The NHL and NHL Players' Association officially ironed out the final details of its 24-team Return to Play format, which is another positive step in the right direction as both sides look to reach an overall agreement on resuming play.
Here's a brief rundown of the most notable items from Thursday's announcement:
— The qualifying round will be composed of a best-of-5 series while the four other rounds will be best-of-7.
— The top four teams from each conference will play each other in a round-robin format to determine the No. 1-4 seeds. Regular season points percentage will serve as the tiebreaker.
— Instead of the traditional bracketed format in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the NHL will reseed after each round, with the highest remaining seed in each conference facing the lowest remaining seed, etc.
— In the qualifying round and first and second rounds, the higher-seeded team will be designated as the home team. In the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final, the team with the higher regular season points percentage will be considered the home team.
The details shouldn't come as much of a surprise. It was important to the players to maintain the integrity of the playoffs while making sure the teams that had a strong regular season were rewarded with a favorable path. For the Blackhawks, the challenge got a little more difficult but that was to be expected.
This is what the Western Conference playoff picture looks like:
1. St. Louis Blues
2. Colorado Avalanche
3. Vegas Golden Knights
4. Dallas Stars
5. Edmonton Oilers vs. 12. Chicago Blackhawks
6. Nashville Predators vs. 11. Arizona Coyotes
7. Vancouver Canucks vs. 10. Minnesota Wild
8. Calgary Flames vs. 9. Winnipeg Jets
Should they upset the Oilers in the qualifying round, the Blackhawks would face the highest seed of the round-robin winner in the first round of the playoffs. Right now, that's the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues, who swept the Blackhawks in a regular-season series for the first time in their 53-year history. The Blackhawks went 0-4-0 and were outscored by the Blues 16-8 this season.
Here's how the Blackhawks fared against the three other top seeds in the West:
— 1-3-0 vs. Colorado with a minus-8 goal differential (19 goals for, 11 goals against)
— 1-1-1 vs. Vegas with a minus-2 goal differential (nine goals for, seven goals against)
— 1-1-1 vs. Dallas with a plus-2 goal differential (five goals for, three goals against)
If the Blackhawks advance past the first round, their path will only get tougher. As the last seed in their respective conference, they will draw the highest seed as each round progresses under the re-seeding format.
But nobody should be disappointed about that. The Blackhawks have been given new life and Chicago will take it.