackhawks 12.514

Round Robin

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

Qualifying Round

#5 Edmonton Oilers vs. #12 Chicago Blackhawks

#6 Nashville Predators vs. #11 Arizona Coyotes

#7 Vancouver Canucks vs. #10 Minnesota Wild

#8 Calgary Flames vs. #9 Winnipeg Jets

Where will the games be played?

Originally, a single city was suggested as host for the league resumption. However, it has been decided that two cities will now be the “hubs” for the two separate conferences. Nothing has been set in stone but the current cities being looked at are Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Vancouver. All of these locations will allow frequent monitoring and testing of players and staff.

Many fans and players are lobbying for Las Vegas. The city makes strategic sense due to its location. It is close to the T-Mobile Arena and it will be able to accommodate the number of players and staff. However, the final decision rests with the committee and will hopefully be announced within the next month.

When is it set to take place?

A four-phase system has been put in place for the NHL:

  • Phase 1: Canceling the regular season and announcing work on a new 24-team format, which has already taken place.
  • Phase 2: Announce detailed plans and host cities to the public in the month of June.
  • Phase 3: Teams can begin training camps and fitness for performance in July.
  • Phase 4: Begin playing the new NHL format. The date for this has yet to be decided on and announced.

Sports betting with BetMGM

 Ryan Strome defends against Derek MacKenzie as goaltender Cam Talbot defends the net.

The return of the NHL has been eagerly anticipated by sports fans around the world. As one of the best sportsbook casinos, BetMGM has adjusted its online sports betting options for the new format. 

Division Winners and Season Win Totals have been voided with the end of the regular season, however, the following futures markets remain unchanged:

  1. Stanley Cup Champions
  2. Conference Champions
  3. Season Award Winners

Playoff hockey is simply one of the most exciting forms of sport in the world. You can expect all the intensity and drama of the regular season amplified by fans’ eagerness to watch sport after a long break. 

This new format is innovative and the fairest way to return some resemblance of normality to the league during a global pandemic. Although you won’t be able to attend the game in person, you can still get all the excitement of this brand new format by betting at BetMGM online casino today.

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