The top eight teams in each conference qualify for the NHL playoffs 2004.
Division leaders are seeded #1, #2, and #3. The next five best teams were seeded fourth through eighth.
Seeding is determined by: point total, wins, points obtained in games against tied teams and goal differential.
There are three rounds of playoffs in each conference (first round, conference semi finals and conference finals). The winner in these three rounds will be declared the Eastern or Western Conference Champion. In the final round, these two face off against each other for the Stanley Cup. Best-of-7 format is used in all stage of playoffs.
Home-ice advantage is given to the higher seed in all rounds except the first, when all division winners are assured a seed no lower than three. Home-ice advantage for the Stanley Cup Finals to be determined by points. The team with "home-ice advantage" is at home for Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 and on the road for games 3, 4 and 6.