How Many Games Are In A Hockey Playoff Series

In the NHL (National Hockey League), a hockey playoff series consists of a best-of-seven format. This means that the first team to win four games advances to the next round. So, a series can have as few as 4 games (if a team sweeps their opponent by winning all four games consecutively) or as many as 7 games (if the series is tied 3-3 and goes to a deciding game). Other hockey leagues around the world may have different formats, such as best-of-five or best-of-three series, but the best-of-seven format is standard for the NHL playoffs.

Here are five supporting facts about the NHL playoff series format:

Historical Context: The best-of-seven format in the NHL playoffs has been in place for many decades. It was adopted for the Stanley Cup Finals in the 1938-39 season and expanded to all rounds over time.

Consistency with Other Major Leagues: Other major North American sports leagues, like the NBA (National Basketball Association), also utilize a best-of-seven format in their playoffs, particularly for their championship rounds.

Intensity and Duration: The best-of-seven format ensures a team’s depth, stamina, and strategy are tested. Longer series can be physically and mentally demanding, often considered a true test of a team’s worthiness to advance.

Comebacks are Possible: The format allows for dramatic comebacks. Teams that are down 3-0 or 3-1 in the series still have a chance to win if they can string together consecutive victories. Such comebacks, though rare, are memorable moments in sports history.

Home Ice Advantage: In a best-of-seven series, the team with the better regular-season record generally gets home-ice advantage. They host games 1, 2, 5, and 7 (if necessary), allowing the format to potentially reward teams that perform well in the regular season with an extra home game.

FAQs about the NHL Playoff Series Format

Why was the best-of-seven format chosen over other formats for the NHL playoffs?
Answer: The best-of-seven format strikes a balance between giving teams a fair chance to demonstrate their skill and ensuring the series doesn’t drag on too long. It allows for potential comebacks and increases revenue from ticket sales and broadcasts without overly extending the season.

How are ties broken in NHL playoff games?
Answer: In the event of a tie at the end of regulation during an NHL playoff game, teams engage in sudden-death overtime periods. The first team to score wins the game. There are no shootouts in the NHL playoffs.

What happens if two teams have the same regular-season record? How is home-ice advantage determined then?
Answer: If teams finish with the same number of points, the league uses a series of tiebreakers. These usually include, in order: the number of wins in regulation and overtime (excluding shootout wins), the head-to-head record between the teams, and goal differential for the season.

Has there ever been a different format than the best-of-seven for NHL playoff series?
Answer: Yes, earlier in the NHL’s history, there were different formats. For instance, before the best-of-seven became standard for all rounds, some playoff rounds were decided in a best-of-five or even a best-of-three series.

Is there a reseeding process after each playoff round in the NHL?
Answer: No, as of the latest format prior to 2022, the NHL does not reseed teams after each round. Teams have a set bracket based on their seeding at the start of the playoffs.

How do away games impact teams in a best-of-seven series?
Answer: Playing away can be challenging due to the lack of home fans, different rink conditions, and travel fatigue. However, winning on the road is often seen as a mark of a strong team, as they can overcome these adversities.