As sports are starting to get back and running across the world, the first major sports league in the United States has announced their plan to return and what to do with the rest of the season and playoffs.  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced a 24 team tournament which begins with a 16-team, 8 series qualifying round and a seeding round-robin among the top 4 teams in each conference to determine seeds for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.



In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins (44-14-12, .714 points percentage), Tampa Bay Lightning (43-21-6, .657), Washington Capitals (41-20-8, .652) and Philadelphia Flyers (41-21-7, .645) will each have a bye and play each other once to determine the order of the top four seeds for the first round of the playoffs.

The Eastern Conference Qualifying Round will have four best-of-5 series: the Pittsburgh Penguins (40-23-6, .623) vs. the Montreal Canadiens (31-31-9, .500); the Carolina Hurricanes (38-25-5, .596) vs. the New York Rangers (37-28-5, .564); the New York Islanders (35-23-10, .588) vs. the Florida Panthers (35-26-8, .565); and the Toronto Maple Leafs (36-25-9, .579) vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15, .579).

In the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues (42-19-10, .662), Colorado Avalanche (42-20-8, .657), Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8, .606) and Dallas Stars (37-24-8, .594) will each have a bye and play round-robin to determine their seeding order.

The Western Conference best-of-5 qualifying round series are: the Edmonton Oilers (37-25-9, .585) vs. the Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8, .514); the Nashville Predators (35-26-8, .565) vs. the Arizona Coyotes (33-29-8, .529); the Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6, .565) vs. the Minnesota Wild (35-27-7, .558); and the Calgary Flames (36-27-7, .564) vs. the Winnipeg Jets (37-28-6, .563).

Seven teams did not qualify and their season is over: the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings. Each will participate in the NHL Draft Lottery, which will hold its first phase June 26.

Games in the qualifying round will be played with playoff overtime rules. The round-robin games will be played with regular-season overtime and shootout rules with ties in the standings broken by regular-season points percentage.

After the round-robin and the qualifying round, the conference-based playoffs will continue in the two hub cities. Each of the winners of the qualifying round will advance to face one of the round-robin teams in the first round. The Return to Play Committee is discussing whether those first-round series will be set through seeding or by bracket.

The Return to Play Committee also has yet to decide the length of the first-round and second-round series, and whether the second-round series will be determined through seeding or by bracket.

The Eastern Conference Final, Western Confernce Final and Stanley Cup Final will each be a best-of-7 series. Commissioner Bettman told NBCSN there is a slim possibility the final three series can be played in the home arenas of the teams that reach those rounds, but that would require a substantial change in the outlook of the pandemic. It’s most likely all games will be played in the hub cities without fans in attendance.

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