NHL Set To Return with 24-Team Playoff

On Tuesday, the NHL announced its plan to resume its season with a 24-team playoff (photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)

On Tuesday, the NHL announced its plan to return to action. The league will get back in action with a 24-team playoff format, starting with a 16-team play-in round and culminating in the Stanley Cup Final.

The NHL’s ‘Return To Play Plan’ will see the league skip the remainder of its regular season and jump into the playoff format. The regular season was halted back on March 12 with teams having played between 68 and 71 games of their 82-game season. At the time of the decision to suspend the season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Boston Bruins had the most points in the league with 100.

The playoff format will be based on conferences. Games will be played in hub cities, with locations to be determined. In Tuesday’s announcement, league commissioner Gary Bettman said that Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Vancouver are among the cities being considered to be hub cities.

No dates were given for the return.

In each conference, the top four teams as ranked by points percentage get a bye to the second round, while the bottom eight teams in each conference compete in a play-in round for the right to play against one of the top four seeds. While the play-in round is happening, the top four teams will compete against each other in the conference to determine the seeding of the top four spots.

That means that in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, and Philadelphia Flyers will play a round-robin tournament to determine their seeding. In the Western Conference, it will be the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, and Dallas Stars playing each other for seeding.

The remaining eight teams in each conference will be seeded based on current standings of points percentage, and the first-round matchups will be as follows.

Eastern Conference:

Western Conference:

The seven teams to miss out on the playoffs were the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks.

At the time of the announcement, it wasn’t determined if the first two rounds would be best-of-five or best-of-seven series. The conference finals and Stanley Cup Final will be played as best-of-seven series.

Betting odds for the 24-team playoff

Following the news, sportsbooks have released odds on teams to win the Stanley Cup under the new format. At FanDuel Sportsbook, the Bruins and Lightning opened as co-favorites at +600. The Avalanche were next at +750, and then the Golden Knights came in at +850.

You can see the complete list of odds below, per FanDuel Sportsbook as of May 26.

The NHL always seems to produce a few more upsets in the playoffs than what is seen in other sports. Last season, we saw the Lightning get upset by the Blue Jackets in a sweep and the Islanders bounce the Penguins early. We could be in for some more surprises and shocking runs by unsuspecting teams this time around given the unique situation and new format.

A team like the Blackhawks, for example, could make a run that doesn’t necessarily match up with the team’s +10000 odds to win the Stanley Cup. If Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and the rest of the Blackhawks can get hot, who’s is to say Chicago can’t get past Edmonton and then make some noise in the next round? It might be more important than ever to value hunt on some of the longshots, just as Scott Berry did with his $400 bet on the Blues at +25000 last season.

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