Barring any setbacks with the coronavirus, etc., the 24 NHL teams that will play in the rejiggered Stanley Cup playoffs will open their training camps July 10 – which is Phase 3 of the league's return-to-play-plan. That means the postseason – Phase 4 – should begin in very early August.
NHL teams will need longer training camps – no official length has been set -- than their NBA counterparts because the NHL has so many more foreign players to deal with travel-related restrictions entering both Canada and the USA. In fact, some if not all Canadian teams may be forced to hold their camps in the United States because players crossing the Canadian border would have to quarantine for two weeks. Commissioner Gary Bettman has said that more than 17 percent of players are currently overseas.
The NHL is in Phase 2 of its return-to-play-plan, which involves voluntary small group workouts in team facilities. Phase 3 will only happen if all goes well in Phase 2 and ditto Phase 4 regarding Phase 3. The NHL and the players' union still need to agree on safety protocols.
The coronavirus is spiking in several states right now, which is a concern and could scuttle everything. Assuming there is a Phase 4, 12 teams in each conference will be sequestered at separate hub cities. The hub cities have not been named yet, although Las Vegas is a heavy favorite to be one.
The top four seeds in each conference will play one another to determine overall seeding in the conference, while the other eight teams in the East and West will meet (5 vs. 12, 6 vs. 11, etc.) in a best-of-5 qualifying series to advance. Every round after the qualifying will be best-of-7 and the NHL will reseed after each round instead of sticking to its usual bracket format.
On the William Hill sportsbook moneyline odds, the Boston Bruins are +280 favorites to win the East and the Vegas Golden Knights +260 in the West. The SportsLine Projection Model favors two different teams to reach the Finals.
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