NHL Return to Play Plan

On Tuesday afternoon, league commissioner Gary Bettman announced the NHL’s Return to Play Plan for the playoffs, thus effectively ending the regular season. This announcement was delivered via a 16-minute video, which was complicated regarding certain topics, so we’re here to break it down.

Bettman stated that the playoffs will take place in two neutral “hub” cities, one for the Western Conference and one for the Eastern Conference. These hub locations are yet to be announced.

The NHL Playoffs will consist of 24 playoff teams, 12 from the Western Conference, and 12 from the Eastern Conference. The bottom-ranked 8 teams from each conference (16 teams total) will battle it out in an eight-series qualifying round. These games will be a best-of-5 game format.

The winner of each of those matchups will go on to play one of the top four ranked teams from each conference (at the cancellation of the season). Each series following the initial “play-in” round will be a traditional best-of-7 format.

The top four teams from each conference will be playing in their own round-robin style tournament to determine seeds 1 through 4. The top four teams from the Eastern Conference are the Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, and Flyers. The top four teams from the Western Conference are the Blues, Avalanche, Golden Knights, and the Stars.

Take a look at the images below (courtesy of NHLEurope) to see the playoff matchups.

Photo from “NHLEurope” on Instagram
Photo from “NHLEurope” on Instagram

There is no set timetable for when the playoffs will start, but it sounds like it still won’t be for another few months.

In the meantime, you can check out the rest of our content here!


This article was originally published on May 28, 2020, and has been updated with new information.