The past two Stanley Cup winners were both eliminated in the opening round of this year's NHL playoffs. With the St. Louis Blues (2019) and Washington Capitals (2018) losing their respective opening-round series, no repeat or potential dynasty is on the horizon.
That means this year's winner will have not claimed the Stanley Cup since at least 2011, which was the last time the Boston Bruins won it. They are one of the eight teams preparing for the second round of the postseason, which gets underway Saturday night with a Western Conference matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars.
There was the potential for the first round to continue until Sunday, but no opening-round series went longer than six games. On Saturday, the Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks secured the final two spots in the second round with Game 6 victories over the Montreal Canadiens and Blues, respectively.
Here's everything you need to know heading into the conference semifinals, including the upcoming schedule, updated Stanley Cup odds and predictions for all four series.
Saturday, Aug. 22
Game 1: No. 3 Dallas Stars at No. 2 Colorado Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET, NBC
Sunday, Aug. 23
Game 1: No. 4 Boston Bruins at No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning, 8 p.m. ET, NBC
Game 1: No. 5 Vancouver Canucks at No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Monday, Aug. 24
Game 1: No. 6 New York Islanders at No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers, 7 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Game 2: No. 3 Dallas Stars at No. 2 Colorado Avalanche, 9:45 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Tuesday, Aug. 25
Game 2: No. 4 Boston Bruins at No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning, 7 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Game 2: No. 5 Vancouver Canucks at No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights, 9:45 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Wednesday, Aug. 26
Game 2: No. 6 New York Islanders at No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers, 3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Game 3: No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning at No. 4 Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Game 3: No. 2 Colorado Avalanche at No. 3 Dallas Stars, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Complete second-round schedule available at NHL.com
Stanley Cup Odds
Vegas Golden Knights: +380 (bet $100 to win $380)
Colorado Avalanche: +390
Tampa Bay Lightning: +410
Boston Bruins: +600
Philadelphia Flyers: +850
New York Islanders: +1000
Dallas Stars: +1000
Vancouver Canucks: +1400
Odds obtained via Vegas Insider
No. 6 New York Islanders over No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers in seven games.
No. 4 Boston Bruins over No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.
There weren't too many surprises in the first round. That could change in the second round, though, and the New York Islanders could again be a team pulling off an upset.
New York not only upset Washington—they did so in a dominant way, jumping out to a 3-0 lead and finishing the 2018 Stanley Cup champs off in five games. The Islanders played strong all around, scoring four or more goals in three of their wins and holding the Caps to two or fewer goals in all four victories.
Head coach Barry Trotz knows what it takes to guide a team all the way, as he was Washington's coach in 2018. And with the way the Islanders have played this postseason, they they have a chance to upset the East's top seed.
New York hasn't reached the conference final since 1993. But with strong defensive play and another terrific showing from goaltender Semyon Varlamov, it will take down Philadelphia in a back-and-forth series, potentially being the first to go a full seven games this postseason.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins should also provide a competitive matchup. And it won't be the first time they have played this postseason. In a round-robin seeding game Aug. 5, Tampa Bay pulled out a 3-2 win over Boston, which won the Presidents' Trophy in the regular season but went 0-3 in round-robin play.
The Bruins got back on track in the first round, however, as they defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in five games in the first round. That included three straight victories to end the series, with Boston allowing only one goal in two of those wins despite star goaltender Tuukka Rask opting out of the postseason before Game 3.
Although the Lightning didn't have much trouble generating offense in their opening-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, they continue to play without captain Steven Stamkos, who is out with a lower-body injury. Against the Bruins, it may be more difficult for them to score.
Boston has turned the page from its early struggles in the Toronto bubble, and this is a team that knows how to win in the postseason. Now that the Bruins are playing like they did for much of the regular season, expect them to pull out a six-game series win over the Lightning to return to the Eastern Conference Final.
No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights over No. 5 Vancouver Canucks in five games.
No. 2 Colorado Avalanche over No. 3 Dallas Stars in six games.
Don't expect the surprises anticipated to happen in the Eastern Conference to also take place in the Western Conference. The Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche are cruising, and it seems almost inevitable that they are going to meet in this year's Western Conference Final.
Vegas has won seven of its first eight games this postseason. It went 3-0 in round-robin seeding play to earn the No. 1 seed for the first time in franchise history. Then the Golden Knights rolled to a dominant 4-1 series win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Golden Knights are not only winning, but they are doing so by scoring a ton of goals; Vegas has tallied at least four goals in six of its seven wins.
Although Vegas will go five days between games, longer layoffs weren't a problem when it reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2018. The Golden Knights will be well rested and continue another impressive postseason run beyond the series with the plucky Vancouver Canucks.
"That's a nice problem to have, and hopefully it will guarantee that we go into the next round healthy," Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said, according to The Athletic's Jesse Granger. "The nice thing is we can heal up some bumps and bruises and plan some practices out, and we have time to prepare."
While the Avalanche have played well all postseason, winning six of their first eight games, they took their play to another level in their final two victories in their opening-round series against the Arizona Coyotes. Colorado outscored Arizona 14-2 in Games 4 and 5 to advance to the second round in resounding fashion.
The Stars should play a more competitive series and force the Avalanche to play six games, but Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon (four goals and nine assists in eight postseason games) is going to be tough to contain. And as he gets his teammates involved, their offense should carry over the momentum from the first round.
That would set up an epic showdown between the Golden Knights and Avalanche in the conference final. When the teams faced off in the West's final round-robin seeding game Aug. 8, Vegas pulled out a 4-3 win in overtime.