For hockey fans, the annual NHL playoffs are an exciting time of year. As teams battle it out for a chance to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup at the end of the season, understanding how these playoff rules work is key to enjoying the games.
Here is a quick review of what you need to know about NHL playoff rules and regulations.
Understanding the Playoff Format
The format of the NHL playoffs varies from year-to-year, depending on which teams qualify. Generally speaking, 16 NHL teams make the post-season cut. 8 from each conference (Eastern and Western). The top three ranked teams in each division earn automatic spots.
On the other hand, the remaining vacancies are filled by wild card teams with the best record regardless of division.
The Playoffs Structure
The NHL playoffs are a best-of-seven series. This means that the team which has won four games advances to the next round. The higher-seeded team (the one with the most points in the regular season) typically has a home-ice advantage. And plays 4 of 7 games at home.
Similarly, playoff teams are also re-seeded after each round so that the highest seed always faces off against the lowest seed left in contention.
In regular season play, if a game goes into overtime, there is an additional 5 minutes of play before moving on to a shootout. However, in playoff competition, each overtime period consists of 20 minutes played at a time.
For how long? Well, until someone scores a goal.
The NHL is known for its physicality and hard-hitting plays. But there are certain rules against fighting in the playoffs. Any player who receives a fighting major (5 minutes) will automatically receive an additional game suspension.
If a player participates in three fights or more during the post-season, he will have to sit out for an additional game.
If either team commits a penalty during play that results in a scoring opportunity taken away from the opposing team, then that team could be awarded a penalty shot. During this opportunity, only one shooter can skate toward the goal from center ice without another defender attempting to stop him.
It is up to the referee’s discretion whether or not a penalty shot is awarded, but generally speaking, if the player was on a clear breakaway, then it will usually be given.
With these rules in mind, you can now enjoy and appreciate NHL playoff hockey even more. The playoffs are surely an exciting time of year for any hockey fan, so make sure to follow all the games and support your favorite team!
Stanley Cup Finals
The Stanley Cup Finals is the championship series of the NHL playoffs. This round pits the two best teams in each conference together to battle it out for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Again, like with every other round of playoffs, this is a best-of-seven series with the team winning four games crowned champions.
Thus, the Stanley Cup Finals is always an exciting time and many fans gather from all over the world to watch their favorite teams compete for the championship title.
Well, there you have it! Now you know how NHL playoff rules work in hockey’s postseason. All that is left to do now is sit back and enjoy the games!