NHL Playoff Bracket 2021: Round-by-Round Schedule, Dates and Guide

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMay 28, 2021

Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba (24) and Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez (23) fight during the second period in Game 6 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Wednesday, May 26, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)
Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

The Carolina Hurricanes advanced to the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs Thursday night, notching a 4-3 overtime victory to win their first-round series against the Nashville Predators in six games. That leaves only two second-round spots available.

One of those will be decided Friday night, when the Vegas Golden Knights and Minnesota Wild play Game 7 of their first-round series in Las Vegas. The winner of that showdown will advance to play the Colorado Avalanche.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a 3-2 lead over the Montreal Canadiens and could end the series in Saturday's Game 6. If the Habs stave off elimination (as they did with a 4-3 overtime win Thursday), then the series will be decided Monday.

Even if that happens, though, the NHL isn't waiting for that series to end before starting the second round. The Boston Bruins and New York Islanders will get the second round underway Saturday night in Boston.

With the playoffs slightly pushed back from the planned start date, the NHL hasn't announced the full schedule for the rest of the postseason. So keep an eye out as the league continues to set dates and times for the later rounds as they get closer.

In the meantime, here's a look at the upcoming slate, followed by a preview of Friday's highly anticipated Game 7 in Las Vegas.


Upcoming Schedule

Friday, May 28

Game 7: No. 3 Minnesota Wild at No. 2 Vegas Golden Knights, 9 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network


Saturday, May 29

Game 6: No. 1 Toronto Maple Leafs at No. 4 Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

Game 1: No. 4 New York Islanders at No. 3 Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET, NBC


Friday Preview

Game 7 matchups are among the most exciting things in sports, and the NHL will get its first one Friday night. But it didn't always seem like this was where the series between the Golden Knights and Wild was heading.

After falling 1-0 in Game 1, Vegas reeled off three straight victories (including two on the road in Games 3 and 4 in Minnesota) to take a commanding series lead. The Golden Knights outscored the Wild 12-3 across that trio of wins.

But Minnesota fought back. It won 4-2 on the road in Game 5 and returned home for Game 6 and won 3-0 on Wednesday. It gives the Wild the momentum with the series heading back to Las Vegas, where they have already won twice during this series.

"A lot of confidence in my group on our team," Minnesota forward Kevin Fiala said, per W.G. Ramirez of the Associated Press. "We won two in a row now, but we've got to regroup. It all starts at zero. We're going to realize that and have a great start. Anything can happen in Game 7, and we'll be ready."

Fiala got off to a slow start this postseason, putting up no points through the first five games of the series. In Game 6, however, he had a goal and an assist, each of which came in the third period, as he helped the Wild extend this series. If the left wing carries over that momentum into Game 7, it could give Minnesota the boost it needs to win.

Another key to the Wild's success will be the play of goaltender Cam Talbot. There have been highs and lows in the series for Talbot, who had shutouts in Games 1 and 6. But there have also been times when the Golden Knights have gotten the best of him, such as when they scored nine goals between their Games 3 and 4 wins.

If Minnesota wins, it will earn its first playoff series victory since the first round in 2015. Since then, the Wild have lost five consecutive postseason series, none of which went to a Game 7. The last time Minnesota played a Game 7 was in 2014, when it beat Colorado.

This is Vegas' 10th playoff series in its first four seasons in the NHL, and it's the third time it will be playing a Game 7 matchup. The Golden Knights lost a Game 7 to the San Jose Sharks in the first round in 2019, but they won a seven-game series against the Vancouver Canucks in the second round last year.

This is the first time Vegas is hosting a Game 7 on its home ice, and there's sure to be a great atmosphere at T-Mobile Arena.

"It's an exciting opportunity," Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith said, per Ramirez. "Our fans are definitely going to be full of energy, and they're going to be pretty loud, so let's make the most of it. Your home arena with all your fans excited and full of emotions—it's the stuff that we dream about as kids."

Whichever team wins will face a challenge against the Presidents' Trophy-winning Avalanche, but the Golden Knights and Wild are both capable of giving the Avs a competitive series.

But will it be Vegas or Minnesota getting an opportunity to extend its playoff run? It should be a thrilling Game 7, and it could go either way. Whatever happens, it's likely going to live up to the hype.