NHL set for Stanley Cup Playoffs in Edmonton and Toronto

Calgary Flames NHL Stanley Cup Predictions
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Ricky Dimon

NHL

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

The NHL has not yet officially confirmed a return to play for the 2019-20 campaign, but an agreement is close and the two hub cities for the season’s resumption have been determined. Edmonton (Western Conference) and Toronto (Eastern Conference) will host the Stanley Cup Playoffs, while the finals will be held in Edmonton.

It has been several months since the NHL announced that it would forego the remainder of the regular season and jump straight into the postseason. Only now, though, are the logistics taking serious shape. In addition to the host cities, we also have a better idea of a timetable. The NHL is targeting a July 13 start of training camps before teams travel to their respective hub cities on either July 25 or July 26. First-round postseason series are expected to begin no later than Aug. 1.

The next step is for the league and players association to finalize a memorandum of understanding for a new collective bargaining agreement. Represented by one player on each of the 31 teams, the NHLPA must approve the training camp and 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs return-to-play protocols. Thereafter, those protocols and the entire CBA extension will go to a vote in which all NHL players participate. The NHL’s board of governors also must also agree to all terms.

Canada here they come

There are not expected to be any snags, and players are likely to have no problems with taking their talents to Canada. ESPN’s Emily Kaplan recently spoke with one anonymous Western Conference player, asking him if anyone might opt out because they are being sent to Edmonton instead of Las Vegas.

“The location of the hub hasn’t been a consideration for any of the guys I talked to,” he said. “If we went to Vegas, it’s not like guys were really expecting to be able to go play cards at the Cosmo, or whatever. The only reasons guys are going to opt out is for health, personal or family reasons…. Hockey guys just aren’t divas like that.”

Playoff format

The top four teams in each conference will play a round robin against each other to determine seeds 1-4 in a traditional eight-team bracket. Tiebreakers among those four teams’ round-robin records are their regular-season points-per-game percentage. Seeds 5 through 12 in each conference will play best-of-five series with the winners advancing to become seeds 5 through eight in a traditional eight-team bracket. The remaining 16 teams will play best-of-seven series (traditional Stanley Cup playoffs format the rest of the way)

Eastern Conference matchups

Round-robin: Boston Bruins (1), Tampa Bay Lightning (2), Washington Capitals (3), Philadelphia Flyers (4)

Pittsburgh Penguins (5) vs. Montreal Canadiens (12)
Carolina Hurricanes (6) vs. New York Rangers (11)
New York Islanders (7) vs. Florida Panthers (10)
Toronto Maple Leafs (8) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (9)

Western Conference matchups

Round-robin: St. Louis Blues (1), Colorado Avalanche (2), Vegas Golden Knights (3), Dallas Stars (4)

Edmonton Oilers (5) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (12)
Nashville Predators (6) vs. Arizona Coyotes (11)
Vancouver Canucks (7) vs. Minnesota Wild (10)
Calgary Flames (8) vs. Winnipeg Jets (9)

The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning are +650 co-favorites to win the Stanley Cup. The Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights (both +350) are favored in the Western Conference. Be sure to check out our daily NHL expert picks when they playoffs begin.

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