NHL Playoffs 101: Format and Trophies

The playoffs are right around the corner. If you’re a new hockey fan the playoffs may be confusing, or you may not understand the formatting. I’ll admit it took me a bit to understand the way the playoffs work. If this applies to you then don’t worry; you’ve come to the right place.

Series Format

The NHL playoffs are some of the most grueling playoffs of all sports. In order to win the Stanley Cup, the championship trophy, teams have to win 16 games in total. In football, they have to win three or four games straight. In baseball, its winning 11 or 12 games to take the world series.

The NHL playoffs are even more grueling than the NBA playoffs because a playoff game in hockey averages 2.62 goals per team. And teams play hard for those goals. Also a average total of 478 goals are scored in during the playoffs. In an average NBA game, they get 99.66 points, meaning teams make at least 33 baskets. An average total 15,747 points are scored.

Each series is best of seven which means the first game doesn’t matter so much. And of course, you don’t want to lose four games in one series.

Teams Formatting 

The NHL has two conferences: the eastern and western. The Eaatern Division includes the Metropolitan and Atlantic Divisons. The Western Division includes the Central and Pacific Divisions. The Caps are in the Metropolitan Division.

Like most other sports, the teams that play in the first round are based on how each team finiahes the season. Each division has three teams in the playoffs and those teams that rank fourth in each division earn a wild card for the conference playoff.

The team that did the best in the division is the first wild card and then the one that did worse is the second wild card.
In the first round, the first seed in the conference plays the second wild card. The first seed in the other division plays the first wild card. Then the third team plays the second team. The rest of it depends on who wins in each round. Here is a bracket from last year to show.

The Playoff Game Changes 

Each game has three periods of twenty minutes, as usual; however, instead of ending a tied game with a five minute overtime and maybe a shootout, the teams instead play as many 20-minute overtimes as needed. Fun fact the most overtimes in a playoff game is six overtimes for both Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Maroons game in 1936 and the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs game.

The Trophies 

In the playoffs, teams can win three team trophies. The most rewarding of which is the Stanley Cup. The championship Stanley Cup  is the trophy that every hockey fan lives and dies dreaming that their team will one day own it!

The team that win the Eastern Conference receives the Prince of Wales Trophy.  Of less importance to Caps fans, the team that wins the Western Conference takes home the Clarence S   Campbell bowl.

Also, there is one individual trophy, the Conn Smythe trophy. That one won by the player who does the best in the playoffs and is awarded at the end of the playoffs.

Now that I have explained everything lets go Caps! Let’s try and get our first cup!!

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