In the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs:
First Round (Conference Quarterfinals): Best-of-seven series, so up to 7 games.
Second Round: Best-of-seven series, so up to 7 games.
Third Round (Conference Finals): Best-of-seven series, so up to 7 games.
Stanley Cup Finals: Best-of-seven series, so up to 7 games.
In total, if every series goes to the maximum number of games, there can be up to 28 games for a team. However, to win the Stanley Cup, a team must win a minimum of 16 games (4 games in each of the 4 rounds).
Supporting facts about the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs
Historical Significance: The Stanley Cup is the oldest professional sports trophy in North America. It was first awarded in 1893, predating the formation of the NHL by several decades.
Playoff Structure: The current playoff format includes 16 teams—8 from each of the two conferences (Eastern and Western). The top three teams from each of the four divisions qualify, along with two wild-card teams from each conference based on total points regardless of division.
Overtime Intensity: There are no shootouts in the playoffs. If a game is tied at the end of regulation, it goes into 20-minute sudden-death overtimes until a team scores. Some games have extended into multiple overtimes, making them some of the longest games in NHL history.
Physicality and Endurance: The playoffs are known for their increased physicality and intensity. Players often play through injuries, and the cumulative fatigue from multiple rounds can be a significant factor, especially in the later rounds.
Tradition of the Playoff Beard: It’s a longstanding tradition in the NHL for players to stop shaving during the playoffs and only start again once their team is eliminated or wins the Stanley Cup. This has led to some iconic images of players with thick, bushy beards by the time the Stanley Cup Finals roll around.
These facts highlight the unique traditions, intensity, and structure of the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
FAQs about the Stanley Cup playoffs
What happens if teams are tied in points for the final playoff spot?
Tiebreakers are used. The first tiebreaker is the number of games won (excluding shootout wins). If still tied, the next is the head-to-head record, followed by the goal differential for the season.
Can a wild card team win the Stanley Cup?
Absolutely! A notable example is the Los Angeles Kings, who as an 8th seed in 2012, went on to win the Stanley Cup.
How are teams re-seeded after each round?
In the current format, teams are not re-seeded after each round. The bracket is fixed once the playoffs begin.
Why do players shake hands at the end of a playoff series?
It’s a long-standing tradition in hockey. Regardless of the intensity and physicality of a series, players show respect by shaking hands with opponents once the series concludes.
What is “home ice advantage” and why is it important?
The team with home ice advantage gets to play more games at their home arena than their opponent in a series (games 1, 2, 5, and 7). This can be crucial as teams often perform better in familiar surroundings with their fans cheering them on.
How are referees chosen for the playoffs?
Referees are chosen based on their performance during the regular season. The best-performing officials are selected to officiate the playoffs, and as the playoffs progress, the pool narrows down further.
What’s the significance of “throwing an octopus” during the playoffs?
This is a tradition specific to the Detroit Red Wings. It started in 1952 when two Detroit brothers threw an octopus onto the ice, with its eight arms symbolizing the eight wins it took to win the Stanley Cup at the time. The act has since become a playoff tradition for Red Wings fans.