In the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs, there are four rounds, and each round is a best-of-seven series. Here’s the breakdown:
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).
5 supporting facts about the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs
Historical Prestige: The Stanley Cup, awarded to the playoff champion, is the oldest professional sports trophy in North America. It was first introduced in 1893, well before the NHL was established in 1917.
Qualification Criteria: Out of the 32 NHL teams (as of the 2021-2022 season), 16 qualify for the playoffs. The qualification is based on regular-season points, with the top teams from each division securing spots, complemented by wild-card entries.
Marathon Matches: Playoff games can become endurance tests. Unlike regular-season games, 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 even extended into multiple overtimes.
Traditions: Many players and teams adhere to various playoff traditions. One of the most well-known is the “playoff beard,” where players refrain from shaving until their team is either eliminated or wins the Stanley Cup.
Diverse Winners: Over the decades, the Stanley Cup has been won by teams in various seed positions, not just the top seeds. This underscores the unpredictability and competitive nature of the playoffs, where any qualifying team has a genuine shot at the championship.
These facts emphasize the rich history, traditions, and intense competition of the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
FAQs about the Stanley Cup playoffs, along with their answers
How are teams selected for the playoffs?
Teams are selected based on their regular-season performance. The top teams from each division qualify, along with wild-card teams with the highest points from each conference.
What happens if two teams have the same number of points at the end of the regular season?
Tiebreakers are used to determine playoff seeding. The primary tiebreaker is the number of games won (excluding shootout wins). If still tied, other factors like head-to-head record and goal differential come into play.
How long do the playoffs last?
The playoffs typically begin in mid-April and can extend into early June, depending on how long each series lasts.
Is there a difference in game rules between the regular season and playoffs?
The fundamental rules remain the same, but there are no shootouts in playoff games. Tied games go into sudden-death overtime periods until a winner is determined.
Why do players grow beards during the playoffs?
Growing a “playoff beard” is a long-standing hockey tradition. Players refrain from shaving during the playoffs as a sign of unity and superstition. The beard is either shaved off when the team is eliminated or kept until they win the Stanley Cup.
Who has won the most Stanley Cups?
The Montreal Canadiens hold the record with 24 Stanley Cup victories as of my last update in 2023.
What is the Conn Smythe Trophy?
The Conn Smythe Trophy is awarded to the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s given to the player judged most instrumental in his team’s success throughout the playoff run.