Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
According to Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, the most popular 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff format if the 2019-20 NHL regular season cannot finish involves the top-six teams from each division getting into the tournament.
The six teams would meet in one city and there would be a best-of-three series to determine a division winner between the top two seeds. The third and sixth seeds would clash while the fourth and fifth seeds would do the same.
If that were to be the case, the matchups would be:
#1 Washington Capitals vs. #2 Philadelphia Flyers
#3 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #6 New York Islanders
#4 Carolina Hurricanes vs. #5 Columbus Blue Jackets
#1 Boston Bruins vs. #2 Tampa Bay Lightning
#3 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. #6 Buffalo Sabres
#4 Florida Panthers vs. #5 Montreal Canadiens
#1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. #2 Edmonton Oilers
#3 Calgary Flames vs. #6 Anaheim Ducks
#4 Vancouver Canucks vs. #5 Arizona Coyotes
#1 St. Louis Blues vs. #2 Colorado Avalanche
#3 Dallas Stars vs. #6 Minnesota Wild
#4 Winnipeg Jets vs. #5 Nashville Predators
The NHL is trying to finish the rest of the regular season but it could stop after everyone plays 76 or 78 games if some regular-season games are able to be accommodated. All teams played somewhere in between 68-71 games before the league paused due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 12.
Host cities will depend on the number of coronavirus cases, which rules out places like New York and New Jersey. California Governor Gavin Newsome has also made it clear that hosting sporting events are not at the top of his concerns right now.
In Canada, Winnipeg and Edmonton would be the favorites to host games. While Ottawa has had fewer cases than most major Canadian cities, the length of bus trips to Kanata is an issue, Spector pointed out. In Edmonton, there are enough hotels within two blocks of Rogers Place, where the Edmonton Oilers play, in addition to a practice rink attached to it.
A source told Spector that arena staff including Zamboni drivers would accompany the team in hotels for the remainder of the season.
Any player who leaves town or goes to the hospital would have to wait 14 days before playing again.
The big holdup from going on with this plan is figuring out how to get NHL games televised and doing it without having players away from their families for weeks and/or months. As of now, it appears that the league will have to sacrifice one of those for the other to go on with this.
By Harrison Brown