How Do NHL Hockey Playoffs Work?


When it comes to getting into hockey, one of the most confusing things for new fans can be how, exactly, the playoffs work. There are so many teams and so many games, it can be difficult to understand who makes it to the playoffs and just what it takes to make it all the way to becoming Stanley Cup Champions.

The good news is that if you have even five minutes to read this article, I will easily explain everything you need to know about the NHL hockey playoffs. There are 16 spots in the NHL playoffs, and the qualifying teams are determined by the regular season standings. However, there are also specific criteria used to break ties if two teams finish with the same number of points in a season.

In the rest of this article, I will go into detail about how the NHL hockey playoffs work. I will explain in simple terms how the teams that go to the playoffs are decided, how many teams from each division go to the playoffs, and how the playoff eliminations work once the teams are decided. From there, it is simple to understand how the Stanley Cup Champion is decided.

What Are the Nhl Hockey Playoffs?

The NHL hockey playoffs are an annual elimination tournament which decides the winner of the Stanley Cup trophy. The Stanley Cup is named after Lord Stanley of Preston, the sixth Governor General of Canada. In 1893, he was the one who presented the original trophy to the top amateur hockey team in the country.

The NHL hockey playoffs take place between April and June of each year. In 2022, the NHL hockey playoffs will begin on May 2.

How Many Teams Qualify for the Nhl Hockey Playoffs?

Sixteen teams qualify for the NHL hockey playoffs. This includes eight teams from each conference. They are determined by regular season standings.

Twelve spots will go to the teams who finished in the top three spots of each of the four divisions that make up the two conferences: the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Pacific, and Central divisions.

Then, the remaining four spots, known as “wild cards,” will go to the two next best teams in each conference.

Because of the wild cards, it is possible for the divisions to have unevenly distributed teams participating in the playoffs, although each conference will always have eight participating teams.

If two teams finished with the same number of points throughout the season, there is a set of tie-breaking criteria used to determine the qualifying team. According to BetWay Insider, the criteria is:

  1. The team with the most regulation wins (not including overtime and shootouts).
  2. The team with the most regulation and overtime wins (not including shootouts).
  3. The team with the most wins overall, including shootouts.
  4. The team who earned the most points in games between the two.
  5. The team with the greater differential between goals scored and goals conceded.
  6. The team who scored the most goals.
  7. If teams are still tied after all of this, then a one-game playoff is played to determine a home-ice advantage.

How Do the Nhl Hockey Playoffs Work?

The sixteen qualifying teams for the hockey playoffs will play four rounds of best of seven series.

The eight opening matchups are determined on a divisional basis. In the opening round of hockey playoffs, the highest ranking division winner will face the lowest ranking wildcard team.

The same conference’s other division winner will face the higher ranking wildcard team. Then, the teams which finish second and third in their division will face one another.

The teams will continue to play best of seven series until only two teams, one from each conference, are remaining. Then, these two teams will face one another in the final round, called the Stanley Cup Final.

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How Many Games Are There in the Nhl Hockey Playoffs?

The NHL hockey playoffs are made up of four rounds of best-of-seven series. However, not all series last for all seven games. As soon as one team wins four games, the series is over. Thus, the total number of games in any given hockey playoffs can vary.

Is There Overtime in the Nhl Hockey Playoffs?

There is overtime in the NHL hockey playoffs. The rules for overtime in the playoff season, are different from those of the regular season.

In the regular season, if no team manages to win in a five-minute overtime period, games are eventually decided by a shootout. In the playoffs, however, overtime works differently. Playoff overtime is made up of infinite twenty-minute periods.

The teams will continue to play overtime periods until a team manages to score. These overtime periods determine the winner by “sudden death,” meaning that the first team to score is declared the winner.

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