NHL Unveils Playoff Matchups, 24-Team Bracket in Return to Play Announcement

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMay 26, 2020

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - JANUARY 24: Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media prior to the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Enterprise Center on January 24, 2020 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The NHL will return to finish the 2019-20 season, though it will move straight into the postseason with a 24-team format, as revealed Tuesday.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed the return-to-play plan during a press conference, sharing the following brackets:

The 24-team playoff format was agreed to by the NHL Players' Association executive board Friday, but it still needed to go through the league for final approval. 

The format will maintain the usual Eastern and Western Conference structure, with the top four seeds in each conference based on standings when the season was suspended March 12 receiving first-round byes. Teams seeded five through 12 will each play in a best-of-five series to determine the rest of the 16-team field. 

Per TSN's Pierre LeBrun, Bettman noted the league's Return to Play Committee is still deciding whether the first two rounds of the 16-team postseason will be a best-of-five or best-of-seven format.

Bettman didn't offer a specific return date for games, though he did say the earliest training camps could begin is July 1. Two to-be-determined cities will serve as hubs for all 30 teams when games resume.

Under the NHL's modified postseason format, the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings are the only teams that have been eliminated and won't return to action.

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