Nothing is typical about this year’s postseason, yet the NHL is doing its best to make sure it runs smoothly.
The league will host 12 teams from each conference in two hub cities (Western Conference in Edmonton and the Eastern Conference in Toronto). Play will open with a qualifying round to get to the usual number of 16 teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Then the playoffs will begin more or less like usual.
Monday: Training camp opens in teams’ buildings. The Lightning will have 33 players at Amalie Arena, including four goalies, as they work out who will make the final roster of 31.
July 26: Teams travel to hub cities. The Lightning will head to Toronto. Everyone in the traveling party of 51 will have to return multiple negative COVID-19 tests before they go, and thus they will not have to strictly quarantine. They will play a couple of exhibition games once they get to Toronto.
Aug. 3, 5, 9: Round-robin play. As one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference, the Lightning have a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. While the bottom eight of each conference fight to make it, the Lightning will play the Capitals (Aug. 3), the Bruins (Aug. 5) and the Flyers (Aug. 9) in a round robin to determine seeding. Games will be played at noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. in Toronto and 2 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. in Edmonton.
Aug. 10*: NHL draft Lottery. Phase 2 of the lottery will determine which of the newly-eliminated teams will get the first overall pick.
Aug. 11: First round of the playoffs. The playoffs will proceed like normal, with best-of-seven series. There may be one back-to-back set in each round.
Aug. 25*: Second round of the playoffs.
Sept. 8*: Conference finals begin, with the league having merged to one hub city.
Sept. 22–Oct. 4*: Stanley Cup Finals.
Oct. 9-10*: NHL draft.
*Dates could shift by a couple of days, depending on developments on and off the ice.