How Did Playoffs Work in Original Six Era?

Published on May 15th, 2024 8:16 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

The Original Six era in the NHL - Playoff format. Prior to the start of the 1942-43 NHL regular season, the Brooklyn Americans were dropped from the league, leaving just six teams.

These six teams - the Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs - would become known as the "Original Six".

With just six teams in the league, how did the playoffs work?


To start, the regular season consisted of 50 games for each team.

The top four teams would make the playoffs, while the bottom two teams would go home.

The four playoff teams - the Red Wings, Bruins, Maple Leafs and Canadiens - were inserted into a bracket, with the top team playing the #3 ranked team, and the #2 team playing the #4 team.

The Red Wings finished as the top team in the regular season, while the Maple Leafs finished third, meaning that they played in the first round.

In the other match-up, the Boston Bruins played the Montreal Canadiens.

You would think that the #1 team would play the #4 team, while the second and third ranked teams would square off, but that's not how it worked back then.

The two semi-final series were a best-of-7, with the Red Wings winning 4-2 against the Maple Leafs, and the Boston Bruins defeating the Canadiens 4-1.


The Stanley Cup Finals was also a best-of-7 affair, with the Red Wings winning 4-0.


This format remained in place until the 1967-68 regular season, when the NHL decided to expand to 12 teams, adding the St. Louis Blues, California Seals, Philadelphia Flyers, Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings.

In that season, the top four teams from each division - the East Division and West Division - made the playoffs.

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