On Thursday, it was reported that the NHL will be having a brand new system for arranging the playoffs for this summer. Instead of fixed brackets, the NHL will be re-seeding based on each team’s position in their respecitve conferences.
The NHL Playoffs will not be bracketed, but re-seeded after every round. Qualifying will be best-of-five. All other rounds will be best-of-seven.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) June 4, 2020
Here’s the statement with the press release:
The @NHL has announced more details of the playoff format for the Return to Play Plan following approval by the League’s Board of Governors and the @NHLPA.— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) June 4, 2020
The agreement is subject to the NHL and NHLPA reaching an overall agreement on resuming play. https://t.co/KThKX88JBb pic.twitter.com/8GLKgYoYfN
And the press release itself, with info on “home” ice.
The NHL announces more details on its return-to-play plan: pic.twitter.com/wjdd0X1fJX— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) June 4, 2020
Let’s go through this bit by bit.
Regular Season Ranking
Currently there are 24 teams set to play games this summer. Eight teams with a bye into the official Playoffs and the next 16 teams (ranked by points percentage) vying for a playoff spot through the Qualifying Round.
Here is how the Western Conference is ranked by points percentage:
St. Louis (1) - Bye
Colorado (2) - Bye
Vegas (3) - Bye
Dallas (4) - Bye
Edmonton (5) - Qualifying
Vancouver (6) - Qualifying
Nashville (7) - Qualifying
Calgary (8) - Qualifying
Winnipeg (9) - Qualifying
Minnesota (10) - Qualifying
Arizona (11) - Qualifying
Chicago (12) - Qualifying
The Qualifying round will feature a Best-of-Five series between teams 5-12 in each conference. Below is what the Western Conference Qualifying Round will look like. This is locked in.
EDM (5) vs. CHI (12) - best-of-five
VAN (6) vs. ARI (11) - best-of-five
NSH (7) vs. MIN (10) - best-of-five
CGY (8) vs. WPG (9) - best-of-five
Top-Four Round Robin
That determines the 16 teams in the Western Conference playoffs. Next, the top four teams that have earned a bye complained that their players will be rusty if they play no competitive games against a hot team coming off a five game series. To quell this, the NHL implemented a Round Robin series for those top-four teams that earned a bye. Each of the top four teams will play each other once, and then will be re-seeded based on their performance.
STL (1) vs. COL (2) - one game
STL (1) vs. VGK (3) - one game
STL (1) vs. DAL (4) - one game
COL (2) vs. VGK (3) - one game
COL (2) vs. DAL (4) - one game
VGK (3) vs. DAL (4) - one game
Of note on the NHL playoff format: The top four seeds in each conference will be determined by the results of the three-game round robin, with regular-season points percentage serving as a tiebreaker if needed.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) June 4, 2020
In short, there’s a possibility the Avalanche sit anywhere between first and fourth in the conference once the official playoffs begin.
In the World Cup of Hockey, a similar Round Robin was played, where wins in overtime and the shootout counted for fewer points than a regulation win, with goal differential being the tie-breaker. This was famously why Team North America (that featured Nathan MacKinnon and his brilliant overtime goal) bowed out in the Round Robin.
The Actual Playoffs
Once these best-of-five series happen, the four winning teams will be ranked by their regular season standings position. For example, if Chicago (12), Vancouver (6), Nashville (7), and Winnipeg (9) win, this is how they’ll be ranked against the top four teams in the conference after their round robin series. I’m just going to leave the top-four teams in their original positions in order to keep things simple. Essentially, this is a potential version of the First Round.
STL (1) vs. CHI (12) - best-of-seven
COL (2) vs. WPG (9) - best-of-seven
VGK (3) vs. NSH (7) - best-of-seven
DAL (4) vs. VAN (6) - best-of-seven
Again, picking random names out of a hat, let’s say St. Louis, Colorado (yay!), Nashville, and Dallas move on. Here’s what the Second Round could potentially look like. again, the top seed plays the worst seed, and the middle seeds play each other.
STL (1) vs. NSH (7) - best-of-seven
COL (2) vs. DAL (4) - best-of-seven
Third Round and Finals
And then in the Conference Finals (Third Round), the two winners play each other, setting up a potential (1) vs. (2) matchup, which is amazing! The same will happen in the Eastern Conference and we’ll have a best-of-seven for the Stanley Cup.
How it affects the Avalanche
In the original format, the Avalanche would have had to play the fourth-seed Dallas Stars first, and the top-seed St. Louis Blues no later than the second round. That’s the first and fourth seeds immediately. Instead, they play no higher than the seventh seed, Nashville, because Vegas and Dallas will always play higher seeds than them, and no lower than the 11th seed, Arizona, because St. Louis will always play a lower seed than the Avalanche.
In my example, the Avalanche play Winnipeg (ninth) first, and then Dallas (fourth), saving a potential matchup with the Blues one round later than originally planned. There’s more chances of an upset, but those lower seeds that achieve an upset, will still have to play tougher teams than a team that beat them in the regular season standings.
Basically, this is great for us.