How Do The NHL Playoffs Work?

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are upon us and as always, there are plenty of questions about how it all works. Here’s a quick primer on the NHL playoffs so you can sound like an expert in front of your friends.


The National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs are a best-of-seven elimination tournament among 16 teams that have qualified for the playoffs. Sixteen teams qualify for the playoffs: the top three teams in each of the four divisions (the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central, and Pacific) and two “wild card” teams in each conference (the Eastern and Western Conference), for a total of eight teams from each conference. From there on out, it’s a single-elimination tournament.

What is the NHL?

The NHL, or National Hockey League, is the top level of professional hockey in North America. The playoffs are a single-elimination tournament held after the end of the regular season to determine the Stanley Cup champion.

In order to make the playoffs, teams must first qualify. The top three teams in each division automatically qualify for the playoffs, as well as two wild card teams from each conference (for a total of eight teams from each conference).

How does the NHL work?

NHL, short for National Hockey League, is a professional ice hockey league made up of 30 teams from the United States and Canada. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are an elimination tournament held after the end of the NHL regular season to determine which team will win the Stanley Cup, the oldest professional sports trophy in North America.

The playoffs follow a four-round tournament format. The first two rounds are played within each conference (Eastern and Western), with the top four teams in each conference playing each other in best-of-seven series. The Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final are then played between the winners of each conference, also in best-of-seven series.

If a playoff series is tied after seven games, it will go to overtime. In overtime, each team plays five skaters plus a goalie for 20 minutes of sudden death hockey. If no team scores during overtime, the game will be decided by a shootout. In a shootout, each team gets three shots on goal from their best players. If the score is still tied after three rounds of shooting, it goes to sudden death where each team gets one more chance to score.

What are the NHL playoffs?

The National Hockey League playoffs are a Elimination tournament held after the NHL’s 82-game regular season to determine the league champion. The Stanley Cup, the oldest championship trophy in North American professional sports, is awarded to the playoff champion at the end of the playoffs.

The playoffs are an elimination tournament consisting of four rounds of best-of-seven series. The three divisional champions in each conference, plus the two conference runners-up with the next best regular season records regardless of divisional alignment, qualified for the playoffs.

Seeding is used to determine which team plays which team and in what round. In each conference, the top three seeds went to the division winners. The next two seeds went to the conference runners-up with the better records regardless of divisional alignment. The final two spots were filled by Wild Card teams, which were the two remaining teams with the best records regardless of divisional alignment or conference affiliation.

The first round of playoffs is often referred to as “the mad dash” because it features so many close games and intense competition.

How do the NHL playoffs work?

NHL playoffs are a best-of-seven elimination tournament among the 16 teams that qualify for the postseason each year. The Stanley Cup Playoffs, as they are commonly known, culminate in the Stanley Cup Final.

In order to make the playoffs, a team must first earn one of the eight available spots in each conference. This is done by accumulating enough points during the regular season. The team with the most points in each conference automatically earns the first seed and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. The next seven teams in each conference earn playoff berths based on their regular season point totals.

Once the field is set, the playoffs begin with the first round (or Conference Quarterfinals), which is a best-of-seven series between the first and eighth seeds, second and seventh seeds, third seed and sixth seed, and fourth seed and fifth seed in each conference. The winners of these series advance to the Conference Semifinals (second round) where they play each other in another best-of-seven series. The four remaining teams then compete in the Conference Finals (third round), with the two winners advancing to face off in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Stanley Cup Final is also a best-of-seven series. If one team wins four games before the other team has won three, that team is considered to have won the series “in four straight” and is awarded the Stanley Cup. If both teams win three games apiece, then it becomes a “best-of-three” series where whoever wins two games first is declared victorious. In all other rounds of the playoffs, if both teams have won three games apiece after six games have been played, then a seventh game (or “Game 7”) is played to determine who will advance to the next round.


In conclusion, the NHL playoffs are a best-of-seven series played between the top eight teams in each conference. The teams are seeded based on their regular-season record, with the top seed playing the eighth seed, the second seed playing the seventh seed, and so on. The playoffs consist of four rounds: the first round (or “wild card round”), the divisional semifinals, the divisional finals, and the conference finals. The Stanley Cup Final is played between the two conference champions.

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