When do the NHL playoffs start? First-round schedule, odds for 2021 Stanley Cup chase

When do the NHL playoffs start? First-round schedule, odds for 2021 Stanley Cup chase

While the 2021 NHL regular season won’t officially be over until the final horn sounds at the conclusion of Wednesday’s afternoon matinee between the Canucks and Flames, the playoffs will already be in full swing. The 2021 playoffs begin Saturday when the Bruins and Capitals hit the ice in Washington, D.C.

Unlike the 2020 summer bubble, there will be no qualifying round in 2021; that’s right, we’re down to the usual sweet 16. But, hockey fans, that’s the only part of this postseason that’s normal. No one will be avoiding touching — or maybe they will, every team has its own superstition — the Campbell Bowl (Western Conference champion) or the Prince of Wales Trophy (Eastern Conference champion) this year.

With teams realigned because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the division champions will square off in the final four, with the winners battling it out for the greatest trophy in all of sports: the Stanley Cup.

Who will be left standing at the end is anyone’s guess, which is what makes the NHL’s playoffs so mesmerizing and heart-thumping. Below is the full 2021 NHL playoff bracket and schedule, along with updated odds for who will raise Lord Stanley’s Cup.

When do the 2021 NHL playoffs start?

The Stanley Cup playoffs were set to begin May 11 following a May 8 conclusion to the regular season. The NHL announced May 10 that the Bruins and Capitals would begin their first-round series on Saturday, May 15. 

The NHL announced the remainder of the playoff schedule Thursday, with the North Division starting the latest. No. 1 seed Toronto will begin its series against fellow Original Six squad Montreal on Thursday, May 20. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the Oilers will start their best-of-seven set against the Jets one night prior.

2021 NHL playoffs bracket

Coming soon . . .

How do the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs work?

The 2021 season is unlike any other, and that includes the playoffs. Unlike previous years, there will not be an Eastern Conference or a Western Conference champion. Instead, there will be four division champions meeting in the semis. 

Before teams reach the final four, the playoffs will start with teams battling inside their division. The top-seeded squad in each division will face the No. 4 team in the division; the second-place team will play the No. 3 squad.

The first-round winners will square off in the second round, and then the champions of each division will meet in the 2021 Stanley Cup semifinals. Teams will be reseeded by regular-season points totals for the semis; the team with the best regular-season record will play the team with the fourth-best record, and No. 2 will play No. 3. The semifinal winners will then compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Each series in 2021 will be a best of seven.

MORE: In the U.S., watch every NHL game on fuboTV (7-day free trial)

NHL playoff first-round schedule

(All times Eastern)

East Division

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (4) New York Islanders

Date Matchup Time (TV channel)
Sun., May 16 at Pittsburgh Noon (NBC, SN, TVA Sports)
Tue., May 18 at Pittsburgh 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Thu., May 20 at New York 7 p.m. (NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports)
Sat., May 22 at New York 3 p.m. (NBC, SN, TVA Sports)
*Mon., May 24 at Pittsburgh TBD
*Wed., May 26 at New York TBD
*Fri., May 28 at Pittsburgh TBD

(* If necessary)

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(2) Washington Capitals vs. (3) Boston Bruins

Date Matchup Time (TV channel)
Sat., May 15 at Washington 7:15 p.m. (NBC, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Mon., May 17 at Washington 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Wed., May 19 at Boston 6:30 p.m. (NBCSN, SNE, SNO, SNP, SN360, TVA Sports)
Fri., May 21 at Boston 6:30 p.m. (NBCSN, SNE, SNO, SNP, SN360, TVA Sports)
*Sun., May 23 at Washington TBD
*Tue., May 25 at Boston TBD
*Thu., May 27 at Washington TBD

(* If necessary)

North Division

(1) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (4) Montreal Canadiens

Date Matchup Time (TV channel)
Thu., May 20 at Toronto 7:30 p.m. (NHL Network, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Sat., May 22 at Toronto 7 p.m. (CNBC, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Mon., May 24 at Montreal TBD
Tue., May 25 at Montreal TBD
*Thu., May 27 at Toronto TBD
*Sat., May 29 at Montreal TBD
*Mon., May 31 at Toronto TBD

(* If necessary)

(2) Edmonton Oilers vs. (3) Winnipeg Jets

Date Matchup Time (TV channel)
Wed., May 19 at Edmonton 9 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Fri., May 21 at Edmonton 9 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Sun., May 23 at Winnipeg TBD
Mon., May 24 at Winnipeg TBD
*Wed., May 26 at Edmonton TBD
*Fri., May 28 at Winnipeg TBD
*Sun., May 30 at Edmonton TBD

(* If necessary)

Central Division

(1) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (4) Nashville Predators

Date Matchup Time (TV channel)
Mon., May 17 at Carolina 8 p.m. (CNBC, SNE, TVA Sports)
Wed., May 19 at Carolina 8 p.m. (CNBC, FX-CA, TVA Sports)
Fri., May 21 at Nashville 7 p.m. (USA, FXX-CA, TVA Sports)
Sun., May 23 at Nashville TBD
*Tue., May 25 at Carolina TBD
*Thu., May 27 at Nashville TBD
*Sat., May 29 at Carolina TBD

(* If necessary)

MORE: Tripp Tracy talks playoffs and why one Canes star ranks with Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews

(2) Florida Panthers vs. (3) Tampa Bay Lightning

Date Matchup Time (TV channel)
Sun., May 16 at Florida 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports)
Tue., May 18 at Florida 8 p.m. (CNBC, SNE, TVA Sports)
Thu., May 20 at Tampa Bay 6:30 p.m. (USA, FX-CA, TVA Sports)
Sat., May 22 at Tampa Bay 12:30 p.m. (CNBC, SN, TVA Sports)
*Mon., May 24 at Florida TBD
*Wed., May 26 at Tampa Bay TBD
*Fri., May 28 at Florida TBD

(* If necessary)

West Division

(1) Colorado Avalanche/Vegas Golden Knights vs. (4) St. Louis Blues

Date Matchup Time (TV channel)
Mon., May 17 at Colorado/Vegas 10 p.m. (NBCSN, SN1, TVA Sports)
Wed., May 19 at Colorado/Vegas 10:30 p.m. (CNBC, SN360, TVA Sports)
Fri., May 21 at St. Louis 9:30 p.m. (USA, SN360, TVA Sports)
Sun., May 23 at St. Louis TBD
*Tue., May 25 at Colorado/Vegas TBD
*Thu., May 27 at St. Louis TBD
*Sat., May 29 at Colorado/Vegas TBD

(* If necessary)

(2) Colorado Avalanche/Vegas Golden Knights vs. (3) Minnesota Wild

Date Matchup Time (TV channel)
Sun., May 16 at Colorado/Vegas 3 p.m. (NBC, SN, TVA Sports)
Tue., May 18 at Colorado/Vegas 10 p.m. (NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports)
Thu., May 20 at Minnesota 9:30 p.m. (NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports)
Sat., May 22 at Minnesota 8 p.m. (NBC, SN360, TVA Sports)
*Mon., May 24 at Colorado/Vegas TBD
*Wed., May 26 at Minnesota TBD
*Fri., May 28 at Colorado/Vegas TBD

(* If necessary)

Updated odds to win the 2021 Stanley Cup

Team Odds*
Colorado Avalanche +450
Vegas Golden Knights +550
Toronto Maple Leafs +650
Tampa Bay Lightning +750
Carolina Hurricanes +850
Boston Bruins +1300
Pittsburgh Penguins +1300
Washington Capitals +1300
Florida Panthers +1500
New York Islanders +1600
Edmonton Oilers +2200
Minnesota Wild +2500
Winnipeg Jets +2800
Montreal Canadiens +3000
Nashville Predators +4100
St. Louis Blues +4100

* Odds according to FanDuel.





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About the Author

Marie Maynes
Marie Maynes is a Sports enthusiast and writes for the Sports section of ANH.