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NHL announces 24-team return format; here's what fans need to know

NHL announces 24-team return format; here's what fans need to know

The NHL is taking concrete steps toward resuming the 2019-20 season and eventually awarding the Stanley Cup.

An important step came Tuesday afternoon when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced a 24-team return-to-play format.

Here are the basics of the 24-team format:

A total of 10 cities are being considered for the two hub cities that will host the remainder of the season.

Here's the timeline in the return to play plan, per the league:

--Phase 2: Early June
In early June, it is expected that teams will be permitted to return to home facilities for small group, voluntary, and on- and off-ice training.

--Phase 3: Not Earlier than First Half of July
Not earlier than first half of July, formal training camps will begin after guidance from medical and civil authorities.

--Phase 4: Timing TBD
24 teams in 2 “hub” cities will compete in Seeding Round Robins, a Qualifying Round and Conference-based Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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Now, let's talk about the playoffs.

The top 12 teams in each conference based on points percentage will resume play.

The top four teams in each conference automatically clinch a berth to the first round of the playoffs and will play round-robin games to determine their playoff seeding for the first round. Regular season overtime/shootout rules will apply to these round robin games, and any ties will be broken by regular season points percentage.

The remaining eight teams in each conference will play in a Best-of-5 qualifying round. The four winners will advance to the first round of the playoffs. These qualifying round games will be played using playoff overtime rules.

Here are matchups for the Eastern Conference, followed by the Western Conference:

Here are some other important playoff details:

--When the qualifying round is over, the remaining rounds will be set up using a bracket format, or each round will be determined by seeding. A decision on which style to use hasn't been made yet.

--The first and second rounds of the playoffs could be a Best-of-5 or a Best-of-7. The conference finals and Stanley Cup Final will be a Best-of-7.

The 24-team format means the Ottawa Senators, New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings are done for the 2019-20 season.

Given the unique nature of the situation, there isn't one format that would benefit all 31 teams, but what the league announced Tuesday is a pretty good plan toward finishing the season and crowning a champion.

Plenty of other details must be sorted out before games can resume, but this announcement is a positive step. 

NHL round robin, qualifying series schedule 2020: Dates, scores for every game

NHL round robin, qualifying series schedule 2020: Dates, scores for every game

The NHL is officially returning to play.

The league and NHLPA ratified the Return to Play Plan and a new CBA deal Friday, paving the way for the 2019-20 season to finish. The regular season is over, but the league is not yet jumping into the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

The top four teams in each conference will determine their seeding for the first round by playing a round robin format. The teams ranked No. 5 through No. 12 in each conference will square off in a qualifying round that will use a Best-of-5 series format. The four winners of the qualifying series in each conference will be matched up against the top four teams for the first round based on seeding.

These games will take place in two host cities. The Eastern Conference games will be played at Scotiabank Place in Toronto, and the Western Conference matchups will be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

Here's the schedule for every round robin game and qualifying round series. Check back to this article after each game for scores and updated schedules.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND ROBIN
Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers 4, Bruins 1
Monday, Aug. 3: Lightning 3, Capitals 2 (SO)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Lightning 3, Bruins 2
Thursday, Aug. 6: Flyers 3, Capitals 1
Sunday, Aug. 8: Flyers 4, Lightning 1
Saturday, Aug. 9: Capitals 2, Bruins 1

QUALIFYING ROUND
(No. 5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (No. 12) Montreal Canadiens
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2 (OT)
Game 2, Monday, Aug. 3: Penguins 3, Canadiens 1
Game 3, Wednesday, Aug. 5: Canadiens 4, Penguins 3
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Canadiens 2, Penguins 0
Canadiens win series 3-1

(No. 6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (No. 11) New York Rangers
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Hurricanes 3, Rangers 2
Game 2, Monday, Aug. 3: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1
Game 3, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1
Hurricanes win series 3-0

(No. 7) New York Islanders vs. (No. 10) Florida Panthers
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Islanders 2, Panthers 1
Game 2, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Islanders 4, Panthers 2
Game 3, Wednesday, Aug. 5: Panthers 3, Islanders 2
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders 5, Panthers 1
Islanders win series 3-1

(No. 8) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (No. 9) Columbus Blue Jackets
Game 1, Sunday, Aug. 2: Blue Jackets 2, Maple Leafs 0
Game 2, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Maple Leafs 3, Blue Jackets 0
Game 3, Thursday, Aug. 6: Blue Jackets 4, Leafs 3 (OT)
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Maple Leafs 4, Blue Jackets 3 (OT)
Game 5, Sunday, Aug. 9: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs

WESTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND ROBIN
Sunday, Aug. 2: Avalanche 2, Blues 1
Monday, Aug. 3: Golden Knights 5, Stars 3
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Avalanche 4, Stars 0
Thursday, Aug. 6: Golden Knights 6, Blues 4
Saturday, Aug. 8: Golden Knights 4, Avalanche 3 (OT)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Stars 2, Blues 1 (SO)

QUALIFYING ROUND
(No. 5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (No. 12) Chicago Blackhawks
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Blackhawks 6, Oilers 4
Game 2, Monday, Aug. 3: Oilers 6, Blackhawks 3
Game 3, Wednesday, Aug. 5: Blackhawks 4, Oilers 3
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Blackhawks 3, Oilers 2
Blackhawks win series 3-1

(No. 6) Nashville Predators vs. (No. 11) Arizona Coyotes
Game 1, Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes 4, Predators 3
Game 2, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Predators 4, Coyotes 2
Game 3, Wednesday, Aug. 5: Coyotes 4, Predators 1
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (OT)
Coyotes win series 3-1

(No. 7) Vancouver Canucks vs. (No. 10) Minnesota Wild
Game 1, Sunday, Aug. 2: Wild 3, Canucks 0
Game 2, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Canucks 4, Wild 3
Game 3, Thursday, Aug. 6: Canucks 3, Wild 0
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Canucks 5, Wild 4 (OT)
Canucks win series 3-1

(No. 8) Calgary Flames vs. (No. 9) Winnipeg Jets
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Flames 4, Jets 1
Game 2, Monday, Aug. 3: Jets 3, Flames 2
Game 3, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Flames 6, Jets 2
Game 4, Thursday, Aug. 6: Flames 4, Jets 0
Flames win series 3-1

Bruins vs. Capitals Overreactions: Power play struggles a concern entering playoffs?

Bruins vs. Capitals Overreactions: Power play struggles a concern entering playoffs?

The NHL round robin is finally over for the Boston Bruins, and soon their quest to return to the Stanley Cup Final will resume.

The Bruins lost 2-1 to the Washington Capitals on Sunday in their third and final round robin game. Boston dropped all three matchups and earned the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs for their lackluster results.

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The B's will play the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round. It's a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference Final, which Boston won in a sweep.

Let's take a look at three instant overreactions from Bruins vs. Capitals and assess their merit (All advanced stats via Natural Stat Trick).

1. Lack of power play success is a concern
Verdict: Overreaction

The Bruins entered Sunday as one of four teams in the league's 24-team restart that still hadn't scored a power-play goal, and Boston wasn't able to change that fact against the Capitals. The B's went 0-for-2 on the power play versus Washington, leaving the Original Six club with an 0-for-9 mark on the man advantage through the three round robin games. 

So, why shouldn't we be concerned over the Bruins power play? Well, for starters, Boston had the second-best power play during the regular season at 25.2 percent. Only the Edmonton Oilers scored more power-play goals than the B's. The Bruins also have several players with high-end offensive skill to put on their player play units, including Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug. Boston's top line struggled in the round robin with zero goals and one assist, but when it inevitably heats up, the power play will benefit as well.

It's important not to take too much from a three-game sample size of the power play right after a four-month layoff. That said, the Bruins need their power play to be more effective in the first round of the playoffs if they're going to give themselves the highest possible chance at advancing. 

2. Bruins' round robin struggles will carry into Round 1
Verdict: Overreaction

The round robin was important, make no mistake about that. Even though seeding is less crucial than usual because home ice advantage is not a factor in the Toronto bubble, earning a high seed would still have been helpful in forging the easiest possible road to the Stanley Cup Final. The league will re-seed after each round of the playoffs instead of using a traditional bracket, so the No. 1 seed will play the lowest-seeded opponent in each round. 

The Bruins, judging by their comments and on-ice play, don't seem too concerned about seeding. In fairness, the most important things for the Bruins in the round robin were to get their legs back after not playing for a while and avoid injuries. The Bruins will enter Round 1 of the playoffs with a pretty healthy roster, and while their performance in the round robin was certainly less-than-stellar, they played better in the last two games compared to the awful 4-1 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers in the opener.

The next games actually matter, and for a veteran group with loads of playoff and championship experience, we should see a hungrier and more motivated Bruins team when the puck drops in Game 1 against the Hurricanes.

3. David Krejci line took an important step forward vs. Capitals
Verdict: Not an overreaction

The Bruins' second line of Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and Ondrej Kase played together for the first time in the round robin Sunday, and it gave an encouraging performance.

Overall, the Krejci line held a 10-5 advantage in shot attempts, a 4-1 edge in shots on goal and a 3-1 lead in scoring chances during 5-on-5 action against the Capitals.

Kase was making his round robin debut and made a nice pass to DeBrusk on Boston's only goal. Krejci also picked up an assist on the play.

This goal for DeBrusk was huge. The 23-year-old left winger had scored only one goal in his previous 16 games dating back to the regular season. Hopefully for the B's, this goal helps to spark some consistency in DeBrusk's game entering the playoffs.

Secondary scoring is going to be a huge factor for the Bruins in the postseason, and this second line will play a huge part in whether Boston generates enough offense to make a deep run.