What could playoffs look like in the NBA and NHL?
There remain more questions than answers when it comes to the return of major American sports, but that’s not to say there is a lack of ideas. With the NFL in its normal offseason and Major League Baseball’s 2020 campaign not yet underway, much of the attention right now is on basketball and hockey. Will their seasons resume at any point? Will they go straight into the playoffs despite having not completed an 82-game slate?
As mentioned, there are more questions than answers. But what could the answers eventually be?
The NBA is likely to jump straight into the playoffs, perhaps at a single location in Orlando, Fla. For the sake of both time and coronavirus risk, there is a chance fewer than the usual 16 teams would be involved and perhaps even just one overall bracket would be used instead of one for each conference.
Whatever the case, the Los Angeles Lakers are +210 favorites to win the NBA title, followed closely behind by the Milwaukee Bucks (+275) and Los Angeles Clippers (+300).
The NHL is considering a 24-team Stanley Cup playoffs (12 in each conference), up from the traditional 16. That would help out the clubs currently seeded ninth though 12th in their respective conference, as they have not yet been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs under usual circumstances but would not have a chance to make up ground if the league goes straight into the postseason. At present, all NHL teams have played between 68 and 71 games. For those counting, that means all teams have between 11 and 14 games remaining on their original schedules.
Due to the new number of postseason participants, the NHL is also expected to move away from a division-based format. Normally, the second and third seeds in each division would square off in the first round. That would leave the division champions facing wild-card opponents. Now, however, the league is likely to go strictly by the conference standings. Teams 5-12 in each conference would battle in best-of-five series while the top four squads would earn byes. Following first-round action, the field would be reduced to its normal size of 16 teams at which point best-of-seven series would begin.
If the playoffs began now using those guidelines, the matchups would look as follows:
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)
Top four: Boston Bruins (1), Tampa Bay Lightning (2), Washington Capitals (3), Philadelphia Flyers (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)
Top four: St. Louis Blues (1), Colorado Avalanche (2), Vegas Golden Knights (3), Dallas Stars (4)
Be sure to check out our daily expert picks whenever games return.Last updated: Thu 21st May 2020