NHL Regular Season Is Over, Plan for 24-Team Postseason Unveiled


The NHL's 2019-20 regular season is over, but the league plans to move forward with a unique playoff format commissioner Gary Bettman announced Tuesday. Here's a look at everything you need to know about the return of the NHL:

What Teams Are Still Alive?

24 of the NHL's 30 teams will play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season, the top 12 seeded teams in each conference currently.

That means that in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes, Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens will make the playoffs. The Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings' seasons are over.

In the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks, Minnesota Wild, Arizona Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks will all play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks are all finished for the 2019-20 season.

Where Will Games Be Played?

Bettman said Tuesday that there will be two hub cities, one that will host the Eastern Conference playoffs and one that will host the Western Conference playoffs. Exactly which two cities those will be is still being determined. The cities under consideration are Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver.

When Will Things Ramp Up?

Based on how COVID-19 rates decrease of increase around the country, this could obviously change, but the NHL plans to enter phase three of their plan, which would be a training camp, "no earlier than July 1." Phase two - defined as "clubs returning to home facilities for voluntary, small-group and on-and-off ice training - is scheduled to begin in "early June." There's less of a defined timeline for phase four - when teams goes to their hub cities and actually begin the playoffs - at this time, but Bettman did say that he expects the postseason to run into "early fall."

What Format Will The Postseason Utilize?

With more teams than usual in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a different format will be used for the postseason.

The top four seeds in the Eastern Conference - the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers - and the top four seeds in the Western Conference - the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars - will essentially have a bye into the first round of the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the eight remaining teams in each conference will play in a best-of-five qualifying round. In the Eastern Conference, No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins will play No. 12 Montreal Canadiens; No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes will play No. 11 New York Rangers; No. 7 New York Islanders will play No. 10 Florida Panthers and No. 8 Toronto Maple Leafs will play No. 9 Columbus Blue Jackets. In the Western Conference, No. 5 Edmonton Oilers will play No. 12 Chicago Blackhawks; No. 6 Nashville Predators will play No. 11 Arizona Coyotes; No. 7 Vancouver Canucks will play No. 10 Minnesota Wild and No. 8 Calgary Flames will play No. 9 Winnipeg Jets.

What Medical Protocols Are in Place?

Beyond placing teams in hub cities, the NHL said Tuesday that "teams will be limited to 50 personnel in the hub city with only a small number of support staff permitted to enter the event areas." Exact plans for testing and how the league will respond if a player tests positive

This story will be updated with more details...

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