The NHL has settled on an important component of its return-to-play plan regarding the Stanley Cup playoffs.
If and when the league is able to resume its paused season, the playoffs will not only be best-of-seven rounds throughout the playoffs proper, but the playoff field will be reseeded in each conference before the next round begins, according to multiple reports Thursday.
Additionally, the play-in rounds among bubble teams looking to get into the playoffs will be best-of-five series.
NHL/NHLPA have put finishing touches on format agreement announced last week. Among the open issues resolved:
_ both sides have agreed that it will be best-of-7 in all four playoff rounds (best of 5 in play-in round)
– Teams will be re-seeded after each round (not bracketed)
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 4, 2020
A quick refresher: The NHL season will reconvene with 24 teams, 12 in each conference. The top four teams in each conference will play a round-robin format to determine the top four seeds, while the remaining eight teams will pair up for the aforementioned best-of-five series. The winners of those series advance to the playoffs, and the losers’ seasons are done.
So, how might this affect a team like the Boston Bruins? Simply put, it just makes it much harder to predict who the B’s would face should they advance beyond the first round. The bracket is not locked in like it would be in years past. Basically, the NHL has returned to its old playoff format for this season.
Let’s say all the top seeds in the Eastern Conference win out, and the top seeds remained the same after round-robin play. This would be the Eastern Conference playoff field:
2. Tampa Bay
7. New York Islanders
Based off seeding, these would be the first-round (best-of-seven) matchups:
Boston vs. Toronto
Tampa Bay vs. New York Islanders
Washington vs. Carolina
Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh
Of course, it’s highly unlikely both the round-robin and the play-in go chalk completely. So if you’re a Bruins fan hoping to avoid, say, Tampa Bay until the conference finals, you want it to play out like that. Or, at the very least, you want the Bruins and Lightning to be the top two seeds. Otherwise, all bets are off the table.
The other important thing to note: As indicated by the reports, the teams will be reseeded every round, meaning the highest-seeded team will play the lowest-seeded team. Let’s say the Bruins get by the Maple Leafs once again in the first round, and the Lightning get knocked out in the first round for the second straight year. If that happened, Boston would then play the Islanders in the second round.
Thumbnail photo via Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports Images