Hartnett: Here's What The NHL Playoffs Could Look Like After Coronavirus Stoppage

There Are A Few Ideas Being Floated Around The League

Sean Hartnett
March 19, 2020 - 11:11 am
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With the NHL on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unclear when and how the 2019-20 season will resume. Several scenarios have been floated, including one intriguing idea of having a 24-team playoff beginning in August.

In this scenario, teams would play an abbreviated regular season that would end in approximately late July. This would allow teams sufficient time to warm up before the playoffs begin, and it would mean an even number of games for teams to make their case for postseason seeding.

If the regular season ended today, the 12 teams from each conference with the most points would qualify for the postseason. Under this scenario, the Stanley Cup Finals would finish in late September.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Boston Bruins (1st place Atlantic Division)
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (2nd place Atlantic Division)
3. Washington Capitals (1st place Metropolitan Division)
4. Philadelphia Flyers (2nd place Metropolitan Division)
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (3rd place Metropolitan Division)
6. Carolina Hurricanes
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (3rd place Atlantic Division)
8. Columbus Blue Jackets
9. New York Islanders
10. New York Rangers
11. Florida Panthers
12. Montreal Canadiens

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. St. Louis Blues (1st place Central Division)
2. Colorado Avalanche (2nd place Central Division)
3. Las Vegas Golden Knights (1st place Pacific Division)
4. Edmonton Oilers (2nd place Pacific Division)
5. Dallas Stars (3rd place Central Division)
6. Winnipeg Jets
7. Calgary Flames (3rd place Pacific Division)
8. Nashville Predators
9. Vancouver Canucks
10. Minnesota Wild
11. Arizona Coyotes
12. Chicago Blackhawks

New York Rangers right wing Pavel Buchnevich (89) with Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (53) in front of goaltender Carter Hart (79) during the first period on Dec 23, 2019 at Wells Fargo Center.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

FOUR HIGHEST TEAMS IN EACH CONFERENCE RECEIVE FIRST-ROUND BYE

Eastern Conference: Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Flyers

Western Conference: Blues, Avalanche, Golden Knights, Oilers

REMAINING 8 PLAYOFF-QUALIFIED TEAMS IN EACH CONFERENCE TO PLAY BEST-OF-3 PRELIMINARY ROUND

Here’s where the tricky part starts. Would the NHL value division finishes or would seeding be determined by conference rankings? That detail would be a topic of contention among clubs. These would be the matchups if the preliminary round seeds were determined by conference standing:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

5) Penguins vs. 12) Canadiens

6) Hurricanes vs. 11) Panthers

7) Maple Leafs vs. 10) Rangers

8) Blue Jackets vs. 9) Islanders

WESTERN CONFERENCE

5) Stars vs. 12) Blackhawks

6) Jets vs. 11) Coyotes

7) Flames vs. 10) Wild

8) Predators vs. 9) Canucks

There has also been talk of a 22-team playoff and the possibility of cross-conference seeding. Given the potential crunch of games within a short time frame, there isn’t a clear and obvious solution. The players and the league will have plenty of time to draw up a fair playoff system before the puck drops again.

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