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NHL Playoff Picture 2021: Full Postseason Bracket, Odds and Predictions

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMay 16, 2021

Toronto Maple Leafs left winger Jimmy Vesey(26) during an NHL hockey game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tuesday, March 9, 2021, in Toronto, Canada. (AP Photo/Peter Power)
Peter Power/Associated Press

The Stanley Cup drought for Canadian NHL teams dates back to 1993.

In the current playoff format, one of the four Stanley Cup playoff qualifiers from the North Division will be one of the final four teams hunting for the trophy.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are the favored team to reach that point, and they are the second favorite on the board behind the Colorado Avalanche to win the title.

Toronto's Cup quest will not begin until Thursday because of the rescheduled games at the end of the regular season, but once the Leafs get going, they have a chance to be the country's last title hope.

The other three divisions began their playoff rounds Saturday and Sunday. The Washington Capitals notched the first win in the East Division series with the Boston Bruins.

Although it seems hard to predict which squad will come out of the East, if you get that call right, you could be sitting on a hefty futures ticket. The Pittsburgh Penguins at +1200 (bet $100 to win $1,200) are the first East Division team on the Stanley Cup futures board.

The full NHL playoff schedule and bracket can be found here on the league's official website.

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Stanley Cup Odds

via DraftKings Sportsbook

Colorado (+375)

Toronto (+600)

Vegas (+600)

Carolina (+750)

Tampa Bay (+800)

Pittsburgh (+1200)

Boston (+1300)

Florida (+1400)

Washington (+1400)

Edmonton (+2000)

New York Islanders (+2100)

Minnesota (+2500)

Montreal (+3500)

St. Louis (+3500)

Winnipeg (+3700)

Nashville (+4000)

     

Predictions

Toronto Emerges As Canada's Top Cup Hope

Picking Toronto to come out of the North Division bracket does not seem like such a bold prediction.

If you look at the franchise's recent playoff history, you will understand how frustrating it can be for it to just reach the semifinal round.

The Leafs were one of four higher seeds to be knocked out in the qualifying round of the expanded playoff format in 2020 and were eliminated in the first round of the 2017, 2018 and 2019 postseasons.

Toronto has 18 more regular-season points than the fourth-seeded Montreal Canadiens, so you would think the first-round losing streak will end in a few weeks.

The North's No. 1 seed defeated Montreal on seven occasions, and it outscored the Canadiens 8-4 in their final two-game series on May 6 and 8.

Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Co. have six wins each over Edmonton and Winnipeg. The winner of the Edmonton Oilers-Winnipeg Jets series will face the Leafs or Canadiens in the second round.

Toronto scored four or more goals in 13 of its wins over the North Division playoff qualifiers, which is another promising sign it will make it out of the first two rounds.

Once the Leafs get into the semifinals, it may be harder to justify their title credentials because of the overall strength of their division. Three of the 10 worst teams in the NHL reside in the all-Canadian division.

But the most important thing right now for the Leafs, and their fans, is that they win at least one playoff series. Beating Montreal and then either Edmonton or Winnipeg seems like a straightforward task based on regular-season play.

         

Pittsburgh, Washington Set Up Another Playoff Clash

Pittsburgh and Washington have met three times in the postseason since 2016.

The Penguins and Capitals could be on another collision course if they open up the playoffs with victories over the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins, respectively.

Washington took Game 1 over Boston on Saturday and Pittsburgh began its series on home ice Sunday afternoon.

Pittsburgh went 6-2 against the Islanders in the regular season. One of the defeats was by a goal, and the other featured an Islanders shutout.

The Penguins are 22-4-2 at home and have a better goal differential by 12 goals scored over their first postseason foe.

Washington split its regular-season matchups with Boston, but even in the losses, it was able to find the back of the net multiple times. The Caps put up a total of 25 goals on the Bruins over eight games and scored three in Game 1.

If both teams advance, their Stanley Cup odds should drop from the current numbers. Pittsburgh is +1200, and Washington sits at +1400.

If the two favorites advance to the next round, one of them will come into the semifinals with great value when the postseason began.

Until they each drop below +1000, it could be worth taking a flier on them since they both have rosters littered with Stanley Cup-winning experience.

     

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