Following a four-month hiatus, the NHL is set to restart and finish it’s 2019-20 season on August 1st. However, the league will be skipping over its remaining regular-season play in order to kickstart the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
This means that 189 games will be foregone, leaving the season in skeletal remains. However, only seven teams have been eliminated based on their point percentages from the time regular season play was paused.
That means eight teams will compete round-robin style to be seeded into the Playoffs, while another 16 teams will battle in out in a best-of-5 elimination series in order to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In short, there’s plenty of action on the rink in store for those who have been waiting patiently to see a return to the ice.
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Eastern & Western Conference Details
Remaining play for the Eastern Conference will be hosted in Toronto and will be fought between the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, and Philadelphia Flyers.
Based on performance, these teams will then be seeded into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which will be played with standard overtime and shoot-out rules.
However, there will also be best-of-5 Eastern Conference qualifying rounds played between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens, Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers, New York Islanders and Florida Panthers, and Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets. These teams will compete under playoff overtime rules.
Remaining play from the Western Conference will be hosted in Edmonton and will be fought between the Saint Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, and Dallas Stars.
The best-of-5 Western Conference qualifiers will be held between the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators and Arizona Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild, and Calgary Flame and Winnipeg Jets.
Each winner in the best-of-5 series will advance to face one of the round-robin teams. Once the teams are seeded based on record, the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs will be played in a best-of-7 format.
Teams that did not qualify include: the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, and Detroit Red Wings.
For those who’ve stayed out of the loop, the Bruins currently stand at the top of the pack with a season record of 44-14-12. They’re set to face off against the Philadelphia Flyers on August 2nd.
However, top sportsbooks in Canada and the United States seem to be holding out for the Western Conference’s Central Division champs to restate their claim to the Stanley Cup: the Saint Louis Blues. First, the Blues need to make it through the league’s third-ranked Colorado Avalanche on August 2nd.
One important statistic many are looking at now is each team’s goals-against average. Though in professional play the margins between goaltenders are razor-thin, a goalie’s worth can’t be understated when a puck is flying at fifty miles per hour.
Tuukka Rask of the Bruins is leading the NHL in season goals-against average, while the Blues rank tenth with Jordan Binnington and the Avalanche come in fifth place with Pavel Francouz.
Other stats that fans and pundits have their eyes on are leading scorers. Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers became the tenth European-born player to lead the league in points, with 110 points in 71 games from the 2019-20 season.
Teammate Connor McDavid is close on Draisaitl’s heels. This season marks the seventh occasion that both Draisaitl and McDavid have finished first and second in the league’s total points race.
Though the pair are a known quantity in the NHL, their presence in the Western Conference’s best-of-5 series will be a treat for fans to watch as they face off against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Meanwhile, fans of the Chicago franchise are confident in their own top goal scorer. Dominik Kubalik may be a rookie, but he’s leading their scoring numbers across the league with 30 goals in the 2019-20 season.