How do the NHL Playoffs Work?
NHL Bracket Format
As of 2014 the NHL has updated their playoff bracket format. The bracket will still have 16 teams, with 8 teams from both the Eastern and Western conferences. Here is our NHL Playoff Bracket and also check out When the NHL Playoffs Start.
Each conference's bracket will now be broken up into 2 sections, one for each division. You can look at it like the March Madness Bracket, meaning it is broken up into 4 different brackets. You can see this in the bracket above(each division has it's own section).
Qualifying and Seeding:
The top 3 teams from each division will automatically qualify and be seeded from 1 to 3 based on their record. The teams with the best record in their conferences will be the overall number 1 seeds. This will take care of the first 12 qualifying teams.
Two wild card teams from each Conference make up the rest of the bracket. The wild card teams will be the 4 seeds, the bracket above will show them as W1 and W2, which is explained below. Of the remaining teams in each Conference(not division) the top 2 teams will become the wild card teams. The wild card team with the lesser record(W2 in the bracket) will play the overall number 1 seed, the wild card team with the better record(W1) will play the other number one seed.
A strange feature of this, is that a wild card from one division could actually be playing in another division's section of the bracket.
Once the matchups are determined, the location of the division names in the bracket above could change. The overall number 1 seed in each conference will be at the top of the bracket.
One important thing to note is that teams are NOT re-seeded as they were in the past. This allows you to now be able to run a bracket pick'em pool just like the March Madness Tournament!
Best of Seven
Each series is played in a best-of-seven format, which means there can be a maximum of 7 games in a series, but once a team wins 4 games they would be the winner of that series. The rotation for home and away is 2-2-1-1-1, which means the better ranked seed would play at home in the first 2 games, then go on the road for the next 2, back at home for game 5, on the road for 6, and finally back home for game 7.