With the COVID-19 pandemic raging, the NHL has hit the ‘Pause’ button. It’s unlikely that the league will be able to schedule both the remainder of the 2019-20 regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs in their current formats. One horrible scenario has North America on ‘lockdown’ for months, even extending into what would be the 2020-21 regular season. Let’s take a more hopeful position and envision hockey resuming sometime in May. That timeline may be overly optimistic, but if the NHL intends to award the Stanley Cup for the 2019-20 season, it needs to have a plan in place to determine which teams make the playoffs, regardless of when teams again hit the ice.
The regular season was scheduled to end on April 4, so the playoffs would have been well underway in May. However, if the NHL resumes in May (or later), how will they determine which teams make the playoffs? It would be unfair to start the 2020 Playoffs by simply taking the standings as they were when The Great Pause of 2020 (as I call it) was declared. Not all teams had played the same number of games, so some teams had more chances to earn points than other teams.
The difference in games played/points earned is especially important for teams competing for wild-card spots. In the Eastern Conference, the Columbus Blue Jackets hold the second wild-card spot with 81 points, but they’ve played two more games than the New York Islanders, who have 80 points. (Current NHL Standings can be found here)