Published Thursday, June 4, 2020 | 12:18 p.m.
Updated 2 hours, 59 minutes ago
The NHL provided more clarity on its return-to-play format Thursday afternoon. For the Vegas Golden Knights, however, that means less clarity — at least on their round of 16 opponent.
The Golden Knights could play any of the eight Western Conference teams competing in the play-in round of the 24-team tournament under the now-official setup. The conference-based tournament will be reseeded every round, breaking from the bracketed format of past years.
Every series except for the play-in round will also be a best-of-seven. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman had only previously confirmed that the conference finals at Stanley Cup Final would be best-of-seven series last week and said the league hadn’t decided whether to bracket or re-seed.
In past years, the playoffs were bracketed by division, giving every team only a certain number of permutations for possible opponents. Arranging by conference this year already added to uncertainty, but reseeding changes the playoffs even more drastically for the top four teams in each conference receiving a bye.
The Golden Knights are the No. 3 seed in the west currently, but that holds no bearing with a three-game round robin against the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars planned to determine their actual seeding. Regular-season standings rules will apply to those contests with two points awarded for a win and one point for an overtime loss.
Points in those three games will determine the top four seeds, with ties broken by regular season points percentage.
That means the Golden Knights’ range of possibilities stretch wide. They could be as high as the No. 1 seed and potentially play the No. 12 seed Chicago Blackhawks, if they were to upset the No. 5 seed Edmonton Oilers in the play-in, to start the postseason. Or they could be as low as the No. 4 seed with a matchup against the Oilers looming.
The playoffs will be held in two hub cities, with each location hosting one of the conferences. Las Vegas is one of 10 cities under consideration, but it is unclear if the Golden Knights would be permitted to play at home, or if they would be sent to the other hub to avoid perceptions of home-ice advantage.
Players are still under self-quarantine orders and not permitted at team workouts. The league hopes to open facilities soon and plans for a training camp in July with hopes of starting the season as soon as late July.