The 2019-20 NHL regular season is officially over per Commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday, with 24 of the league's 31 teams being placed into the Stanley Cup playoffs in the wake the coronavirus pandemic. Those 24 teams were chosen by points percentage as of March 12, the day Bettman shut things down.
Training camps for the teams whose seasons continue will open no earlier than July 1 -- that is being called Phase 3 of the return -- and more likely in mid-July. There will be two hub cities hosting each conferences playoffs, one for the East and one for the West. Those cities were not identified by Bettman on Tuesday and are still TBA.
Las Vegas is expected to host the West, but the cities under consideration overall are Vegas, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver. Dates and cities are still TBA because the coronavirus will dictate both.
The top four teams in each conference will play each other in a three-game round-robin tournament to determine top seeds. Regular-season overtime/shootouts will be used in those if necessary. Ties in the standings would be broken by regular-season points percentage.
The remaining eight teams in each conference face off in a best-of-5 series with playoff overtime rules. It's still up in the air whether the winners of the qualifying round will be re-seeded for the first round of the playoffs, or if will be a bracket tournament-style format. The first and second rounds could be either best-of-5 or best-of-7, but the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final will both be best-of-7.
The seven teams in the NHL that didn't make the playoffs (Buffalo, New Jersey, Ottawa, Detroit in the East; Anaheim, L.A. and San Jose in the West) and the eight that lose in the qualifying round series all will enter the draft lottery.
At William Hill sportsbook, the Vegas Golden Knights and Boston Bruins had been the two Stanley Cup favorites on the moneyline odds when the league shut down.
Top seeds: Boston Bruins (1), Tampa Bay Lightning (2), Washington Capitals (3), Philadelphia Flyers (4)
Qualifying round series:
Pittsburgh Penguins (5) vs. Montreal Canadiens (12)
Carolina Hurricanes (6) vs. New York Rangers (11)
New York Islanders (7) vs. Florida Panthers (10)
Toronto Maple Leafs (8) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (9)
Top seeds: St. Louis Blues (1), Colorado Avalanche (2), Vegas Golden Knights (3), Dallas Stars (4).
Qualifying round series:
Edmonton Oilers (5) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (12)
Nashville Predators (6) vs. Arizona Coyotes (11)
Vancouver Canucks (7) vs. Minnesota Wild (10)
Calgary Flames (8) vs. Winnipeg Jets (9)
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