NHL playoffs will re-seed after each round, qualifying to be best-of-five

Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

If the NHL is able to resume play following its hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league’s playoffs will be re-seeded after every round instead of using a bracket system, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Friedman added that the qualifying play-in round will be a best-of-five series, while all other rounds in the playoffs will be best-of-seven series.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that the top four seeds in each conference will be determined by the results of the three-game round robin.

The decision to preserve the traditional format of four best-of-seven series — instead of opting for two best-of-five series and two best-of-seven series — could add up to nine days to the playoffs, Johnston adds.

The NHL confirmed as much Thursday afternoon, also releasing details of how home-ice advantage and round robin tie-breakers will work during the 24-team playoff.

In the case of tie-breakers during the round robin portion of the tournament — featuring the top four teams from each conference — ties will be broken by regular season points percentage, the league announced. After the round robin has concluded, the seeding order for those eight clubs will remain the same throughout the rest of the post-season.

As for figuring out home-ice advantage, as games are to be played in hub cities rather than each team’s own arenas, the league said the following:

• During the qualifying round, the higher-seeded team will be designated as the home team in Games 1, 2 and 5, while the lower-seeded team will be designated as the home team in Games 3 and 4.

• In the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the higher-seeded club will be designated as the home team for Games 1, 2, 5 and 7, while the the lower-seeded team will have that designation for Games 3, 4 and 6.

• For the Stanley Cup Final, the team with the higher regular-season points percentage will be designated as the home team for Games 1, 2, 5 and 7, while the other finalist will be the home team for Games 3, 4 and 6.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman outlined the league’s plan to return with a 24-team playoff format last month. The top four teams in each conference will claim an automatic berth in the first round of the playoffs, while the remaining eight teams in each conference will play a best-of-five “qualifying round” series to determine who advances.

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