2021 NHL Playoffs Central – Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

Following the bubble-encased 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the 2021 postseason returns to a more traditional format. There are, however, some changes. The first two rounds will be intra-divisional due to a one-year realignment. The four Cup semifinalists will then be re-bracketed based on their regular season record, with No. 1 facing No. 4, and No. 2 facing No. 3.

From the first round to the Stanley Cup Final, ESPN has you covered; consider this your one-stop shop for the entire 16-team tournament.

Continue reading for the complete playoff picture, which includes previews, analysis, highlights, scores, and more for each team and series.

 

2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

The second round

East Division

2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

Schedule:

Game 1: Saturday, May 29, 8 p.m. | Preview
Game 2: Monday, May 31, 7:30 p.m. | Preview
Game 3: TBD
Game 4: TBD
Game 5: TBD
Game 6: TBD
Game 7: TBD

The Islanders won the first five games of the season series, while the Bruins won the final three (all of which were played after Boston landed Taylor Hall at the trade deadline). The last time these two teams met was in 1983, when the Isles won before going on to win the Stanley Cup. Will the winner of this race face a similar fate this summer?

Consensus pick: Bruins (10/13)


Central Division

2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

Schedule:

Game 1: Sunday, May 30, 5 p.m. | Preview
Game 2: TBD
Game 3: TBD
Game 4: TBD
Game 5: TBD
Game 6: TBD
Game 7: TBD

The defending Cup champions look to continue their title defence against the high-octane Hurricanes, and there is no shortage of high-end skill in this battle. For this one, both buildings will be rocking..

Consensus pick: Lightning (11/13)


West Division

2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

Schedule:

Game 1: Sunday, May 30, 8 p.m. | Preview
Game 2: TBD
Game 3: TBD
Game 4: TBD
Game 5: TBD
Game 6: TBD
Game 7: TBD

Series preview: Two elite Cup contenders square off for the West crown in a matchup that has piqued everyone's interest since the NHL's 2021 realignment plan was announced. The Knights came through a seven-game series against the Wild, while the Avs rested after defeating the Blues in four games.

Consensus pick: Avalanche (10/13)

2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

The first round

Jump to:
East: PIT-NYI | WSH-BOS
Central: CAR-NSH | FLA-TB
North: TOR-MTL | EDM-WPG
West: COL-STL | VGS-MIN

East Division

2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

Schedule:

Game 1: Islanders 4, Penguins 3 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Penguins 2, Islanders 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Penguins 5, Islander 4 | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Islanders 4, Penguins 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Islanders 3, Penguins 2 (2OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 6: Islanders 5, Penguins 3 | Recap | Replay

Preview of the series: While the Penguins' speed may pose problems for New York, as it did during the regular season, the Islanders' defensive structure thrives at this time of year. It's become a yearly ritual to write off the Islanders until they go on a playoff run that forces you to pay attention. Who wants to take this one?

Consensus pick: Penguins (10/16)

Keys to the offseason for the Penguins


2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

Schedule:

Game 1: Capitals 3, Bruins 2 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Bruins 4, Capitals 3 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Bruins 3, Capitals 2 (2OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Bruins 4, Capitals 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Bruins 3, Capitals 1 | Recap | Replay

Series preview: When Washington hired Peter Laviolette ahead of the season, they wanted to energise the team and instil a sense of urgency. This is one of the opening round's most star-studded series, and it's going to be a close one. There were seven one-goal games the last time these two met in the postseason; they also split the season series 4-4. Read the entire preview.

Consensus pick: Bruins (14/16)

Keys to the offseason for the Capitals

2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

Central Division

2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

Jaccob Slavin shoots off a faceoff, and Sebastian Aho gets a piece of the shot to win it for Carolina and knock off Nashville in the series.

Schedule:

Game 1: Hurricanes 5, Predators 2 | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Hurricanes 3, Predators 0 | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Predators 5, Hurricanes 4 (2OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Predators 4, Hurricanes 3 (2OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Hurricanes 3, Predators 2 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 6: Hurricanes 4, Predators 3 (OT) | Recap | Replay

Series preview: The Predators should not be underestimated, but we must see this matchup for what it is: a fringe playoff team versus a deep and talented squad that has looked strong all season and won the division title from the defending Stanley Cup champions. Can the Predators pull off a huge upset?

Consensus pick: Canes (16/16)

Keys to the offseason for the Predators


2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

Schedule:

Game 1: Lightning 5, Panthers 4 | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Lightning 3, Panthers 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Panthers 6, Lightning 5 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Lightning 6, Panthers 2 | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Panthers 4, Lightning 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 6: Lightning 4, Panthers 0 | Recap | Replay

Series preview: The Panthers were one of the best stories of the 2021 season, and they have all of the pieces in place for long-term success. However, Tampa Bay has already gone through its growing pains; their time has come. The Lightning should win this if their health holds up.

Consensus pick: Lightning (11/16)

Keys to the offseason for the Panthers

2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

North Division

2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

The Canadiens score 59 seconds into overtime as Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield rush up the ice on a 2-on-0 before Suzuki scores to win Game 5 for Montreal.

Schedule:

Game 1: Canadiens 2, Maple Leafs 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 0 | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 6: Saturday, May 29, 7:30 p.m. | Preview
Game 7: Monday, May 31, TBD | Preview

Series preview: The first playoff meeting between these two teams since 1979 will undoubtedly be intense and physical, with the Canadiens attempting to brutalise and provoke the Leafs with physical play. The addition of reinforcements to the Canadiens' lineup, particularly Brendan Gallagher, will be beneficial to the team. But the Leafs are on a roll and clearly the better of the two teams in this game.

Consensus pick: Maple Leafs (16/16)


2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

Schedule:

Game 1: Jets 4, Oilers 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Jets 1, Oilers 0 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Jets 5, Oilers 4 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Jets 4, Oilers 3 (3OT) | Recap | Replay

Series preview: The Jets were in a tailspin down the stretch, while the Oilers and a next-level Connor McDavid were steamrolling through opponents. Still, Nikolaj Ehlers' return could be crucial, and Connor Hellebuyck is capable of winning on his own. That is the optimistic viewpoint. What is the realistic point of view?

Consensus pick: Oilers (13/16)

Keys to the offseason for the Oilers

2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

West Division

2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

Schedule:

Game 1: Avalanche 4, Blues 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Avalanche 6, Blues 3 | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Avalanche 5, Blues 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Avalanche 5, Blues 2 | Recap | Replay

Series preview: Since the start of the season in January, the Avs have been a top Stanley Cup pick. Can they be stopped by a red-hot Jordan Binnington?

Consensus pick: Avalanche (15/16)

Keys to the offseason for the Blues


2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis2021 NHL Playoffs Central - Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

Schedule:

Game 1: Wild 1, Golden Knights 0 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Golden Knights 3, Wild 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Golden Knights 5, Wild 2 | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Golden Knights 4, Wild 0 | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Wild 4, Golden Knights 2 | Recap | Replay
Game 6: Wild 3, Golden Knights 0 | Recap | Replay
Game 7: Golden Knights 6, Wild 2 | Recap | Replay

Series preview: The Wild have fought hard against the Golden Knights. The Knights' defence isn't nearly as strong as it was under DeBoer last season, while the Wild are one of the best defensive teams in the NHL when it comes to limiting high-danger chances. Can Minnesota spring a surprise?

Consensus pick: Golden Knights (15/16)

Keys to the offseason for the Wild

 

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