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

After a bubble-encased 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, we’re back to a more traditional setup for the 2021 postseason. However, there are some tweaks. Thanks to a one-year realignment, the first two rounds will be intra-divisional. Then, the four Cup semifinalists will be re-bracketed based on regular season record, with No. 1 facing No. 4, and No. 2 taking on No. 3.

From the first round all the way through the Stanley Cup Final, ESPN has you covered; consider this your homepage for the entire 16-team tournament from start to finish.

Read on for the full playoff picture, including previews, analysis, highlights, scores and more for each team and series.

More: Playoff schedule | Series previewsGoalie Confidence Index | Lapsed fan’s guide

The first round

Jump to:East: PIT-NYI | WSH-BOSCentral: CAR-NSH | FLA-TBNorth: TOR-MTL | EDM-WPGWest: COL-STL | VGS-MIN

East Division

Schedule:

Game 1: Sunday, May 16, 12 p.m. | PreviewGame 2: Tuesday, May 18, 7:30 p.m. | PreviewGame 3: Thursday, May 20, 7 p.m. | PreviewGame 4: Saturday, May 22, 3 p.m. | PreviewGame 5: Monday, May 24, TBD | PreviewGame 6: Wednesday, May 26, TBD | PreviewGame 7: Friday, May 28, TBD | Preview

Series preview: While the Penguins’ speed could present challenges for New York — as it did in the regular season — the Islanders’ defensive structure thrives at this time of year. It’s now a yearly tradition: discounting the Islanders until they go on a playoff run that forces you to pay attention. Who takes this one? Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Penguins (10/16)

Schedule:

Game 1: Saturday, May 15, 7:15 p.m. | PreviewGame 2: Monday, May 17, 7:30 p.m. | PreviewGame 3: Wednesday, May 19, 6:30 p.m. | PreviewGame 4: Friday, May 21, 6:30 p.m. | PreviewGame 5: Sunday, May 23, TBD | PreviewGame 6: Tuesday, May 25, TBD | PreviewGame 7: Thursday, May 27, TBD | Preview

Series preview: When Washington hired Peter Laviolette ahead of the season, they wanted to light a fire under the group and instill urgency. This is one of the most star-studded series of the opening round, and it’s going to be a tight one. The last time these two met in the postseason, there were seven one-goal games; they also split the season series 4-4. Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Bruins (14/16)

Central Division

Schedule:

Game 1: Monday, May 17, 8 p.m. | PreviewGame 2: Wednesday, May 19, 8 p.m. | PreviewGame 3: Friday, May 21, 7 p.m. | PreviewGame 4: Sunday, May 23, TBD | PreviewGame 5: Tuesday, May 25, TBD | PreviewGame 6: Thursday, May 27, TBD | PreviewGame 7: Saturday, May 29, TBD | Preview

Series preview: The Predators shouldn’t be discounted, but we need to look at this matchup for what it is: a fringe playoff team versus a deep and talented squad that has looked strong all season, and captured the division crown from the defending Stanley Cup champions. Can the Preds pull a giant upset? Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Canes (16/16)

play

3:13

John Buccigross details the major storylines in the NHL heading into the playoffs.

Schedule:

Game 1: Sunday, May 16, 7:30 p.m. | PreviewGame 2: Tuesday, May 18, 8 p.m. | PreviewGame 3: Thursday, May 20, 6:30 p.m. | PreviewGame 4: Saturday, May 22, 12:30 p.m. | PreviewGame 5: Monday, May 24, TBD | PreviewGame 6: Wednesday, May 26, TBD | PreviewGame 7: Friday, May 28, TBD | Preview

Series preview: The Panthers were one of the best stories of the 2021 season, and have all the right pieces in place to have sustained success. But Tampa Bay has already been through its growing pains; their time is now. As long as health holds up, the Lightning should win this. Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Lightning (11/16)

North Division

Schedule:

Game 1: Thursday, May 20, 7:30 p.m. | PreviewGame 2: Saturday, May 22, 7 p.m. | PreviewGame 3: Monday, May 24, TBD | PreviewGame 4: Tuesday, May 25, TBD | PreviewGame 5: Thursday, May 27, TBD | PreviewGame 6: Saturday, May 29, TBD | PreviewGame 7: Monday, May 31, TBD | Preview

Series preview: The first playoff meeting between these franchises since 1979 will undoubtedly be intense and physical, as the Canadiens try to brutalize and goad the Leafs with physical play. The infusion of reinforcements to the Canadiens’ lineup, especially Brendan Gallagher, will be a boost to Montreal. But the Leafs are rolling, and clearly the better of the two teams here. Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Maple Leafs (16/16)

Schedule:

Game 1: Wednesday, May 19, 9 p.m. | PreviewGame 2: Friday, May 21, 9 p.m. | PreviewGame 3: Sunday, May 23, TBD | PreviewGame 4: Monday, May 24, TBD | PreviewGame 5: Wednesday, May 26, TBD | PreviewGame 6: Friday, May 28, TBD | PreviewGame 7: Sunday, May 30, TBD | Preview

Series preview: The Jets were really spiraling down the stretch while the Oilers and a next-level Connor McDavid were steam-rolling through teams. Still, the return of Nikolaj Ehlers could be key, and Connor Hellebuyck is capable of a win on his own. That’s the optimistic view. The realistic view? Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Oilers (13/16)

West Division

Schedule:

Game 1: Monday, May 17, 10 p.m. | PreviewGame 2: Wednesday, May 19, 10:30 p.m. | PreviewGame 3: Friday, May 21, 9:30 p.m. | PreviewGame 4: Sunday, May 23, TBD | PreviewGame 5: Tuesday, May 25, TBD | PreviewGame 6: Thursday, May 27, TBD | PreviewGame 7: Saturday, May 29, TBD | Preview

Series preview: The Avs have been a top Stanley Cup pick since the season started in January. Can a red-hot Jordan Binnington stymie them? Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Avalanche (15/16)

Schedule:

Game 1: Sunday, May 16, 3 p.m. | PreviewGame 2: Tuesday, May 18, 10 p.m. | PreviewGame 3: Thursday, May 20, 9:30 p.m. | PreviewGame 4: Saturday, May 22, 8 p.m. | PreviewGame 5: Monday, May 24, TBD | PreviewGame 6: Wednesday, May 26, TBD | PreviewGame 7: Friday, May 28, TBD | Preview

Series preview: The Wild have played the Golden Knights very tough. The Knights aren’t nearly as strong defensively as they were under DeBoer last season, while the Wild are one of the NHL’s best defensive teams in terms of limiting high-danger chances. Can Minnesota pull off the upset? Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Golden Knights (15/16)

Published: 2021-05-15 12:52:35

Tags: #NHL #Playoffs #Central #Bracket #schedule #scores #highlights #analysis

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