The National Hockey League has announced their return to play plan where the remainder of the regular season will be abandoned and they go straight into a 24-team playoff, rather than the traditional 16 teams.
The NHL is the first American-based professional team sports league to announce their return to play plan, and it’s quite different from the league’s traditional format. The NHL has announced that they will go straight into the playoffs, without playing the end of the regular season.
To make this fair to some teams who were slightly out of the 16-team playoff picture, the NHL has decided to introduce a 24-team playoff format this season. Because of this, it will be formatted much differently than the traditional playoff format.
With 24 teams, 12 teams from each conference will compete for the Stanley Cup. This means that four teams from each conference will get a bye through the qualifying round, while the other eight play in a qualifying round. However, those top four seeds will play a round-robin to determine seeding.
The New York Islanders, who finish the regular season as the seventh seed in the East, will face off with the Florida Panthers in the qualifying round. The round is a best-of-five series played in a hub city.
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Both conferences will be assigned a hub city with secure hotels, arena, practice facilities, and in-market transportation. That being said, there will be no such thing as a home-rink advantage and it might even eliminate a day in between games seeing there will be no traveling.
This will be the second time in the last five seasons that the Islanders and Panthers face off in the playoffs. The last time they faced off was during the 2016 playoffs when the Islanders won their first playoff series since 1992-93, beating the Panthers four games to two.
The Islanders and Panthers faced off three times this season in which the Isles won 3-2 in a shootout, 2-1 and 3-1. If the Islanders won all three games against their qualifying round opponent, that should put them in a good position for the playoffs.
With the regular season officially over, the Islanders finished the season with a record of 35-23-10 and will enter the playoffs as the seventh seed in the East.