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PLAYOFFS

Realignment doesn’t just affect the regular season; it affects the postseason as well. The playoffs are now division-based and with an added wild-card system. The number of total playoff spots, 16, remains the same — eight for each conference. That means the Western Conference will have 14 teams competing for eight playoff spots, while the Eastern Conference will have 16 teams competing for eight playoff spots. It will likely end up being a tighter race for Pittsburgh and the rest of the Eastern Conference. The top three teams in the Metropolitan Division and the top three teams from the Atlantic Division will fill the first six spots. The remaining two spots (Nos. 7 and 8) will be filled by the wild-card teams, who are the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference based on regular-season points and regardless of division. That means the Metropolitan Division could send five teams to the playoffs while the Atlantic sends three; or vice versa. Or they could each send four. Regardless, the playoffs are now heavily based on divisional standings while before, only the division winner got a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. EASTERN CONFERENCE TOP

3

Metropolitan Division

TOP

3

TOP

Atlantic Division

WILD-CARD TEAMS

WESTERN CONFERENCE

7& 8

3

Central Division

TOP

3

Pacific Division

WILD-CARD TEAMS

7& 8

NHL.com explained the seeding best… “The seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the fewest points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second fewest points. The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. The winners of each series will play for berths in the conference championship series.” So while the wildcard system makes it possible to play a team in the opening round of the playoffs outside of the division, it’s more likely that teams will be playing the first two rounds against divisional foes. And we’ve seen first-hand the last few years just how intense that can be.

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IceTime - Game 29 vs. Montreal Canadiens 2/27/14  

IceTime is the official game program of the Pittsburgh Penguins.