By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
With a move to Phase 2 (finally) coming next week, the National Hockey League further fleshed out their plan to return this summer with a few finalizations, the league announced Thursday.
Beginning with the playoff format itself, the NHL announced that all four rounds of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be settled with a best-of-seven format. While the league was comfortable moving ahead with a 24-team playoff format upon a potential return, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was non-committal when asked about a best-of-five or best-of-seven format for the first two rounds of postseason play during his media tour late last month.
In addition to the best-of-seven format, the league also confirmed that the seeding will be reset each round. (Example: The No. 1 seed will play the lowest remaining seed at the conclusion of the play-in round, No. 2 seed will play the second-lowest seed, and on and on.) This is a change from the NHL’s current (goofy) playoff format, which has seen teams fight out of their own division for the first two rounds for some reason that will never make sense to me.
The rounds will reseed through the first three rounds, with the best still standing playing the worst still standing, until the Stanley Cup Final, where the team with the better regular-season points percentage will be given “home-ice.” This benefits the Bruins no matter where they land at the end of the round-robin tournament.
The NHL also confirmed that the round-robin tiebreaker will be settled by regular-season point percentage. Example: Should the Bruins and Capitals both sit at an East-best 2-1-0 at the end of their three-game round-robin tournament against the Lightning and Flyers, the Bruins would be given the No. 1 seed because of their regular-season achievements. Barring a complete no-show from Boston or a team running the table, this tiebreaker puts the Bruins in a great position to maintain their hold as the conference’s top seed for the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
On pause since Mar. 12, the NHL will move to Phase 2 (voluntary, small-group workouts at team facilities) beginning next Monday, but will not move into Phase 3 until July 10 at the earliest.