Leafs still have a chance to raise Stanley Cup in 2020
The NHL has revealed its Return to Play Plan, which will include a restructured playoff format that will include 24 of the 31 teams in a video announcement released today (May 26).
The first round will feature a 16-team, eight-series qualifying round and a round-robin tournament to determine the top seeding for the top four teams from each conference.
This new playoff format will feature 12 teams from the Eastern Conference and 12 teams from the Western Conference.
Commissioner Gary Bettman emphasized that the health and safety of the players, coaches, essential support staff remains the league's top priority.
He further explained the league's choice to proceed with an altered season ultimately came down to the desire of the fans', players', and teams' desire to see the completion of the season.
The remainder of the season will take place in two hub cities--one for the eastern teams and one for the western teams.
The candidates for the hub cities are Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver.
In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, and Philadelphia Flyers will all have a first-round buy and will instead participate in the round-robin to determine seeding.
In the Western Conference, teams with a first-round buy that will participate in the seeding round-robin include the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, and Dallas Stars.
The remaining Eastern Conference first-round matchups will consist of four best-of-five series that will see the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the Montreal Canadiens, the Carolina Hurricanes taking on the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders taking on the Florida Panthers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs taking on the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Western Conference first-round matchups will include best-of-five series between the Edmonton Oilers versus the Chicago Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators versus the Arizona Coyotes, the Vancouver Canucks versus the Minnesota Wild, and the only all-Canadian matchup--the Calgary Flames versus the Winnipeg Jets.
Cover photo courtesy of Toronto Maple Leafs’ Twitter
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