When do the NHL playoffs start? Key dates, schedule & more to know for hockey’s 2020 return

After months of chaos, confusion and commotion in the hockey world, fans finally have an answer to the all-important question: yes, there will be a 2020 Stanley Cup champion. 

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced in May that the league was moving ahead with a 24-team playoff format, in which 12 teams from each conference will be participating in a modified postseason. There are plenty of kinks still left to work out, and practically nothing has been confirmed other than the playoffs will happen, but at least we have playoff hockey to look forward to this year. 

Here’s an updated look at when we can expect NHL hockey to resume:

When do the NHL playoffs start in 2020?

It remains unclear when exactly the NHL will return to the ice, but it will most likely be sometime in late July or August.

The league is currently in Phase 2 of its plans to return, which means some players have been able to return to their team’s practice facilities and get some skating time in. However, there is a maximum of six players allowed inside at once and full practices still seem a long way off. Once teams are allowed to reunite for full practice sessions, there will be a “training camp” period of a few weeks to get players back up to fitness. Until then, hockey will remain on hold.

How will the Stanley Cup playoffs work?

We know there will be 12 teams from each conference competing for the Stanley Cup, but the format remains the subject of much debate between players, executives, and league officials.

The one thing that has been confirmed is that there will be a “qualifying round” before the playoffs officially start. The top four seeds in each conference will get a bye from these rounds while the rest of the teams will face off to see who makes it into the final bracket. These series will be best-of-five match-ups, with playoff overtime rules in effect. The winners will move on to face the top four seeds in the next round. 

While that’s going on, the top four seeds will play a round-robin tournament to determine their final seeding for the elimination bracket. If these games go to overtime, it’ll be regular-season overtime rules. If there is a tie in points at the conclusion of the round-robin, percentage points from the regular season will be used as a tiebreaker. Once the actual playoff bracket begins, teams will be playing best-of-seven series.

NHL standings, playoff bracket

Here is the full list of all 24 teams with a shot to win the Stanley Cup:

Eastern Conference

Western Conference

Teams that will not return

NHL playoff schedule

This section will be updated when the information becomes available.

Updated odds to win the 2020 Stanley Cup

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