NHL Playoffs 2017: Schedule, Stanley Cup Bracket Format and Predictions

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistApril 12, 2017

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 8: Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the Washington Capitals celebrates with Alex Ovechkin #8 after scoring against the Boston Bruins during the second period at TD Garden on April 8, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Wednesday marks the start of the 2017 NHL playoffs, and games will come down the pipe at a fast and furious pace as the first round begins. 

Specifically, the puck will drop on five different contests Wednesday before the first-round's final three series get underway Thursday. 

So as things get ready to roll, here's an overview of this year's postseason bracket, courtesy of the NHL's official Twitter account: 

And here's a rundown of the entire Round 1 schedule, complete with start times and viewing information, via NHL.com

2017 NHL Playoff Schedule: Round 1
GameMatchupDateTime (ET)TV
Game 1New York Rangers at Montreal CanadiensWednesday, April 127 p.m.NBCSN
Game 2New York Rangers at Montreal CanadiensFriday, April 147 p.m.USA
Game 3Montreal Canadiens at New York RangersSunday, April 167 p.m.NBCSN
Game 4Montreal Canadiens at New York RangersTuesday, April 187 p.m.NBCSN
Game 5*New York Rangers at Montreal CanadiensThursday, April 20TBDTBD
Game 6*Montreal Canadiens at New York RangersSaturday, April 22TBDTBD
Game 7*New York Rangers at Montreal CanadiensMonday, April 24TBDTBD
GameMatchupDateTime (ET)TV
Game 1Boston Bruins at Ottawa SenatorsWednesday, April 127 p.m.NHL Network
Game 2Boston Bruins at Ottawa SenatorsSunday, April 153 p.m.NBC
Game 3Boston Bruins at Ottawa SenatorsMonday, April 177 p.m.CNBC
Game 4Ottawa Senators at Boston BruinsWednesday, April 197:30 p.m.USA
Game 5*Boston Bruins at Ottawa SenatorsFriday, April 21TBDTBD
Game 6*Boston Bruins at Ottawa SenatorsSunday, April 23TBDTBD
Game 7*Boston Bruins at Ottawa SenatorsWednesday, April 26TBDTBD
GameMatchupDateTime (ET)TV
Game 1Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington CapitalsThursday, April 137 p.m.USA
Game 2Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington CapitalsSaturday, April 157 p.m.NBCSN
Game 3Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple LeafsMonday, April 177 p.m.NBCSN
Game 4Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple LeafsWednesday, April 197 p.m.NBCSN
Game 5*Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington CapitalsFriday, April 21TBDTBD
Game 6*Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple LeafsSunday, April 23TBDTBD
Game 7*Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington CapitalsTuesday, April 25TBDTBD
GameMatchupDateTime (ET)TV
Game 1Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh PenguinsWednesday, April 127:30 p.m.USA
Game 2Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh PenguinsFriday, April 147 p.m.NHL Network
Game 3Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue JacketsSunday, April 166 p.m.CNBC
Game 4Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue JacketsTuesday, April 187:30 p.m.CNBC
Game 5*Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh PenguinsThursday, April 20TBDTBD
Game 6*Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue JacketsSunday, April 23TBDTBD
Game 7*Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh PenguinsTuesday, April 25TBDTBD
GameMatchupDateTime (ET)TV
Game 1Nashville Predators at Chicago BlackhawksThursday, April 138 p.m.NBCSN
Game 2Nashville Predators at Chicago BlackhawksSaturday, April 158 p.m.NBC
Game 3Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville PredatorsMonday, April 179:30 p.m.CNBC
Game 4Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville PredatorsThursday, April 20TBDTBD
Game 5*Nashville Predators at Chicago BlackhawksSaturday, April 22TBDTBD
Game 6*Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville PredatorsMonday, April 24TBDTBD
Game 7*Nashville Predators at Chicago BlackhawksWednesday, April 26TBDTBD
GameMatchupDateTime (ET)TV
Game 1St. Louis Blues at Minnesota WildWednesday, April 129:30 p.m.NBCSN
Game 2St. Louis Blues at Minnesota WildFriday, April 148 p.m.NBCSN
Game 3Minnesota Wild at St. Louis BluesSunday, April 163 p.m.NBC
Game 4Minnesota Wild at St. Louis BluesWednesday, April 199:30 p.m.NBCSN
Game 5*St. Louis Blues at Minnesota WildSaturday, April 22TBDTBD
Game 6*Minnesota Wild at St. Louis BluesMonday, April 24TBDTBD
Game 7*St. Louis Blues at Minnesota WildWednesday, April 26TBDTBD
GameMatchupDateTime (ET)TV
Game 1Calgary Flames at Anaheim DucksThursday, April 1310:30 p.m.NBCSN
Game 2Calgary Flames at Anaheim DucksSaturday, April 1510:30 p.m.NBCSN
Game 3Anaheim Ducks at Calgary FlamesMonday, April 1710 p.m.NBCSN
Game 4Anaheim Ducks at Calgary FlamesWednesday, April 1910 p.m.USA
Game 5*Calgary Flames at Anaheim DucksFriday, April 21TBDTBD
Game 6*Anaheim Ducks at Calgary FlamesSunday, April 23TBDTBD
Game 7*Calgary Flames at Anaheim DucksTuesday, April 25TBDTBD
GameMatchupDateTime (ET)TV
Game 1San Jose Sharks at Edmonton OilersWednesday, April 1210 p.m.USA
Game 2San Jose Sharks at Edmonton OilersFriday, April 1410:30 p.m.NBCSN
Game 3Edmonton Oilers at San Jose SharksSunday, April 1610 p.m.NBCSN
Game 4Edmonton Oilers at San Jose SharksTuesday, April 1810 p.m.NBCSN
Game 5*San Jose Sharks at Edmonton OilersThursday, April 20TBDTBD
Game 6*Edmonton Oilers at San Jose SharksSaturday, April 22TBDTBD
Game 7*San Jose Sharks at Edmonton OilersMonday, April 24TBDTBD
Source: NHL.com; * denotes if necessary


Below, you'll find a few predictions specific to first-round action as the chase for the Stanley Cup gets set to heat up Wednesday evening. 

Prediction No. 1: Penguins Scrape Past the Blue Jackets in 7 Games

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 08: Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins looks on against the Tampa Bay Lightning at PPG PAINTS Arena on January 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

Evgeni Malkin will return to the ice for the first time since March 15 when the Pittsburgh Penguins open the playoffs Wednesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Sam Werner, but the defending Stanley Cup champions figure to be in for a fight in Round 1.

Although Malkin will be back and ready to serve as half of a lethal one-two punch with Sidney Crosby, the Penguins will be short-handed with Chris Kunitz and Carl Hagelin nursing lower-body injuries. Factor in Kris Letang's absence due to a herniated disc in his neck and the Pens will have to hunker down in order to keep the Blue Jackets' sixth-ranked scoring attack at bay. 

"The list of recent Stanley Cup winners without a dominant No. 1 defenseman is short," ESPN.com's Craig Custance wrote. "It's hard to see the Penguins repeating without Letang because he was so key to their win last spring."

In a series that should be hotly contested, don't be surprised if the Penguins are pushed to the brink by a hungry Blue Jackets team. 

Prediction No. 2: Connor McDavid Scores 10 Points in Round 1

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 04:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers skates with the puck during the third  period of a game against the Los Angeles Kings  at Staples Center on April 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Im
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

There was no stopping Connor McDavid during the regular season.

Appearing in all 82 games, the 20-year-old wunderkind scored 30 goals and doled out 70 assists en route to a league-best 100 points and this year's Art Ross Trophy. 

Now headed into his first postseason series, McDavid is primed to pile up even more points against a San Jose Sharks team that finished the regular season with losses in nine of its final 13 games—including two against Edmonton. 

In those games, McDavid combined to register four points. On the year, he racked up eight points in five contests against the Sharks. 

"He's so fast, so skilled," Sharks forward Jannik Hansen said, per the Mercury NewsCurtis Pashelka. "You want to make sure that he doesn't get easy opportunities, odd-man rushes—make sure he's coming through three or four guys."

Now entering a series that could span six or seven games, McDavid should flirt with double-digit points as Edmonton eyes its first postseason series win since 2006. 

Prediction No. 3: Capitals Sweep Maple Leafs 

Once again, the Washington Capitals are entering the playoffs tethered to high expectations. 

Fresh off a second consecutive Presidents' Trophy, Barry Trotz's club owns the second-best Stanley Cup title odds (plus-450; bet $100 to win $450) among all postseason qualifiers and the top odds among Eastern Conference clubs, according to OddsShark

But in order to make good on their status as premier title contenders, the Caps will have to start out with a bang.

Fortunately for the Metropolitan Division champions, the stars seem to be aligning for a swift first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs—who are making their second playoff appearance since 2003-04. 

Not only did the Capitals take two of three games against the Maple Leafs this past year, but Alex Ovechkin started to heat up as the regular season came to a close. NHL.com's Tom Gulitti wrote:

He had 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in the final 15 regular-season games and averaged 4.6 shots on goal per game over the past 18 games after averaging 3.6 in the first 64. To keep Ovechkin fresh for the playoffs, coach Barry Trotz trimmed his ice time from 20:18 per game last season to 18:21 per game this season.

And while it would be easy for the Capitals to overlook the Maple Leafs because of their youth, they appear to be in the right frame of mind as Game 1 approaches Thursday evening at Verizon Center. 

"They can create stuff," Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said, per Gulitti. "They can score. They make quick plays around the net. They can skate. So we're going to have to be on our toes all over the rink, but they have some dangerous people."

Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner will try and shake the Capitals' resolve, but Washington finally appears primed for the deep run that has proved elusive since Ovechkin joined the team in 2005.