The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs represented a return to normalcy following a bubble-encased playoff in 2020, followed by a 2021 tournament featuring a realigned inter-conference play, followed by realignment in the last two rounds. The annual playoffs feature four best-of-seven games, with the Stanley Cup champion to hoists the trophy. Ultimately, the annual postseason tournament is played in conferences, up to and including the Cup Final, where the surviving clubs will face each other.
The playoff format has the higher-ranked team facing off against the second-place team from the wild-card group in each conference’s first-round matchup. The opening round is played between the top two seeds in each conference (Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central, and Pacific) versus the wild card teams in each conference. In the first round, the winners of each division face off with two wild-card teams, and the second-and third-place teams in each division play off. The top three teams from each of the four divisions (Metropolitan, Atlantic, Central, and Pacific) and four wild-card teams (two from each conference) advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Sixteen teams in all made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs, eight from the Eastern Conference and eight from the Western Conference. The Eastern Conference has a lot of powerhouses, as all eight teams making the playoffs scored more than 100 points for the first time in league history. No team had won three consecutive Stanley Cups since the New York Islanders won four in the 1980-1983 period when the NHL consisted of just 21 teams.
This year, the Florida Panthers (52-15) are leading the Eastern Conference, and the Colorado Avalanche (53-14) are leading the Western Conference, but the Cup is still up for grabs. The Capitals are slated to meet the Presidents Trophy-winning Panthers in Round 1, with Florida leading the NHL in scoring at 122 points. Last week, the league announced the playoff pairings of the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins, which is tied for first place in the Eastern Conference. The 2022 NHL Playoffs continued, pitting the Tampa Bay Lightning against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final.
While some teams around the National Hockey League have already secured their 2022 playoff spot, others are still fighting to earn their place to participate. Some teams have already confirmed their 2022 NHL Playoffs spot, though the regular season is days away. Unlike in the last couple of years, when postseason formats were affected by COVID-19 restrictions, the annual playoffs will revert to pre-pandemic formats, with eight teams per conference qualifying – three per division, plus a pair of wild cards from the Eastern and Western conferences. In 2020, as the season was reduced to roughly ten games per team, 24 teams qualified to a playoff bubble that played in Edmonton and Toronto, with best-of-5 playoff rounds deciding the final 16-team field.