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Everything you need to know about NHL's 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs plan

Everything you need to know about NHL's 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs plan

Commissioner Gary Bettman and company are gearing up for summer hockey — in March Madness style (kind of).

Taking another potential step toward resuming the season and eventually awarding the Stanley Cup, the NHL and NHLPA announced the process to its 24-team return-to-play model Tuesday.

But there is still a lot be determined.

The NHL was forced to suspend the 2019-20 season on March 12 because of the coronavirus outbreak. As the hiatus prolonged, it became inevitable that the league would have to forgo the remainder of the regular season. A 24-team tournament makes the decision easier, alleviating the controversy of clubs that were on the playoff bubble with double-digit games left on their regular-season slate when the pause occurred.

Where will games be played?

While the NHL announced the 24-team playoff will be held in two hub cities (one for the East Conference, one for the Western Conference), there is no timeframe or location for when the tournament will be held as the league continues to work on the logistics for when and where games will take place.


When will play resume? 

On Monday, the NHL released a detailed protocol for the implementation of Phase 2, which would allow players to return to team practice facilities for voluntary activities. The league is eyeing early June for Phase 2. 

Eventual training camps (Phase 3) will not happen before July 1, meaning a possible resumption of the season could be, at the earliest, some point in late July or the beginning of August. The NHL understands it could be awarding the Stanley Cup in the early fall.

Based on points percentages, the top 12 teams from both the Eastern and Western Conferences make up the 24-team field. The format awards the top four seeds in each conference a bye past the play-in round, which consists of best-of-five series. The first and second rounds will be either best-of-five or best-of-seven series. The Eastern/Western Conference Final series and the Stanley Cup Final will be regular best-of-seven formats.

How will seeding work?

Right now, the Flyers are the East's fourth seed. However, they will play round-robin games among the other top three clubs (Bruins, Lightning, Capitals) to determine their seeds for the first round. The four teams will play each other once and total points will determine seeds. If there's a tie among points in the round-robin tourney, the NHL will use regular-season points as a tiebreaker.

Meanwhile, the NHL and NHLPA are still undecided on the format for the first and second rounds — either bracketed or reseeding.

Here are the East's qualifying-round matchups:

No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets

No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers

No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers

No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens

Here are the current East's seeds by regular-season points percentages:

1. Bruins
2. Lightning
3. Capitals
4. Flyers
5. Penguins
6. Hurricanes
7. Islanders
8. Maple Leafs
9. Blue Jackets
10. Panthers
11. Rangers
12. Canadiens


Who will Flyers play in first round? 

So the Flyers' first-round matchup is up in the air. Regardless, their impressive run prior to the suspension paid off. Before the pause, the Flyers had won nine of their last 10 games and were 19-6-1 since Jan. 8, a stretch in which they were tied with the Bruins for the NHL's most points at 39.

Because of that stretch, the Flyers will avoid the play-in round and a best-of-five situation.

Prior to the stoppage, the Flyers (41-21-7, 89 points) were a point behind the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals and projected to finish with 104 to 105 points, which would have been their most since 2010-11, when they had 106.

“I felt since Day 1 that one of our goals, and I mentioned this to you guys quite a few times, teams have to continue to improve during the season," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said in late April. "You have to get better. I believe that that’s what we were doing in all aspects of our game, our 5-on-5 play, our specialty teams play, our defensive play, our offensive play. We were getting better individually and we were getting better as a group.

"That enables you to get a chance to get into the playoffs and have a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. That was our goal coming into the season. That goal hasn’t changed. Obviously there are different components and a different dynamic at this time. I feel real confident that once we find out if we can get back at it, I’m optimistic that we will.

"I think sports is going to be one of the venues that’s going to help people get through this. Once we get back at it, I’m very confident with the focus of our group that we’ll be at the same page as everybody else and it’s going to be our job to work hard, work smart, do the right things and get back to where we were.”

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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Travis Konecny

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Travis Konecny

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Travis Konecny. 

Destra

The Flyers would have been a fraction of the team it was this season without Konecny. You can’t say enough good things about the player he’s becoming. Now, at the end of his fourth season with the Flyers, he’s finally found exactly where he belongs on this roster. 

No. 11 has always been the kind of player to get under the opposing team’s skin — luckily, he’s on the Flyers' side. There was a distinct shift in confidence throughout the 2019-20 season and it was noticeable in all aspects of his game. While it could have something to do with his shiny new six-year contract, he also had a fresh start with the new additions behind the bench. 

Konecny dressed for 66 games this season and posted a team best in points with 61 (24 goals, 37 assists). This is the third straight season he’s ended with 24 goals, but had play not been suspended because of the growing COVID-19 concerns, he would have most likely found himself with a new career high. 

A+ for Konecny — and expectations are most definitely going to be raised moving forward.  

Emmer

This one is an easy grade.

The 2019-20 season was hands down Konecny’s best of his career. He was showing a more confident style that we hadn’t seen before, making more risky plays with the puck, taking more chances and capitalizing — all of which was portrayed in his 61 points in 66 games, which led the team.

He also stepped up on the Flyers’ improved power play this season, recording five goals and 18 assists on the man advantage. He was a spark plug — he consistently brought energy to the bench and to the game, especially when he made it on the score sheet.

His confident play landed him his first All-Star selection and his improved shooting percentage was a major key to the Flyers' offense.

A for Konecny.

Fordyce 

Konecny is an easy grade for me — it’s an obvious A. When Konecny is playing well, it’s infectious and has an effect on the entire team. The energy and spark that No. 11 plays with on a nightly basis is one of the most valuable parts of T.K.'s game.

This was a big growth season for Konecny, too, as he played a more disciplined game and shed some of the bad habits which had cost him and the Flyers in previous seasons with penalties and so forth. That can’t be understated. 

Now let's look at the numbers. In 66 games this season, Konecny equaled his career high in goals and if it were a normal season, it’s a virtual lock that he would have a new career high. Konecny’s 61 points were a career high and while he maintained his status as a scoring threat, he became more of a playmaker, dishing out a career-high 37 assists, 12 more than his previous high. 

This is certainly a player the Flyers will rely on in the future and this season was a huge leap. 

A for Konecny. 

Hall

On the heels of signing a new six-year, $33 million deal, Konecny had six three-point performances in 2019-20 after having a combined two over his first three NHL seasons.

That's big-time growth from a 23-year-old foundation piece.

Konecny led the Flyers in goals (24) and points (61) through 66 games. His 37 assists were a career high and he was one marker away from a new personal best.

The Flyers went 31-9-2 when he recorded at least a point and 10-9-5 when he had gone scoreless.

Konecny deserves an A for taking huge strides and backing up his contract.

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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Kevin Hayes

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Kevin Hayes

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October.

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances.

Today we will be looking at Kevin Hayes. 

Destra

Man oh man am I thrilled to be giving Hayes the grade he’s getting today. This time last year, Flyers fans were beyond the point of disappointment at the signing of the center — it’s safe to say things have taken a turn for the best. The Hayes signing was instantly justified before the 2019-20 season was even in full swing because of the news about Nolan Patrick and his migraine disorder. Had he not been brought in, the lines down the middle would have been very weak. 

Hayes didn’t miss a single one of the 69 games the Flyers played this season. During that time, he racked up an impressive 41 points (23 goals, 18 assists). He also had a career best in shorthanded goals (four) and game-winning goals (five). 

On top of the player he has been on the ice, Hayes has also helped the Flyers in many other ways. He’s a big personality and jumped into a leadership role almost instantly. I’d say he exceeded expectations on the first year of his contract. 

A+ … not bad for a former ref

Emmer

Kevin “I used to ref” Hayes brought a lot of excitement in his first year with the orange and black.

Because of the shortened season, Hayes recorded 23 goals in under 70 games, just two markers short of his career high. His 200-foot style that was anticipated in the preseason thrived in many ways throughout the year, especially on the penalty kill.

Last season, the Flyers' PK ranked 26th in the league, operating at 78.5 percent. This season, the PK ranked 11th at 81.8 percent — Hayes had a lot to do with it. He also led the team with four shorthanded goals — the most in his career.

Offensively, you could argue his consistency could have been stronger. He had a stretch in early November during which he went 10 games without a point and another six-game drought in early February, but when he did end up making it on the score sheet, he was a game-changer. The Flyers were 19-0-1 when Hayes scored a goal during the regular season; he was a spark plug out there. He loved big-game situations, as well — five game-winning goals can attest to that.

Away from his skill, Hayes brought energy, fun off the ice and extremely creative nicknames (very important). 

A- for Hayes.

Fordyce 

Hayes began his Flyers tenure with a big contract and big expectations. Last offseason, Hayes signed a seven-year, $50 million deal, which raised some eyebrows. At that time, Hayes had eclipsed the 20-goal plateau only one time in his career. However, through 69 games this season he had 23 goals, just two short of his career high, and he almost certainly would have bested that if the Flyers had played a full 82 games. 

Hayes delivered the full package to a team that desperately needed that when it signed him after trading for his contractual rights ahead of free agency. His two-way game is his most valuable asset and this season we’ve seen Hayes single-handedly kill penalties by keeping possession of the puck. It’s one thing to sign a big-time deal, it’s another to deliver on the expectations set forth by said deal. Additionally, Hayes is an invaluable member of the team in terms of locker room chemistry.

Hayes gets an A.

Hall

During his first regular season with the Flyers, Hayes more than lived up to the hype and pressure of signing a seven-year, $50 million deal in this city.

While we tend to fixate on offensive production in this game, especially for higher-paid players, Hayes had an immeasurable impact on the Flyers in the locker room, which can be just as important as any statistic.

But statistically speaking, he also did plenty of good things. Not only did the 28-year-old center make the Flyers tougher to play against, but he was also on pace to break his career high of 25 goals (he finished with 23 in 69 games) and did wonders for the team's penalty kill. In fact, Hayes scored four shorthanded goals, the same number the Flyers put up as a team in 2018-19 over a full 82-game season.

An A- for Hayes because his impact has already been felt in a multitude of ways.

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

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More Flyers grades