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The Stanley Cup playoffs is an elimination tournament consisting of four rounds of best-of-seven series. The first three rounds determine which team from each conference will advance to the final round, dubbed the Stanley Cup Finals. The winner of that series becomes the NHL/Stanley Cup champion. The most recent Stanley Cup playoffs are the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.
In the Conference Quarterfinals, the eight teams are split into two separate brackets by division. Each bracket consists of the top three divisional qualifiers and one of the wild cards. The lower seeded wild card plays against the division winner with the best record while the other wild card plays against the other division winner, and both wild cards are de facto #4 seeds. The other two series match the second and third place teams from the divisions.
The winners of both Conference Quarterfinals series advance to the Conference Semifinals. The reseeding in the previous format, which ensured the top seed would play the lowest remaining seed, was discarded. The winners of these series advance to the Conference Finals, and the winners there move to the Stanley Cup Finals.
In the first two rounds, the higher-seeded team has home-ice advantage (regardless of point record). Thereafter, it goes to the team with the better regular season record (regardless of seeding); in case of a tie, the league's standard tiebreaking procedure is applied. The team with home-ice advantage hosts games one, two, five, and seven, while the opponent hosts games three, four, and six (games five through seven are played if necessary).
|National Hockey League|