NHL discussing 24 team playoff format
Thursday, May 21, 2020

(UNDATED) - The NHL and the NHLPA are discussing a 24-team, conference-based playoff format for a potential restart to the 2019-20 season this summer, according to multiple sources. The NHL season has been on pause since March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The playoffs would be conference-based and would remain bracketed, replacing the divisional wild-card format the league has used since 2013. The top four seeds, as determined by their standings points percentage when the regular season was paused, would receive byes through a round of best-of-five play-in series that would feature seeds 5 through 12. Those play-in series would determine which teams advance to a traditional 16-team Stanley Cup playoff bracket, which would have seven-game series. Fan would not be allowed at the games, and logistics remain a work in progress. The proposed format also would have the top four seeds participating in a three-game tournament during the play-in round, thereby alleviating concerns from top teams that they could be rusty and facing sharper teams coming off first-round games. It hasn't been determined if the mini-tournament among the top four conference teams will have an impact on seeding. After the opening round, the No. 4 seed in each conference would face the winner of the matchup between the Nos. 5 and 12 seeds, with the No. 3 seed meeting the winner of the 6-11 matchup. The No. 2 seed would play the winner of the play-in series between the Nos. 7 and 10 seeds, with the conference's top seed awaiting the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 series. Expanding the Stanley Cup playoffs from 16 to 24 teams has been favored by the NHL as an equitable solution for teams that were near the playoff bubble when the season was paused. For example, just four points separated the now-11th-seeded Coyotes from the final wild-card spot, and they had 12 games remaining in the season.