Stanley Cup Playoffs
The Stanley Cup playoffs are an elimination tournament consisting of four rounds of best-of-seven series. The first three rounds decide which team from each conference will move on to the last round, called the Stanley Cup Finals. The winner of that set of games becomes the NHL and Stanley Cup winner. The last Stanley Cup playoffs were the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The first round of the playoffs, or Conference Quarterfinals, consists of four games in each conference, based on the seedings (1–8, 2–7, 3–6, and 4–5). In the second round, or Conference Semifinals, the top ten conferences that are still in the playoffs seed plays against the lowest remaining seed, and the other two conference teams play. In the third round, the Conference Finals, the two teams left in each conference play each other, with the conference champions going to the Stanley Cup Finals.
For the first three rounds, the higher-seeded team has home-ice advantage. In the Stanley Cup Finals, it goes to the team with the better regular season record. The team with home-ice advantage hosts games 1, 2, 5 and 7, while the opponent hosts games 3, 4 and 6 (games 5–7 are played "if needed").
Before the 1993–94 season, the style was completely different. The league was split into four divisions, and the best four teams in each of the divisions went to the playoffs. Also, instead of the top team playing the 8th place team in the conference, the first place team played the fourth place team in each division, and the second place team played the third place team. In the second round, the two winning teams in each division would face each other for the divisional championship. The divisional winners in each conference would play one another in the third round for the right to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. This style is still used for deciding the teams in the playoffs in the American Hockey League.