NHL set to return in 2020 with 24-team playoff tournament

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Recently the NHL announced the Return to Play Plan, which will see the season resume with a playoff tournament featuring 24 teams all vying for the Stanley Cup. The top four seeds from each conference will play in a round robin to determine the rankings for the playoffs, while the remaining 16 teams will go through a qualifying round.

New Jersey’s best NHL betting sites have posted futures odds for the Stanley Cup winner. At FanDuel NJ, the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning share the top of the market at +600 for the title. The Colorado Avalanche are next best at +800, while the Philadelphia Flyers and Vegas Golden Knights are joined at +850.

While the NHL have playoffs, it will forgo the remainder of the regular season. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down the league on March 12, 189 games will be canceled. This is unlike the NBA, which will have eight rounds of games and then the playoffs.

In his announcement of the Return to Play Plan, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said, “I want to make clear that the health and safety of our players, coaches, essential support staff and our communities are paramount. While nothing is without risk, ensuring health and safety has been central to all of our planning so far and will remain so.

“Let me assure you that the reason we are doing this is because our fans have told us in overwhelming numbers that they want to complete the season if at all possible. And our players and our teams are clear that they want to play and bring the season to its rightful conclusion.”

The qualifying and seeding rounds will be played at two yet-to-be-determined hub cities, one hosting the Western Conference and the other hosting the Eastern Conference.

In the seeding games, the top four teams from each conference will play once to determine the top four seeds for the post-season. In the NHL East, the top four teams are the Bruins, Lightning, Washington Capitals, and Flyers. In the NHL West, the top four teams are the defending champion St Louis Blues followed by the Avalanche, Golden Knights, and Dallas Stars.

New Jersey Devils’ fans will have to wait until next season, as they were one of the seven teams that did not qualify for the new playoff format.

The qualifying round will feature best-of-five series where the winner qualifies for the playoffs. The matchups are:

Eastern Conference

  • Pittsburgh Penguins vs Montreal Canadiens
  • Carolina Hurricanes vs New York Rangers
  • New York Islander vs Florida Panthers
  • Toronto Maple Leafs vs Columbus Blue Jackets

Western Conference

  • Edmonton Oilers vs Chicago Blackhawks
  • Nashville Predators vs Arizona Coyotes
  • Vancouver Canucks vs Minnesota Wild
  • Calgary Flames vs Winnipeg Jets

Commissioner Bettman stated there is a chance, albeit a slim one, that the last three series will be played on the home ice of the qualified teams. However, there will have to be a big change in the COVID-19 outlook for that to happen. It is also likely that there will be no fans at the games.

Phase 2 of the Return to Play Plan allowed teams limited workouts at their facilities from June 8, while Phase 3 will see training camps launched sometime after July 10.

Here is the full list of Stanley Cup outright odds at FanDuel New Jersey:

  • Boston Bruins +600
  • Tampa Bay Lightning +600
  • Colorado Avalanche +800
  • Philadelphia Flyers +850
  • Vegas Golden Knights +850
  • Washington Capitals +900
  • St Louis Blues +1100
  • Dallas Stars +1500
  • Pittsburgh Penguins +1800
  • Edmonton Oilers +2300
  • Toronto Maple Leafs +3000
  • Calgary Flames +3500
  • Vancouver Canucks +3500
  • Minnesota Wild +4000
  • New York Islanders +4000
  • New York Rangers +4000
  • Carolina Hurricanes +4200
  • Nashville Predators +4200
  • Arizona Coyotes +4500
  • Winnipeg Jets +5500
  • Florida Panthers +6000
  • Columbus Blue Jackets +6500
  • Chicago Blackhawks +8000
  • Montreal Canadiens +8000
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