The NHL has announced more details on the tentative Return to Play Plan that will resume the 2019-20 season this summer. The details Thursday come nine days after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the first steps in continuing the season that has been paused since March 12 due to COVID-19 concerns.
The playoff format and bracket structure are among the more notable details of the announcement, along with details regarding “home-ice” advantage. The NHL also announced that it will transition to Phase 2 on Monday. All of these details have been approved by the NHL Players’ Associations Board of Governors.
The four playoff rounds will each be a best-of-seven, as normal. Bettman initially announced the possibility of playing a best-of-five in the first two rounds before switching to a best-of-seven in the conference final. The play-in round, which involves teams seeded 5-12 and will precede the playoffs, will be a best-of-five.
After the play-in round is completed the NHL will re-seed for the opening two rounds of the playoffs instead of a traditional bracket format. The higher seed will be designated as the home team in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7. In the Stanley Cup Final, the team with the better regular-season points percentage will be designated as the home team for Games 1, 2, 5 and 7.
The Avalanche’s first-round opponent remains unclear. Colorado will participate in a three-game round-robin with St. Louis, Vegas and Dallas with top-four seeding implications. If two teams are tied after the three games, the tiebreaker will be given to the team with the higher regular-season points percentage.
The Avs completed the regular season with the second-highest regular-season points percentage in the Western Conference, trailing only the Blues.
Phase 2 permits clubs to reopen their training facilities in their home city to allow players to participate in individualized training. Participation is voluntary and will be scheduled in groups of six players or less. Phase 3 will be the official full-team training camp.
Details regarding hub cities, testing and the next phase are still being negotiated.