2020 NHL Playoff Format
Photo Credit: NHL


Breaking: The 2020 NHL Playoff Format



“There are only bad options. It’s about finding the best one.”  Quote from the movie, “Argo.”


It’s been over seventy days since the NHL “paused” the season.  The NHL has consistently vowed to award a Stanley Cup Champion for the 2019 -2020 campaign, and we are now one giant step closer to learning how exactly that will be done; a 24 Team Playoff, a “Play-In” Series, and a “Round Robin Tournament.”


What we know:


Photo Credit: DKPittsburghsports

The NHLPA has approved a twenty-four team, conference-based playoff format.  The top four teams from each conference will receive a first-round bye with seeds five through twelve competing in a five-game series to advance to the more traditional Stanley Cup Playoff seven-game format. 

The top four seeds in each conference will most likely participate in a three-game, round-robin tournament to determine the seedings.  The Eastern Conference would feature a “Play-In” series with the following matchups: 


  • Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens
  • Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Rangers
  • New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers
  • Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Columbus Blue Jackets


The Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, and Philadelphia Flyers would await the winner of each “Play-In” series with the next round’s matchups determined by a “Round Robin” Tournament amongst the aforementioned clubs.

The Western Conference would feature a “Play-In” series with the following matchups:


  • Edmonton Oilers vs. Chicago Blackhawks
  • Nashville Predators vs. Arizona Coyotes
  • Vancouver Canucks vs. Minnesota Wild
  • Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets


The St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, and Dallas Stars would await the winner of each “Play-In” series with the next round’s matchups determined by a “Round Robin” Tournament amongst the aforementioned clubs.


What we don’t know:


VGK vs Buffalo Sabres
Courtesy: News Break

The NHL has eluded to using several “hub” cities to host entire rounds of each series.  As of now an official location announcement hasn’t been made, however, Las Vegas, Edmonton, Dallas, Vancouver, Toronto, and the Twin Cities have all been rumored to be under consideration to host a portion of the playoffs.

It is unknown if fans will be able to attend at this point.  With many cities starting to “open up,’ the hope would be to see some fans in the arenas enjoying the action.  It would be very possible to maintain general social distancing guidelines and allow the arenas to have approximately twenty-five percent occupancy.  Some fans in the seats are better than no fans at all.


Is the new playoff format “fair?”


Photo Credit: NHL.com

Arguments can be made for and against the new playoff format.  Should teams like the Canadiens, Blackhawks, and Coyotes deserve a shot at winning the Stanley Cup after being all but mathematically eliminated with over eighty-seven percent of the NHL regular season completed?  Is it fair to just take the top eight teams from each conference and call it a day without having the same number of games played for each franchise? 

Those and many more arguments can be made. I will concede that the regular season has lost a bit of meaning by allowing the top twenty-four teams a shot at Lord StanleyThis is the best bad idea we have, by far.”  Says Bryan Cranston in the movie, “Argo.”  That quote applies strongly to the new NHL format being “fair.”  No one knew what would be in store once sports came to a screeching halt in March.  Fast forward to the end of May, and the return of sports has started to happen.

While a twenty-four-team playoff is different, it should be celebrated in my opinion.  Many say that the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in sports.  The NHL playoffs are chaotic and full of surprises.  The 2019-2020 Stanley Cup winner will have, quite possibly, the hardest path to winning the Cup in the history of the NHL.


In Vegas Golden Knights News:


Photo Credit: Vegas Golden Knights


The team announced today that the final four home games will not be played. Per the team’s press release:



Thank you for your patience, loyalty and support during these unprecedented times. Earlier today, Commissioner Bettman held a press conference announcing the next steps in resuming the 2019-20 season & playoffs. As a result of the announcement, our final 4 regular season home games have been cancelled.
Ticket holders to one of our last four remaining home games will receive additional email communication by the end of the week regarding next steps, including information on account credits and/or refunds.  Our Membership Services team is here to assist and serve you, however, reply times maybe delayed due to high demand. With the league’s announcement of the 24-team playoff format, your Vegas Golden Knights will make their 3rd consecutive appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We look forward to providing additional information on TV/radio coverage along with opportunities to support the Golden Knights in a safe environment. Your health and safety is our highest priority. We look forward to seeing you soon!


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-Chris Gawlik – Franchise Sports Media


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