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How the 2020 NHL Playoffs Format Impacts Betting Odds

The Boston Bruins will be playoff-bound in 2020, but the NHL postseason is going to have a much different look.

The NHL’s announcement of a new 24-team playoff system as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on sports betting markets. While the league sorts out the exact details of its new postseason format, hockey bettors and even the sportsbooks themselves are quickly trying to gauge how the NHL will look when action returns to the ice.

In a first for the league, commissioner Gary Bettman announced the NHL’s return-to-play format on May 26. The regular season, which came to a pause in mid-March, has been concluded. Bettman stated the NHL playoffs will feature 24 teams, with the top 12 clubs in each conference competing in two different setups to determine the 16 teams that will compete for the Stanley Cup.

The top four teams in each conference will play a round robin to establish first-round seeding, and the remaining eight clubs in each conference will match up in best-of-five play-in series to advance to the first round of the playoffs. Each conference will be assigned a “hub” city that will host all of the games. 

All other rounds (first round, second round, conference finals, Stanley Cup Final) will be best-of-seven series. In each successive round, the highest remaining seed in each conference will face the lowest remaining seed and the second-highest remaining seed in each conference will face the second-lowest remaining seed.

In the event of ties in the round robin, the top four teams from each conference will be broken down by regular-season points percentage. The seeding order for these teams then will remain the same throughout the postseason. 

Online sportsbook Bovada has updated its Stanley Cup odds, with the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning tied for the best championship chances. The shop has also released series prices for every qualifying-round matchup. To find out the latest series odds, check out our Series Price page.

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When Will the NHL Resume Play?

  • Training Camps: Bettman said he does not anticipate training camps opening before the first half of July.
  • How Long Will Training Camps Last? The players have requested training camps to be three weeks long.
  • When Will the Playoffs Start? Bettman didn’t give specific dates, but it’s likely the postseason will begin in either late July or early August.
  • What Places Could Serve as Hub Cities? There are 10 cities in the running to host NHL playoff games: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver.

Which NHL Teams Saw the Biggest Change to Their Futures Odds?

Chicago Blackhawks: +25000 Prior to COVID-19 Outbreak | Currently +2500

The reason for Chicago’s surge on the oddsboard is simple: the Blackhawks were a long shot to make the playoffs when the season paused in March, and now they’re guaranteed a postseason spot.

Under the normal playoff system – which gives the top three teams in each conference’s divisions a berth in the playoffs along with the top two wild-card teams – the Hawks (32-30-8) were an afterthought. Chicago was trailing Arizona, Minnesota, Vancouver, Nashville and Winnipeg in the wild-card race with 72 points but has suddenly been thrust into the spotlight.

A play-in matchup with the Connor McDavid-led Edmonton Oilers awaits the Blackhawks, so the path through the playoffs won’t be easy for Jeremy Colliton’s club.

Montreal Canadiens: +100000 Prior to COVID-19 Outbreak | Currently +7000

The Canadiens find themselves in the same situation as the Blackhawks and now have a glimmer of hope in what was looking like a lost season in Quebec. The Habs were in sell-off mode at the trade deadline in February, shipping out Matthew Peca and Nate Thompson. Prior to the deadline, Montreal had already dealt Ilya Kovalchuk to Washington.

Montreal has the longest odds to win the Stanley Cup on the board for a reason – this team is not built to win right now. A qualifying-round date with the Pittsburgh Penguins will make life difficult for the Canadiens, as it would be a major shock to see Montreal upset Sidney Crosby and company.

Which NHL Teams are Hurt Most By Games Without Home Ice?

A few short months ago, the concept of the NHL playing games in empty arenas without fans seemed difficult to grasp. Now, not only will there not be fans in attendance wherever the games are played, but the neutral-site atmosphere will all but erase home-ice advantage entirely.

The new format will have a distinct benefit for teams that didn’t fare well on home ice and hurt others that were lights-out in their own barns in the 2019-20 campaign. Of the 31 teams in the league, the Philadelphia Flyers (25-6-4 SU at home), Boston Bruins (22-4-9), St. Louis Blues (23-7-5), Pittsburgh Penguins (23-8-4) and Vegas Golden Knights (22-11-4) possessed the top five home records.

On the flip side, the lack of home-ice advantage likely won’t have as much of an impact on the Montreal Canadiens (14-17-6 at home), Chicago Blackhawks (16-14-4) and Calgary Flames (16-13-4), who rank as the squads with the worst home records among the playoff-bound teams.

What Does This Mean for My NHL Regular-Season Futures Bets?

The immediate conclusion of the season has caused confusion when it comes to regular-season futures bets already placed at sportsbooks. That includes OVER/UNDER team point totals, division odds, odds to make or miss the playoffs and odds on both individual NHL awards and OVER/UNDER player point totals.

We spoke to an oddsmaker at Bovada to clear up how they plan on grading futures bets.

  • Odds to Make or Miss the Playoffs: “If the team made the new playoff format, ‘YES’ will be graded as the winner and ‘NO’ will be refunded. If the team did not make the playoffs, ‘NO’ is graded the winner and ‘YES’ will be refunded.”
  • Individual Player Award Odds: “The current leader in the award race has been settled as a win, with all other bets voided.” For example: Leon Draisaitl was leading the league in points with 110 at the time of the pause in the season, so if you already bet him to win the Art Ross Trophy, the bet has been graded as a win.
  • Team Point Totals: “These will be settled as void unless it was already determined, as in the team already went OVER their point total or it was mathematically impossible for them to reach their projected point total.”
  • Odds to Win Divisions: “We are waiting on more information from the NHL and will determine the course of action on how to grade these props when we have a plan.”