The COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented 2020 playoffs, with 24 of the NHL's 31 teams heading to Canada to stage a summer bubble tournament that did not end until the Tampa Bay Lightning lifted the Stanley Cup on Sept. 28.
The 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs will be a step toward normalcy, but there are still a few new format wrinkles that we haven't seen in recent years.
This year's playoffs, starting a few weeks later than normal following a 56-game sprint of a season, sees the return of the 16-team field and just four rounds. But as teams have been doing all year, play in the first two rounds will stay inside the divisions — a format the NHL employed during the bulk of the 1980s and early 1990s.
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