The journey for the Stanley Cup is about to kick off.

One of the most exciting times in the sports calendar is upon us, as the NHL playoffs are set to commence. The postseason in any sport usually offers must-watch entertainment, but there is something unique about the spectacle that is the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Like many other major sports leagues in North America, the NHL has made changes to the playoff format over the years. However, the structure for the 2024 postseason remains consistent with the past three years.

NHL PLAYOFF PICTURE: Updated standings, bracket, matchups & key dates for 2024 postseason

Here’s a recap of the format for this year’s playoffs.

You can check out the latest 2024 Stanley Cup odds at BetMGM.

How many teams qualify for the NHL playoffs?

A total of 16 teams make it to the NHL postseason – eight from the Eastern Conference and eight from the Western Conference.

In each conference, the top three teams from every division are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, with the division winners receiving the top two seeds for the postseason.

The remaining two positions are reserved for the teams with the best records outside the top three, regardless of the division they are from. These teams are known as the wild-card teams.

How many rounds are in the NHL playoffs?

The Stanley Cup playoffs consist of four rounds – first round, second round, conference finals, and Stanley Cup Finals.

In the first round, the top team in the conference plays against the second wild-card team. The other division winner faces the other wild-card team. The second-ranked team in a division competes against the third-ranked team from the same division.

In the second round, the teams do not get reseeded. Instead, the winner of a series involving the No. 2 and No. 3 teams from a division will face the winner of the series between the division winner and the wild-card team.

For instance, in this postseason, if the Bruins, Panthers, and Maple Leafs finish first through third in the Atlantic respectively, the winner of the Bruins’ series will face the winner of the Panthers-Maple Leafs series.

The last two teams in each conference will then compete in the conference finals, with the winners from each conference advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals.

How many games are in a series?

Every series in the playoffs, regardless of the round, is a best-of-seven series. The first team to win four games moves on to the next round.

Each series follows a 2-2-1-1-1 format, where the team with the better record hosts Games 1, 2, 5, and 7 at their home arena, while the opponent hosts Games 3, 4, and 6. Only the first four games are guaranteed, with Games 5, 6, and 7 played if needed.