NHL clarifies its playoff plan, allows move to Phase 2 starting Monday

NHL clarifies its playoff plan, allows move to Phase 2 starting Monday
(David Zalubowski)

PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang told the Pittsburgh media last week that players prefer a best of seven series. He and the players got their wish, for the most part.

The NHL announced on Thursday that the play-in series (for the Penguins versus Montreal) will be a best of five series. Every playoff series after that, including the Stanley Cup Final, will be a best of seven series.

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In addition, the highest remaining seed in each conference will face the lowest remaining seed and so forth. There will not be a “bracket” system in the playoffs.

For the top four teams playing in the round robin competition for seeding (in the East, Lightning, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers), ties will be broken by regular season points percentage.

There will be “home teams” designated for each game.

For the best of five series, the higher seeded team will be the home team for games 1, 2 and 5. For the best of seven series, the higher seeded team will be the home team for games 1, 2, 5 and 7, similar to the current playoff system.

This is important because in the NHL, home teams get the last lineup change after a stoppage of play, and they get to put their sticks down first on a face-off.

In the Stanley Cup Final, the team with the higher regular season points percentage will be designated as the home team.

The announcement Thursday follows approval by the league’s Board of Governors and the National Hockey League Players’ Association. The agreement is subject to the NHL and the NHLPA reaching an overall agreement on resuming play.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said a decision on the hub cities is probably a couple of weeks away. Pittsburgh is one of the 10 cities eligible to host the NHL playoffs.

Training camps are expected to open no earlier than July 10. The league announced Thursday that facilities will open up for players to work out on their own on Monday.