When the National Hockey League (NHL) suspended its season on March 12, Boston sports fans might have felt cheated because of the great season the Bruins were having. There may be some relief for that disappointment in a potential Bruins playoff run.
On Tuesday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman presented the format for a postseason tournament to decide the winner of the Stanley Cup for the 2019-20 season. The event is still tentative in many ways, however.
Details on the possible Bruins playoff run
The Bruins are potentially in a stellar position if this tournament does take place. Bettman announced on Tuesday that the 2019-20 NHL regular season is over. That means Boston finishes with 100 points, tops in the NHL.
The format for the NHL’s potential postseason could reward that success. The tournament involves the best 24 teams in the league in terms of points percentage, 12 from each conference.
The top four teams in each conference will play a round-robin schedule against each other to determine seeding for the conference quarterfinals. That pits the Bruins against the Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Washington Capitals.
Meanwhile, the bottom eight seeds will play a best-of-five series against each other to determine the other four teams who will participate in the conference quarterfinals. Boston will play one of those four teams in the conference quarterfinals.
The league will then conduct a playoff that is close to its normal structure, dwindling the eight teams in each conference down to one Stanley Cup champion.
That’s about all that’s certain right now. The NHL still has to decide whether it will bracket or re-seed the conference quarterfinal and conference semifinal rounds. Additionally, the league is uncertain about whether those series will be best-of-five or best-of-seven affairs.
The NHL still has yet to make many decisions on several other components of this situation like dates and venues for the games. Right now, the possibilities don’t include any cities in Massachusetts.
Bruins likely won’t play games in Boston again this season
On Tuesday, Bettman stressed that those plans are contingent upon several factors. It’s still entirely possible that if conditions like another surge of COVID-19 get in the way, this tournament may never happen.
Although Bettman emphasized the league hasn’t decided on venues for the games, he did specify that at least for the qualifying round and conference quarterfinals, all the games will take place in two venues. The NHL hasn’t yet specified which cities will act as those hubs but it has narrowed the list down to 10 candidates:
- Chicago, IL
- Columbus, OH
- Dallas, TX
- Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
- Las Vegas, NV
- Los Angeles, CA
- Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
One of those cities will host the Eastern Conference teams while the other hosts the Western Conference squads. Just as Bettman couldn’t yet commit to venues, he was just as ambiguous about dates.
Stanley Cup playoffs in August?
Bettman stated the NHL has begun a three-phase plan to hold its playoffs. He says the second phase, which will involve voluntary training for groups of six or fewer players, could begin early next month.
If that happens, that could put the league on pace for its third phase in early July. That would consist of a more traditional training camp that would last two to three weeks.
If that goes well, then the qualifying rounds could start in mid- or late July. Bettman said he believed the league could wrap up the conference playoffs and get into the Stanley Cup Final within a month if things go right.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like MA residents will be able to legally wager upon this event or any other in-stat this year.
Sports betting legalization shelved for now
Earlier this year, the state legislature produced a completed bill that would have legalized sports betting in Massachusetts. It was the result of months of work by a joint committee.
When the pandemic broke out, however, the legislature had other priorities. That resulted in the bill never seeing a debate on the floor of either chamber of the MA Legislature.
The bill’s sponsors will now likely wait and reintroduce it in the next session. Hopefully, that will lead to the legalization and a rollout of legal sportsbooks in the Bay State sometime in 2021.
Bruins fans are hoping a return to the ice will precede the next session, however. There’s no guarantee that Boston will win another Cup if the NHL playoffs do happen this summer but in that situation, the Bruins would at least get a chance.