The round robin is complete, the play-in series are settled and 16 teams have emerged from the pack. Folks, it's time for playoff hockey.
Below, we'll go through the full schedule and bracket and preview the action to come as the NHL postseason gets going in full swing. Bust out your playoff beards, it's time to roll.
Bracket and Matchups
Schedule (Also Available at NHL.com)
Joe Haggerty @HackswithHaggs
B's/Hurricanes 1st round playoff schedule. I'd like to thank em for not playing on my birthday Game 1: Tue, 8 pm Game 2: Thur, 8 pm Game 3: Sat, Noon Game 4: Mon, 8 PM Game 5 (If Necessary): Wed. (Aug 19) Game 6 (If Necessary): Thurs. (Aug 20) Game 7 (If Necessary) Sun. (Aug 23)
*U.S. national TV broadcasts will be on NBC family of networks
There are some really good matchups on tap, and a few teams head into the postseason on fire. The Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights all won at least two games in the round robin, with the Flyers and Golden Knights each winning three and topping their conferences.
All four make a strong case to be considered among the favorites come the start of the postseason. The Flyers in particular are red-hot, winning their three qualifying games by a combined score of 11-3. And dating back to before the restart, no team has been cooking quite like Philly:
"We're excited here," Joel Farabee told Charlie O'Connor of The Athletic. "We're ready to go dancing."
The Montreal Canadiens probably won't be thrilled to see them, though they'll be happy to have advanced this far. They are a great story after shocking the perennial contending Pittsburgh Penguins. Any team with a goalie like Carey Price is capable of going on a deep run. The Flyers surely won't be taking them lightly in one of the most intriguing matchups of the first round.
Speaking of hot teams, the Golden Knights are looking to make noise in their third straight playoff appearance. But they'll face a team with a lot of postseason experience in the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks are a team to ignore at your own peril after ending the season of young stars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. That was a disappointment for those who wanted to see the game's brightest young star, McDavid, in the postseason, especially because he lost to a Blackhawks team that was out of the playoff picture before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to try a new format.
And now former champions like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have a chance to add to their already-impressive legacy. The Blackhawks are a threat, and one the Golden Knights cannot overlook.
The defending champion St. Louis Blues, meanwhile, head into the postseason in less-than-stellar form, going 0-2-1 during the round-robin portion of the restart. The Vancouver Canucks and their young offensive firepower await.
The Boston Bruins also can't be happy with an 0-3 round robin that leaves them to face a tough Carolina Hurricanes team. Remember, the Bruins had the most points in the NHL when the regular season was put on hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Hurricanes swept the New York Rangers in the play-in tournament and surprised everyone by making a run to the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago. Don't count out another deep run, especially since they get to start against a Bruins team that has disappointed in the restart.
The Calgary Flames dropped a game to the Winnipeg Jets, but their three wins came by a combined score of 14-3. When the Flames get cooking, they can be a tough team to stop. The Dallas Stars will have their hands full.