Qualifier Games for the Stanley Cup Playoffs: Here’s What Bettors Need to Know

Major pro sports are slowly restarting and the NHL “Return-To-Play” plan is now in place. SI Gambling insider Roy Larking provides a breakdown of what bettors need to know about the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
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NHL 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs – How We Got Here

The 2019-20 NHL regular season began on October 2, 2019, and was going strong until the COVID-19 pandemic halted play on March 12, 2020. Following months of negotiations, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to cancel the remaining regular-season games and restart with a modified playoff format. To accommodate teams who were fighting for a playoff spot, when the season was paused, the top 12 teams in each conference were awarded a 2020 NHL playoff berth.

A one-time revised playoff format adds eight extra teams and the top four contenders in each conference receive a first-round BYE. The top four teams on both sides will play each other in a round-robin series to determine the top second-round seeds. A qualifying round has been added and the eight lowest seeds in both conferences will battle for a quarterfinal berth. The eight winners of the best-of-five first-round series advance and the eight losing teams are eliminated.

NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Qualifying Round

Toronto is the Eastern Conference Hub City and all games will be played at Scotiabank Arena. Based on their win percentage, when the regular season was canceled, Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington, and Philadelphia are guaranteed a quarterfinal playoff berth. Those four teams will play a three-game round-robin series without the pressure of being eliminated. Each team gets at least one day of rest between the round-robin contests and easing back into action is a plus.

Knowing their playoff run could be as short as three games, the eight lowest seeds need to play at a high level during the first round. In the FanDuel odds below, Pittsburgh (-205) is the favorite to advance during the East qualifying series. The Penguins play the Montreal Canadiens (+166) in the opening round. The NY Islanders vs. Florida Panthers series has the most even first-round moneyline odds. Here are the betting lines for the Eastern Conference qualifying series.

Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook

Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook

NHL Western Conference Playoff Qualifying Round

Edmonton is the Western Conference Hub City and all games will be played at Rogers Place Arena. Defending Cup champion St. Louis, plus Colorado, Vegas, and Dallas are the top four teams in the West qualifying round. They receive an automatic quarterfinal berth and will face each other to determine the top four seeds during the second round. If two or more teams are tied, after the three-game round-robin, regular-season win percentages act as the tiebreaker.

Like Toronto in the East, Edmonton has the luxury of playing on home ice during the playoffs. Rogers Place will also host the Conference and Stanley Cup Final rounds so the Oilers could play the Eastern Conference winner on home ice. Edmonton is the top favorite in the qualifying series as the Oilers (-164) play Chicago who are (+134) underdogs. Nashville, Vancouver, and Calgary are listed as slight favorites against Arizona, Minnesota, and Winnipeg respectively.

Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook

Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook

Stanley Cup Championship Futures Odds

Stanley Cup futures prices are posted with maximum value prior to the playoffs. Available until the first game begins on August 1, DraftKings is offering NHL championship odds on all 24 playoff teams. After that, odds to win the Stanley Cup will be adjusted as each round plays out. Representing the East, Boston and Tampa Bay enter the tournament as co-favorites with a +650 moneyline. Colorado and Vegas (+800) are tied as top favorites from the Western Conference.

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook