The NHL will opt for an expanded, 24-team playoff to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup champion, if and when professional hockey resumes. In its Return to Play Plan, NHL officials propose that eight teams in each conference meet in the NHL Play-in Series, which will include the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames squaring off. Both teams are at -110 odds to win their series.

NHL Play-in Series Odds Playoffs 24 Team
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman explains the Return to Play Plan, including the postseason. (Image: YouTube)

The top four teams from each conference, including the division champs, essentially earned a bye in the opening round. However, they will meet in a Seeding Round Robin to determine overall top seeds.

Teams voted 29-2 in favor of the 24-team postseason. Only the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning were opposed.

“We remain focused on the safety of our players, coaches, support staff, and arena personnel,” said Bettman. “We will not set dates, choose sites, or begin play until we know it is appropriate and prudent are approved to do so.”

The NHL postseason will be played without fans in arenas in two hub cities. Commissioner Bettman said the league is considering nine cities as potential hubs, including three Canadian cities — Vancouver, Edmonton, and Toronto. The American cities in contention as potential playoff hubs include Las Vegas, Dallas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Columbus.

Eastern Conference

The Boston Bruins (44-26-12) were the only team to reach 100 points before play got halted by Bettman. The Bruins, along with the Tampa Bay Lightning (92 points), Washington Capitals (90 points), and Philadelphia Flyers (89 points) are the top four teams from the Eastern Conference.

The Pittsburgh Penguins (86 points) are the biggest favorite in their series. According to odds released by Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, the Pens are -190 against the Montreal Canadiens (71 points), who are +170 underdogs.

The New York Rangers (79 points) were one of the pre-shutdown bubble teams. The Broadway Blueshirts hope to make the best of their postseason appearance as +130 dogs. The Carolina Hurricanes were one of the wild-card teams in the standings. The Canes blow into their play-in series against the Rangers at -150 odds.

NHL PLAY-IN SERIES ODDS – EASTERN CONFERENCE
#12 Montreal Canadiens +170
#5 Pittsburgh Penguins -190

#11 New York Rangers +130
#6 Carolina Hurricanes -150

#10 Florida Panthers -120
#7 New York Islanders EVEN

#9 Columbus Blue Jackets +140
#8 Toronto Maple Leafs -160

The NY Islanders (80 points) and Florida Panthers (78 points) were fighting with the Rangers on the crowded east bubble. Both teams meet in the play-in series, with the Panthers slight favorites at even odds.

The Toronto Maple Leafs (81 points) are probably the Canadian team with the best chance to win the Cup. The Leafs are the second-best series favorite on the board at -160 to win their play-in series. The Columbus Blue Jackets are +140 dogs.

The post-pandemic futures market hasn’t changed since the last update. The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning are 13/2 odds co-favorites to win the 2020 Stanley Cup.

NHL Playoffs Odds Play-in Series 24 teams
Proposed NHL playoff format with 24 teams.  (Image: SportsNet)

Western Conference

In the Western Conference, the defending champs, the St. Louis Blues, led the Central Division with 94 points. The Vegas Golden Knights secured first place in the Pacific Division with 86 points just before the shutdown. The Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars round out the top four teams in the west.

Meanwhile,  four teams were jockeying for the final two wild-card spots before the NHL postponed the season. The Winnipeg Jets (80 points) and Nashville Predators (79 points) tentatively held wild-card spots with the Vancouver Canucks (78 points) and Minnesota Wild (77 points) in close proximity.

The Edmonton Oilers (83) are the biggest favorites out west with -150 odds to win the play-in series against the Chicago Blackhawks (72 points).

The Vancouver Canucks (78 points) would have bubbled the playoffs in a regular 16-team postseason. They’re one of the favorites to win the play-in series at -140 odds against the Minnesota Wild.

NHL PLAY-IN SERIES ODDS – WESTERN CONFERENCE
#12 Chicago Blackhawks +130
#5 Edmonton Oilers -150

#11 Arizona Coyotes +105
#6 Nashville Predators -125

#10 Minnesota Wild +120
#7 Vancouver Canucks -140

#9 Winnipeg Jets -110
#8 Calgary Flames -110

The Jets/Flames will meet in the only all-Canada play-in series. Both teams are -110 to advance to the next round. The Flames offer up solid value at 25/1 odds to win the cup. Meanwhile, the Jets are 55/1 odds to win the Stanley Cup.

The upstart Colorado Avs and Vegas Golden Knights were both listed at 10/1 odds to win the Stanley Cup.

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