NHL playoff format 2014 explained: A guide to the new seeding for the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs [VIDEO]

Mike Smollins
By Mike Smollins @MikeSmollins
on Apr 11, 2014 01:13 PM EDT
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The National Hockey League went through quite the makeover heading into the 2013-14 season, with the Winnipeg Jets finally able to move out West while the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets came over to the Eastern Conference. The NHL also trimmed the divisions down from six to four. The NHL playoff seeding also got a bit confusing along the way, but have no fear we're here to sort it all out and explain everything you need to know to get ready for the puck to drop on the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday.

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Before the road to the Stanley Cup kicks off this Wednesday, we'll take a look at the seedings for the postseason as the NHL has made a lot of changes, abandoning the 1 vs. 8, 2 vs.7 , 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5 format.

Here is a look at the current brackets

First Round:

The first 12 teams that qualify for the postseason come from the top three teams in each division. The top three teams in the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions fill up six of the eight seeds in the Eastern Conference while the top three teams in the Central and Pacific Divisions make up six of the eight seeds in the Western Conference.

That leaves four spaces open, two in each conference. The NHL has implemented a wild-card system where the two teams that aren't in the top three in their divisions but have the most amount of points over any other team in each Conference become wild-card Nos. 1 and 2 and join the playoffs. These two wild-cards could be from the same division.

The division winners play both wild-cards, with the division winner with the most points taking on the wild-card with the least amount of points and the second division winner taking on the wild-card team with the second least amount of points. With that, the two and three seeds play each other in each division.

For example, the three representatives from the Atlantic Division are the Bruins (115 points), Canadiens (98 points) and Lightning (97 points) while the Atlantic Division is represented by the Penguins (107 points), Rangers (95 points) and Flyers (91 points). As of April 11, the two wild-card teams are the Blue Jackets (91 points) and Red Wings (91 points, loser of tie-breaker to Columbus).

In the east, the Bruins are the top division winner while the Penguins are the second-seeded division winner. The Blue Jackets are the highest wild-card winner while the Red Wings are the second-highest. In that scenario, the Bruins would play the Red Wings while the Penguins would take on the Blue Jackets. The two and three seeds would then take on each other in each division. As it stands, the Rangers would host the Flyers while the Canadiens would have home ice against the Lightning due to being the higher seed.

Round Two:

In Round 2, it's all about the divisions. Since the Bruins and Penguins are the top seeds from their divisions, the winners of their respective matchups play the winner of the 2-3 seeds in each division. For example, since the Penguins won the Metropolitan Division, the winner of their series with the Blue Jackets would play the winners of the Metropolitan Division's 2 vs. 3 matchup.

With that, if the Blue Jackets and Red Wings switch seeds before the season is over, and the Red Wings (Atlantic Division) play the Penguins and beat them, they'd still go on to play the Rangers and Flyers (Metropolitan) no matter what because they knocked off the Metropolitan Division winner.

Round Three:

Round three is the exact same as it has always been, the two teams that stand tall in the second round in both the Eastern and Western Conference will play each other for a chance to go to play for the Stanley Cup

Round Four:

The survivors from the Eastern Conference take on the last team standing in the Western Conference in a best-of-seven Series for the Stanley Cup.

We hope we cleared that up for you, if not here is a simulation of each division in a simulated scenario based on the current seeding. We'll pick the higher seeds to go over each time to make it easier to follow:

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (Divisional Semi-Finals):

Bruins (No.1 Atlantic) def. Red Wings (second wild-card team)
Canadiens (Atlantic No. 2) def. Lightning (Atlantic No. 3)
Penguins (No.1 Metro) def. Blue Jackets (first wild-card team)
Rangers (Metro No. 2) def. Flyers (Metro No. 3)

*Winner of Bruins/Red Wings faces winner of Canadiens/Lightning no matter what, same with Penguins/Jackets and Rangers/Flyers

Western Conference Quarterfinals (Division Semi-Finals):

Ducks (No. 1, Pacific) def. Stars (second wild-card team)
Sharks (Pacific No. 2) def.. Kings (Pacific No. 3)
Avalanche (No. 1 Central) def. Wild (first wild-card team)
Blues (Central No. 2) def.. Blackhawks (central No. 3)

*Winner of Ducks/Stars plays winner of Sharks/Kings no matter what, same with Avalanche/Wild and Blues/Blackhawks

Eastern Conference Semi-Finals (Divisional Round):

Bruins def. Canadiens
Penguins def. Rangers

Western Conference Semi-Finals (Divisional Round):

Ducks def. Sharks
Avalanche def. Blues

Eastern Conference Finals:

Bruins def. Penguins

Western Conference Finals:

Ducks def. Blues

Stanley Cup Finals:

Ducks def. Penguins

The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs kickoff this Wednesday as the two-month quest for the Cup is expected to be huge.

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