When do the NHL playoffs start? Key dates, schedule & more to know for hockey’s 2020 return

After months of chaos, confusion and commotion in the hockey world, fans finally have an answer to the all-important question: yes, there will be a 2020 Stanley Cup champion. 

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced in May that the league was moving ahead with a 24-team playoff format, in which 12 teams from each conference will be participating in a modified postseason. There are plenty of kinks still left to work out, and practically nothing has been confirmed other than the playoffs will happen, but at least we have playoff hockey to look forward to this year. 

Here’s an updated look at when we can expect NHL hockey to resume:

When do the NHL playoffs start in 2020?

It remains unclear when exactly the NHL will return to the ice, but it will most likely be sometime in late July or August.

The league is currently in Phase 2 of its plans to return, which means some players have been able to return to their team’s practice facilities and get some skating time in. However, there is a maximum of six players allowed inside at once and full practices still seem a long way off. Once teams are allowed to reunite for full practice sessions, there will be a “training camp” period of a few weeks to get players back up to fitness. Until then, hockey will remain on hold.

MORE: NHL Phase 2 details, next steps as hockey inches closer to return

How will the Stanley Cup playoffs work?

We know there will be 12 teams from each conference competing for the Stanley Cup, but the format remains the subject of much debate between players, executives, and league officials.

The one thing that has been confirmed is that there will be a “qualifying round” before the playoffs officially start. The top four seeds in each conference will get a bye from these rounds while the rest of the teams will face off to see who makes it into the final bracket. These series will be best-of-five match-ups, with playoff overtime rules in effect. The winners will move on to face the top four seeds in the next round. 

While that’s going on, the top four seeds will play a round-robin tournament to determine their final seeding for the elimination bracket. If these games go to overtime, it’ll be regular-season overtime rules. If there is a tie in points at the conclusion of the round-robin, percentage points from the regular season will be used as a tiebreaker. Once the actual playoff bracket begins, teams will be playing best-of-seven series.

MORE: Connor McDavid endorses playoff format, discusses role in NHL’s return to play

NHL standings, playoff bracket

Here is the full list of all 24 teams with a shot to win the Stanley Cup:

Eastern Conference

1 Boston Bruins 44-14-12 .714
2 Tampa Bay Lightning 43-21-6 .657
3 Washington Capitals 41-20-8 .652
4 Philadelphia Flyers 41-21-7 .645
5 Pittsburgh Penguins 40-23-6 .623
6 Carolina Hurricanes 38-25-5 .596
7 New York Islanders 35-23-10 .588
8 Toronto Maple Leafs 36-25-9 .579
9 Columbus Blue Jackets 33-33-15 .579
10 Florida Panthers 35-26-8 .565
11 New York Rangers 37-28-5 .564
12 Montreal Canadiens 31-31-9 .500

Western Conference

1 St. Louis Blues 42-19-10 .662
2 Colorado Avalanche 42-20-8 .657
3 Vegas Golden Knights 39-24-8 .606
4 Dallas Stars 37-24-8 .594
5 Edmonton Oilers 37-25-9 .585
6 Nashville Predators 35-26-8 .565
7 Vancouver Canucks 36-27-6 .565
8 Calgary Flames 36-27-7 .564
9 Winnipeg Jets 37-28-6 .563
10 Minnesota Wild 35-27-7 .558
11 Arizona Coyotes 33-29-8 .529
12 Chicago Blackhawks 32-30-8 .514

Teams that will not return

Buffalo Sabres 30-31-8 .493
New Jersey Devils 28-29-12 .493
Anaheim Ducks 29-33-9 .472
Los Angeles Kings 29-35-6 .457
San Jose Sharks 29-36-5 .450
Ottawa Senators 25-34-12 .437
Detroit Red Wings 17-49-5 .275

NHL playoff schedule

This section will be updated when the information becomes available.

Updated odds to win the 2020 Stanley Cup

Team Odds*
Boston Bruins +550
Vegas Golden Knights  +600
Tampa Bay Lightning +650
St. Louis Blues +800
Washington Capitals +800
Colorado Avalanche +850
Philadelphia Flyers  +1,200
Dallas Stars +1,500
Pittsburgh Penguins +1,500
Toronto Maple Leafs +2,500
Edmonton Oilers +2,500
Nashville Predators +2,500
Calgary Flames +4,000
Arizona Coyotes +4,000
New York Rangers +4,000
Carolina Hurricanes +5,000
Vancouver Canucks +5,000
Winnipeg Jets +5,000
Minnesota Wild +6,000
New York Islanders +6,000
Columbus Blue Jackets +6,000
Florida Panthers +6,000
Chicago Blackhawks +7,500
Montreal Canadiens +10,000
*sportsline.com, as of June 9