Playoffs: How they work, and how the Vegas Golden Knights can claim their spot.

The Vegas Golden Knights need just one more point to clinch a playoff spot. They play the Colorado Avalanche tonight and need either a win, or an overtime loss to get that one point. But the Avalanche aren’t going to give up a point easily. They too are fighting to make it into the playoffs and are currently tied with the Arizona Coyotes for a Wild Card spot.

Much like in baseball we are in the home stretch. We are winding down the teams that will see it into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This is a dynamic time in the hockey season. Each day and passing game sets in stone who fills in these postseason playoff spots (or “berth”).  Since many new fans are confused about how the playoffs work and how teams can clinch a playoff berth, we decided to break it down.

Here’s How It Works

1. There are 16 slots to fill; 8 from the Western Conference and 8 from the Eastern Conference. 12 of these 16 teams will make it to the playoffs because they are the best in their division. These 12 teams are the 3 teams with the most points from each division (there are 4), and they automatically get a spot. **You may be wondering how teams can “clinch” a spot in the playoffs before the season has ended and the standings are final. Clinching a spot means that a team (VGK, for example) has more points in the games they’ve already played than the teams below them in the standings could potentially get in the season. So even if they (VGK) lose all subsequent games and other teams win all of theirs, they (VGK) still would not be knocked out of one of the top 3 spots.

2. After the first 12 playoff spots have been filled, the remaining 4 spots will be split among the 2 Conferences (2 for the East and 2 for the West).  The top 2 teams in each conference that do not already own a playoff spot (i.e. they didn’t place in the top 3 of their division, but are the next best in points) will get what’s called a Wild Card spot. They are the best of the losing teams. Because the Wild Card spots are split among the conferences and not the divisions, both Wild Card spots could potentially go to a 4th and 5th place team in one division if they have more points than the 4th place team in another division.

3. In a playoff series, the team with the better record during the regular season gets home ice advantage. That means they play 4 games at home: games 1,2,5,& 7. If you have attended a game in T-Mobile, you know how powerful this is. Our crowd is loud, and our opposing teams fear it. Oh, and there’s that tale about The Vegas Flu hitting opposing team’s players. 

4. The first game played in the playoffs features the best team of each conference playing a wild card team. That means the best vs. the worst. What this does is reward the teams that played well in the regular season. It’s a way to ease them into the stressful time that is on the horizon.

5. In order to keep moving forward, a team needs to win 4 games out of the 7-game series. You may hear people say it’s a best of 7 series. Remember 7…it is a magical number.

6. At the end of it, the team that gets to take home the Stanley Cup will actually need to win 16 total games. That’s a lot of overtime on a player and his family. 

Important Dates to Remember: 

April 6th- This is the last day of the NHL 2018-19 regular season 

April 7th-Get 2nd job to support buying playoff hockey merch, tickets, and any travel expenses you may incur

April 10th-NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs postseason begins (teams/schedule not yet decided)

April 15th– It’s tax day. It’s important….we wouldn’t want you to forget filing your taxes in all of this postseason hockey excitement. Get those returns in by midnight folks.

Playoff Graphic Organizer