The NHL announced Tuesday a return-to-play plan that will consist of a 24 teams, as well as the format to be used for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It was a positive step for sports fans hoping to see the return of live games this summer.
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Given the unique situation surrounding COVID-19, it's difficult (if not impossible) to find a format that benefits all 24 teams fairly. Some teams will benefit more than others, but a return with a different format than normal is still better than the 2019-20 season not resuming at all.
The Stanley Cup currently belongs to the St. Louis Blues, who defeated the Boston Bruins in a hard-fought seven-game 2019 Stanley Cup Final series. These two teams both sit atop their respective conferences and, under the 24-team format, they will automatically earn a berth into the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bruins, Blues and the other top-four teams in each conference will play a round robin format to determine their seeding for the first round.
Boston and St. Louis also are among the betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup following the league's return-to-play announcement.
Here are the latest Stanley Cup odds, via William Hill:
Updated Stanley Cup Winner Odds:
Golden Knights +550
Maple Leafs +2500
Full List: 👇🏻https://t.co/LkN1tvE4gE— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) May 26, 2020
The Bruins finished the regular season with the best record and also ranked No. 1 with a plus-53 goal differential. Boston is aiming to become the first team since the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins to lose in the Stanley Cup Final and come back to win it the following season.
It's impossible to predict how the long layoff will impact these teams, but there are some benefits for the Bruins. They've played a ton of hockey in recent seasons, and the roster as a whole is not a young one. The rest could help, and some of the team's players who were battling injuries before the season was suspended have had extra time to heal. The Bruins' veteran core also has played many years together, and it has loads of playoff experience.
Picking a winner in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is one of the hardest tasks in sports, but if the league is successful in returning to game action, the Bruins will have a great shot to get back to the Stanley Cup Final and win their first championship since 2011.