NHL Playoffs 2021: Updated 1st-Round Schedule, Dates, Times and Predictions

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMay 20, 2021

Toronto Maple Leafs center Joe Thornton(97) celebrates his goal with teammate Mitch Marner(16) during an NHL hockey game against the Ottawa Senators, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, in Toronto, Canada. (AP Photo/Peter Power)
Peter Power/Associated Press

The last of the eight first-round series in the Stanley Cup playoffs begins Thursday, when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Montreal Canadiens.

The top seed in the North Division will attempt to avoid the same fate as the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday. Edmonton lost Game 1 at home to the Winnipeg Jets.

The Oilers should not feel immense pressure since the series is one game old and because they achieved plenty of success versus the Jets in the regular season. With the best player on the ice in tow in Connor McDavid, Edmonton should be able to bounce back in Friday's Game 2.

As for Toronto, it is expected to dispense with Montreal since there was an 18-point gap between the two sides in the North Division.

The other two No. 1 seeds with more than 10 regular-season points than their opponents, the Colorado Avalanche and Carolina Hurricanes, have 2-0 series leads.


Updated NHL Playoffs Schedule

Thursday, May 20 

Game 3: Florida at Tampa Bay (6:30 p.m., USA) (Tampa Bay leads series 2-0)

Game 3: Pittsburgh at New York Islanders (7 p.m., NBCSN) (Series tied 1-1)

Game 1: Montreal at Toronto (7:30 p.m., NHL Network)

Game 3: Vegas at Minnesota (9:30 p.m., NBCSN) (Series tied 1-1)


Friday, May 21

Game 4: Washington at Boston (6:30 p.m., NBCSN) (Boston leads series 2-1)

Game 3: Carolina at Nashville (7 p.m., USA) (Carolina leads series 2-0)

Game 2: Winnipeg at Edmonton (9 p.m., NBCSN) (Winnipeg leads series 1-0)

Game 3: Colorado at St. Louis (9:30 p.m., USA) (Colorado leads series 2-0)

All Times ET.



Toronto Opens with Impressive Performance

Toronto won seven of its 10 regular-season meetings with Montreal.

Four of those victories occurred on home ice. The lone home defeat was a 2-1 game February 13.

In the past four Toronto-Montreal games, the Leafs put up 14 goals while posting three wins and dropping an overtime game.

Auston Matthews scored in three of those four clashes, while Mitchell Marner scored in both May meetings with the Canadiens. Matthews and Marner were two of seven players in the NHL to record 65 or more points. Marner led the squad with 67, and Matthews was one point behind him but paced the lead in goals (41).

If everything goes right in the next week for the Leafs, they could end up with the Jets or Oilers visiting them to start the second round.


Edmonton Bounces Back from Game 1 Defeat

Three of the four other teams to lose a home playoff game bounced back with victories in the next contest. Only the Florida Panthers suffered consecutive home defeats.

That trend is a promising sign for the Oilers, who managed a single goal in a 4-1 defeat to the Jets on home ice Wednesday.

With McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the NHL's top two points-earners, you would have to think the Oilers offense will not be held down for the entire series.

The good news for the Oilers is they have experience in this situation after they lost the first game against the Chicago Blackhawks inside the playoff bubble last season. Edmonton won Game 2 before it lost a pair of one-goal games to suffer an early elimination.

If the Oilers get going in front of the net, they could replicate the Game 2 production from 2020 and then work to avoid the same Games 3 and 4 results while in Winnipeg.

There is hope for a quick turnaround since the Oilers placed 11 more shots on goal than the Jets and scored at least three goals in six of their seven regular-season wins versus Winnipeg.

As long as the Oilers continue to fire pucks on the net, they should replicate what the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vegas Golden Knights did to level their respective series at home.


Statistics obtained from Hockey Reference