The NHL Board of Governors has approved the league’s realignment and a new divisional playoff format that will begin next season.
The NHL Players’ Association last week signed off on the plan, and the expected approval by the Board of Governors makes it official. The Capitals will be in an eight-team division along with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey, Carolina and Columbus.
Here is the breakdown of the divisions, via the NHL news release:
And here’s the breakdown of the new playoff format:
Playoff qualification will be primarily Division-based, with the top three finishers in each Division qualifying for the first 12 spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (and the first three “seeds” in each Division).
The two additional playoff spots in each Conference, designated as “Wild Cards,” will be awarded to the next two highest-placed finishers in each Conference, ranked on the basis of regular-season points and regardless of Division.
“Seeding” of the Wild Card teams within each Divisional Playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The first-place finisher with the highest number of regular-season points in the Conference will be matched against the Wild Card team with the lowest number of regular-season points, and the first-place finisher with the second-highest number of regular-season points in the Conference matched against the Wild Card team with the second-lowest number of regular-season points.
The Playoffs will proceed on a “Divisional Basis” as follows:
* #1 vs. #4 / #2 vs. #3 — winners play each other for Division Championship
* Conference Finals — Division A Champion vs. Division B Champion and Division C Champion vs. Division D Champion.
* Eastern and Western Conference Champions will meet in Stanley Cup Final.