The NHL Playoff Format & Postseason Overview

The NHL playoffs start Wednesday night. To set the tone for the entire postseason, what follows is TheSportsNotebook’s Tale of the Tape on all 16 teams—or, more accurately, a concise summation of the statistical tape measurement.

We’ve reviewed all 16 teams by every worthwhile measuring stick—do they score, and do they generate a high shot volume? Can they prevent the opponent from doing the same? How do they execute in standard 5-on-5 play, on the power play and in the penalty kill? How good is the goalie and who are the key players? What follows is how each playoff team has performed over the regular season in that regard.

The NHL playoff format has changed this season, thanks to the realignment into two divisions per conference. It’s now division-based, rather than conference-based. The format works as follows…

*The top three teams in each division automatically qualify for the playoffs, and are all placed in the same four-team pod.

*Two wild-card teams per conference qualify. They can come from either division, but if they come from the same one—as happened in both East & West this year, one has to be seeded into a divisional bracket they don’t play in. The lowest wild-card plays the highest division winner. This is why Detroit crosses into the Atlantic Division to play Boston, and Dallas crossed into the Pacific to play Anaheim.

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*A result of this is that the bracket no longer re-seeds after the first round, ensuring that high plays low all the way through. With four teams stacked into four different brackets, the second-round matchups are now preordained, leading the way into the conference finals and ultimately the Stanley Cup Finals.

TheSportsNotebook has broken down the bracket into its four quadrants, with links to each of the four below…

Read more about the NHL Atlantic Division Bracket
Read more about the NHL Metropolitan Division Bracket
Read more about the NHL Central Division Bracket
Read more about the NHL Pacific Division Bracket

We’ll have regular coverage here throughout the playoffs, with the first report coming on Friday, when seven of the eight first-round matchups will have Game 1 under their belt (Boston-Detroit is the one holdout, not beginning until Friday evening).