NHL to begin Phase 2 of Return To Play initiative on Monday

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The National Hockey League is set to begin Phase 2 of their Return To Play initiative, starting Monday as teams can start to reopen their training facilities for players to participate in voluntary, individualized on- and off-ice activities.

The @NHL has announced that it will transition to Phase 2 of its Return To Play Plan effective Monday, June 8. https://t.co/Xjk8cfhWyh pic.twitter.com/uT6WEwCBtF

— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) June 5, 2020

This news comes a week-and-a-half after the league released the framework for Phase 2 of the Return To Play plan in a 21-page memorandum that addressed things such as the travel of the players back to the team's home city, testing for players and personnel, temperature and symptom checks, and more.

In a statement released on Thursday, the league says, "All necessary preparations for Phase 2, including those that require Player participation (education, diagnostic testing, scheduling for medicals, etc.), can begin immediately."

The league also released more details pertaining to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs as part of the Return To Play format.

Additional details of the playoff format for the @NHL Return to Play Plan can be found here: https://t.co/KThKX8qksJ pic.twitter.com/rrvILBI0Xm

— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) June 4, 2020

Starting with the series length for each round, the league has come to an agreement that all four rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be a best-of-seven series, while it will only be the qualifying round that will feature a best-of-five series.

When it comes to the Round-Robin tournament with the top-four teams in each conference, those teams will play one game against each other in order to determine seeding for the playoffs following the conclusion of the qualifying round. If there happens to be a tie for the first, second or third seed following the Round-Robin tournament, the tie-breaker will be determined by regular season points percentage. Meanwhile, the seeding order dictated by the outcome of the tournament will remain the same throughout the playoffs.

As for the format of the playoffs, the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be determined by seeding, rather than bracketing. This means that in each round of the playoffs, the highest remaining seed in each conference will face the lowest remaining seed, the second-highest remaining seed in each conference will face the second-lowest remaining seed, and so on.

Finally, the league says that the teams with the higher seeds in the qualifying round (Games 1, 2 and 5), as well as the playoffs (Games 1, 2, 5 and 7), will be deemed the team with "home ice advantage". The only exception is the Stanley Cup Final, where the team with the higher regular season points percentage will be designated as the home team in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7.

Here is how the matchups will look like for both conferences in the Return To Play format::

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Round-Robin:

  1. Boston Bruins
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning
  3. Washington Capitals
  4. Philadelphia Flyers

Qualifying Round:

5 - Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 12 - Montreal Canadiens

6 - Carolina Hurricanes vs. 11 - New York Rangers

7 - New York Islanders vs. 10 - Florida Panthers

8 - Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 9 - Columbus Blue Jackets

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Round-Robin:

  1. St. Louis Blues
  2. Colorado Avalanche
  3. Vegas Golden Knights
  4. Dallas Stars

Qualifying Round:

5 - Edmonton Oilers vs. 12 - Chicago Blackhawks

6 - Nashville Predators vs. 11 - Arizona Coyotes

7 - Vancouver Canucks vs.  10 - Minnesota Wild

8 - Calgary Flames vs. 9 - Winnipeg Jets