Everything You Need to Know About the 2020 NHL Playoffs

This summer, the NHL will experiment with a new Stanley Cup Playoffs format, and fans are in for a treat.

The 2019-20 season was suspended March 12, and in late May the league announced that the remainder of the regular season was canceled. There were 189 regular-season contests remaining on the schedule when the hiatus began, but the NHL opted to abandon that schedule and move forward with an expanded twenty-four-team postseason. That ended the campaigns of the 17-49-5 Detroit Red Wings, 25-34-12 Ottawa Senators, 29-36-5 San Jose Sharks, 29-35-6 Los Angeles Kings, 29-33-9 Anaheim Ducks, 28-29-12 New Jersey Devils and 30-31-8 Buffalo Sabres.

Below is what to expect from a refined quest for the Stanley Cup.


When Does the NHL Return?

The league is scheduled to begin game action on August 1.


How Do the Playoffs Work This Year?

The tournament will begin with sixteen teams playing in a round of Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which will be eight best-of-five series to determine who will advance to the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as well as each team’s seed. At the same time, the top four teams in each conference will have a bye and play each other in a round-robin to solidify their seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After qualifiers, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will return to a conference-based format. All series from that point — first round, second round, conference finals and Stanley Cup Final — will be best-of-seven.

Winners from the qualifying round will face off with the top four teams in their respective conferences.


Which Teams Are Participating?

Typically, sixteen teams qualify for the postseason. Since the 1979-80 season, the format has consisted of the top three teams in the league’s four divisions (Metropolitan, Atlantic, Central and Pacific) as well as four wild-card spots filled by the two next-best finishers in each of the two conferences. This year, the field will include the top twelve teams from each conference. 

The Eastern Conference teams are as follows: 44-14-12 Boston Bruins, 43-21-6 Tampa Bay Lightning, 41-20-8 Washington Capitals, 41-21-7 Philadelphia Flyers, 40-23-6 Pittsburgh Penguins, 38-25-5 Carolina Hurricanes, 35-23-10 New York Islanders, 36-25-9 Toronto Maple Leafs, 33-22-15 Columbus Blue Jackets, 35-26-8 Florida Panthers, 37-28-5 New York Rangers, 31-31-9 Montreal Canadiens

The Western Conference teams are as follows: 42-19-10 St. Louis Blues, 42-20-8 Colorado Avalanche, 39-24-8 Vegas Golden Knights, 37-24-8 Dallas Stars, 37-25-9 Edmonton Oilers, 35-26-8 Nashville Predators, 36-27-6 Vancouver Canucks, 36-27-7 Calgary Flames, 37-28-6 Winnipeg Jets, 35-27-7 Minnesota Wild, 33-29-8 Arizona Coyotes, 32-30-8 Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blues are the reigning champions — the franchise’s first title in its history — after defeating the Bruins in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.


Where Can I Watch the Games?

All NHL hockey playoff games will be televised on NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, USA and NHL Network. The Stanley Cup Finals will be televised on NBC and NBCSN.


Where Are the Games Happening?

Edmonton and Toronto were selected as the NHL’s two “hub” cities, where all participating personnel will be quarantined for the duration of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Toronto is the hub for Western Conference teams, Edmonton is the hub for Eastern Conference squads and Edmonton will host the Stanley Cup Final.



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