The NHL released its return-to-play plan Tuesday, adopting a 24-team playoff format in two "hub cities" if the season resumes.
The league will not finish the regular season, instead choosing to start with conference-based playoffs. A return date remains unknown at this time, and the NHL league won't restart until it is assured by government and medical authorities that it's safe to play.
The NHL's modified playoff format will include a 16-team, eight-series (four best-of-5 series) qualifying round and a round-robin competition among the top four teams in each conference to determine seeding for the first round.
The qualifying round and round-robin will be held at two hub cities to be identified later—one for the 12 participating Eastern Conference teams and one for the 12 Western Conference teams. The teams will be based on points percentage when the NHL paused on March 12.
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.
Top Four Eastern Conference Seeds:
- Bruins (44-14-12)
- Lightning (43-21-6)
- Capitals (41-20-8)
- Flyers (41-21-7)
Eastern Conference Qualifying Round:
- No 5. Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens
- No. 6. Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers
- No. 7. Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers
- No. 8. Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets
Top Four Western Conference Seeds:
- Blues (42-19-10)
- Avalanche (42-20-8)
- Golden Knights (39-24-8)
- Stars (37-24-8)
Western Conference Qualifying Round:
- No. 5 Oilers vs. No. 12 Blackhawks
- No. 6 Predators vs. No. 11 Coyotes
- No. 7 Canucks vs. No. 10 Wild
- No. 8 Flames vs. No. 9 Jets
After the round-robins and the qualifying round, the 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 conference finals and Stanley Cup Final will each be a best-of-7 series. The sites of those games have yet to be determined, but they are expected to be played in one of the hub cities.