Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022: NHL Bracket, Format and Updated Predictions

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 25, 2022

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022: NHL Bracket, Format and Updated Predictions

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    The NHL playoff picture is much clearer than it was a week ago.

    The Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars have respective gaps of four and three points to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference wild-card race.

    Nashville and Dallas enter the final week of the regular season with a clear objective: earn more points than Vegas, and they will be in the postseason field.

    The Los Angeles Kings need to follow that same strategy to keep Vegas off its heels in the race for third place in the Pacific Division.

    Los Angeles is the only team in the top three of the NHL's four divisions that has not clinched a playoff berth.

    The Eastern Conference playoff field has been set for a while, but the order of the teams is still in question.

    The Washington Capitals are one point back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division. The Caps have a game in hand on the Penguins.

    Washington might be able to make up the gap in the next week, which would allow it to avoid a first-round matchup with the red-hot Florida Panthers, who should lock up the Presidents' Trophy.

Current Bracket

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Eastern Conference

    Atlantic Division

    No. 1 Florida vs. Wild-Card No. 2 Washington

    No. 2 Toronto vs. No. 3 Tampa Bay 


    Metropolitan Division

    No. 1 Carolina vs. Wild-Card No. 1 Boston

    No. 2 New York Rangers vs. No. 3 Pittsburgh 


    Western Conference

    Central Division

    No. 1 Colorado vs. Wild-Card No. 2 Dallas

    No. 2 Minnesota vs. No. 3 St. Louis


    Pacific Division

    No. 1 Calgary vs. Wild-Card No. 1 Nashville

    No. 2 Edmonton vs. No. 3 Los Angeles 


    The NHL playoff bracket pits the team with the most points in the conference against the second wild-card team in the first round.

    The division winner with the second-most points takes on the top wild-card team.

    The wild-card teams get placed into the divisional brackets based off which teams fill the division winner spots. It does not matter whether the wild-card teams are in the same division as their first-round opponents.

    Once the bracket is finalized, teams embark on best-of-seven series across every round. The first-round winners in each division will play each other in the second round.

    Home-ice advantage belongs to the team with the best seed in the first two rounds. The team with the highest regular-season points total earns home ice in the conference final and Stanley Cup Final.

Nashville and Dallas Hold On to West Wild-Card Spots

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    The biggest game of the week is Vegas' trip to Dallas on Tuesday.

    Dallas can put five points between itself and the Golden Knights with two games to play if it pulls off a home victory.

    The Stars are 25-10-3 on home ice, and they held their last four opponents in Texas to a maximum of three goals.

    Dallas' defense will be key to shutting down any threats that a desperate Golden Knights attack throws at it Tuesday night.

    If Dallas defends its home ice, it should cruise into the postseason with wins over the Arizona Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks.

    Vegas needs a win over Dallas on Tuesday plus some help from Arizona and Anaheim to make the jump into the second wild-card position. The Golden Knights finish the regular season on the road against the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

    St. Louis may be playing for the second spot in the Central Division on Friday, so Vegas will not be up against a weakened opponent that has already clinched a playoff berth.

    Nashville needs to beat one of the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday and Thursday to avoid any pressure on the final day of the regular season. The Predators could also use some help from the Stars to create distance between themselves and Vegas.

    A Dallas win over Vegas and a Nashville home victory over Calgary on Tuesday essentially locks up the Western Conference playoff field.

    Nashville is 25-14-1 inside Bridgestone Arena and is 2-0 against the Flames this season. That is a bad sign for the Golden Knights if they want help after a potential loss to Dallas.

    Vegas' only path to the wild-card spot with a loss to Dallas involves Nashville losing out.

    The Vancouver Canucks are technically still alive six points back of Dallas, but they should be eliminated in the next two days.

Washington Beats Out Pittsburgh for 3rd Place in Metropolitan Division

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    The Washington Capitals need to make up a one-point difference on the Pittsburgh Penguins with one game in hand.

    Washington's first two games of the week come against the New York Islanders, who are out of playoff contention.

    Washington holds a 2-0 season series advantage over the Islanders, and it could use the four points from those two games to secure third place in the Metropolitan Division.

    Pittsburgh's week begins with a home clash against the Edmonton Oilers, who are still fighting to hold on to second place in the Pacific Division. Edmonton needs to pick up victories to remain ahead of the Los Angeles Kings and land home-ice advantage in the first round.

    The Penguins will most likely earn two points Friday with a home win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. One win over Columbus may not be enough to clinch third place in the Metropolitan. They need to either beat the Oilers or earn a point with an overtime loss to feel decent about holding on to their spot.

    Washington plays the easier opponent to start the week, and that could be the advantage it needs to take over third place. The Capitals finish the regular season Friday with trip to Madison Square Garden to play the New York Rangers, who could be their first-round opponent.

    New York might be willing to give some of its best players a bit of rest with second place in the Metropolitan locked up. Washington will be playing for more Friday, and that could lead it to a win, even if New York's starters are on the ice.

    Third place in the Metropolitan Division is so valuable because whichever team loses out on that spot will likely face the Florida Panthers in the first round as the No. 2 wild-card team.

    The Boston Bruins are ahead of Pittsburgh by two points and up on Washington by three. Two wins in their final three games should set up the Bruins with a first-round clash against the Carolina Hurricanes.