The NHL postseason is formally right here.
Sixteen groups are set to start the gauntlet of the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs, and there isn’t any telling which would be the membership to drink out of Lord Stanley’s Cup.
In Canada, 4 groups from 4 provinces — Maple Leafs (Ontario), Oilers (Alberta), Jets (Manitoba) and Canadiens (Quebec) — will battle it out to signify the North Division. It has been some time since a Canadian staff (Winnipeg in 2018) made the ultimate 4, however there will certainly be a staff from throughout the border within the semifinals.
Before that division winner may be topped — and possibly develop into the primary Canadian staff to hoist the Cup since Montreal in 1993 — issues lastly get underway on Wednesday and Thursday with the first-round series kicking off.
Here’s a have a look at how Sporting News predicts the opening spherical within the North Division will shake out:
- NHL playoffs bracket 2021
- NHL playoffs 2021: North Division predictions
- North Division first-round odds
- Sporting News’ 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs predictions
NHL playoffs bracket 2021
NHL playoffs 2021: North Division predictions
(1) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (4) Montreal Canadiens
The backstory? Oof, the backstory on this one is a protracted and winding highway. It’s an Original Six matchup between two storied franchises. The final time they met within the postseason was in 1979 (sure, earlier than Joe Thornton was born, however not by a lot). Montreal holds the 8-7 series benefit all time, together with a gathering within the 1967 last, when the Leafs gained their final Cup. Toronto simply desires to make it out of the primary spherical for the primary time since 2004.
There’s loads of more energizing stuff in 2021.
Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas and Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin each went all-in for this season. Dubas added a bunch of veterans in Thornton and Wayne Simmonds, whereas additionally solidifying the blue line with TJ Brodie within the offseason. He then went out and snagged depth guys Alex Galchenyuk, Riley Nash, David RIttch and legacy Nick Foligno. While the staff gained its first division crown in 21 years, it did so with no few key guys lacking at instances as a consequence of harm, together with Rocket Richard winner Auston Matthews, Zach Hyman and netminder Frederik Andersen.
Bergevin’s staff appeared stacked when the puck dropped to open the season. Free-agent signee Tyler Toffoli, who went on to use each staff within the division, led that group. Things went south shortly, and Claude Julien was proven the door. Interim coach Dominique Ducharme has needed to take care of accidents to massive items resembling Shea Weber, Brendan Gallagher and Carey Price, however has additionally seen an insertion of vitality from 2019 draft choose Cole Caufield (who won’t play in Game 1 per Ducharme).
Toronto gained the season series 7-2-1 and outscored their opponent 34-25, with Matthews main the best way with 14 factors (seven objectives, seven assists) in 10 video games. Defenseman Jeff Petry led the best way for the Canadiens with 10 factors (all assists) within the 10-game set. Jack Campbell, who will begin Game 1, began six of these video games and earned a .918 save share. Andersen began the opposite 4 and had a .912 save share. Jake Allen began 5 of the season series (.907 save share), and Price began 4 and posted a .868 save share.
X-factor: Carey Price
Don’t let that under-.900 save share idiot you. If there’s any participant who might steal this series for the Canadiens, it is Price. The 2015 Vezina and Hart Trophies winner has been recognized to show issues up when the lights burn brightest. In final summer time’s bubble, he backstopped the Canadiens to a qualifying spherical upset of the Penguins and went on to go 5-5 with a 1.78 GAA and .936 save share. The earlier postseason was in 2017, when he had a .933 save share and a 1.86 GAA in six video games.
The massive query round Price is his well being: He missed the final 13 video games of the season with a concussion, however did get a tune-up sport in with Laval.
The massive quantity: 1,680
That’s what number of NHL regular-season video games, throughout 23 seasons, wherein Thornton has laced his skates. He has by no means gained a Stanley Cup. He is due.
SN’s choose: Maple Leafs in 7
|Date||Matchup||Time (ET) (TV channel)|
|Thu., May 20||at Toronto||7:30 p.m. (NHL Network, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)|
|Sat., May 22||at Toronto||7 p.m. (CNBC, SN, CBC, TVA Sports, OMNI)|
|Mon., May 24||at Montreal||7 p.m. (SN, CBC, TVA Sports)|
|Tue., May 25||at Montreal||TBD|
|*Thu., May 27||at Toronto||TBD|
|*Sat., May 29||at Montreal||TBD|
|*Mon., May 31||at Toronto||TBD|
(* If needed)
(2) Edmonton Oilers vs. (3) Winnipeg Jets
The different Canadian matchup could not have as a lot of a protracted, winding NHL historical past as Leafs-Canadiens, however that does not imply it is any much less intriguing. These two golf equipment did battle it out again within the WHA days, but it surely’s all in regards to the stars of right this moment.
After a couple of disappointing years, the Oilers have put collectively a staff that not solely completed second within the division, but in addition pumped in 183 objectives (seventh in NHL), allowed 154 objectives towards (tied for Eleventh-fewest) and had the league’s greatest energy play (27.6 %). A variety of that may be pinpointed to the play of projected Hart Trophy winner Connor McDavid (who had a historic season of 105 factors in 56 video games) and 2020 Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl, who chipped in 84 factors of his personal.
But the Oilers additionally received manufacturing from depth gamers resembling Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, a rejuvenated Jesse Puljujarvi and Norris Trophy-worthy efficiency by defensive duo Tyson Barrie and Darnell Nurse. Barrie, by the best way, was signed from Toronto within the offseason to a one-year show-me deal. He undoubtedly confirmed his value with 48 factors, together with 23 on the facility play.
Winnipeg has had an attention-grabbing yr. Things began off with buying and selling away disgruntled winger Patrik Laine for Columbus’ disgruntled heart Pierre-Luc Dubois. Whether he performs within the postseason, nonetheless, is not recognized. Coach Paul Maurice advised reporters on Tuesday that Dubois and Nikolaj Ehlers are thought of to be game-time selections for the series opener.
The membership additionally handled inconsistency and ended the season on a 3-9-0 run, together with seven losses in a row. They gained the final two video games of the season, one towards the Leafs, in order that’s a plus. But will they be the staff that, as a consequence of accidents, was knocked out within the qualifying spherical in the summertime of 2020? Or will they be a staff, backstopped by reigning Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck (who had a paltry .877 save share towards Edmonton in 2021), to tug the upset?
When you have a look at the season series, it doesn’t favor the Jets. The Oilers dominated with a 7-2-0 file and outscored Winnipeg 34-22, with McDavid potting 22 factors. But, because the Oilers captain stated on Tuesday: “The regular season is done and that season series is done and now it’s a race to four and that’s all that matters.”
X-factor: Mike Smith
All eyes might be on the Oilers netminder on this one. Which model will present up? Will or not it’s the 39-year-old goalie who was masterful between the pipes in 2021 and boasted a glowing 21-6-2 file with a .923 save share and 13.8 Goals Saved Above Average? Or will or not it’s the man who went 1-4 with a 3.20 goals-against common when the Western Conference champion Flames, er, flamed out within the 2019 playoffs? He additionally posted a .783 save share in a single bubble sport final summer time for the Oilers, and by no means returned to the paint.
Smith had an eye-popping .936 save share towards the Jets this season. So, Dave Tippett is hoping common season Mike Smith — and never current playoff Mike Smith — exhibits up.
The massive quantity: 521
According to Natural Stat Trick, the Jets allowed 521 high-danger probabilities towards 5v5 in 2021. It is the fourth-most within the league and probably the most among the many 16 postseason golf equipment. Not nice while you’re going up towards the likes of McDavid and Draisaitl.
The one constructive for the Jets: Hellebuyck confronted 421 of them and solely allowed 49 objectives, equaling a .884 save share. Not nice, however not horrible. Oh, and it is not like McDavid is 100% from high-danger spots; he solely scores 54.9 % of the time.
SN’s choose: Oilers in 5
|Date||Matchup||Time (ET) (TV channel)|
|Wed., May 19||at Edmonton||9 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)|
|Fri., May 21||at Edmonton||9 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)|
|Sun., May 23||at Winnipeg||7:30 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)|
|Mon., May 24||at Winnipeg||9:45 p.m. (SN, CBC, TVA Sports)|
|*Wed., May 26||at Edmonton||TBD|
|*Fri., May 28||at Winnipeg||TBD|
|*Sun., May 30||at Edmonton||TBD|
(* If needed)
North Division first-round odds
Betting odds courtesy of FanDuel as of May 18.
Sporting News’ 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs predictions
Rounds 1, 2
|(1) Penguins vs. (4) Islanders||Islanders in 6|
|(2) Capitals vs. (3) Bruins||Bruins in 5|
|(3) Bruins vs. (4) Islanders||Bruins in 6|
|(1) Maple Leafs vs. (4) Canadiens||Maple Leafs in 7|
|(2) Oilers vs. (3) Jets||Oilers in 5|
|(1) Maple Leafs vs. (2) Oilers||Maple Leafs in 7|
|(1) Hurricanes vs. (4) Predators||Hurricanes in 5|
|(2) Panthers vs. (3) Lightning||Lightning in 6|
|(1) Hurricanes vs. (3) Lightning||Hurricanes in 6|
|(1) Avalanche vs. (4) Blues||Avalanche in 5|
|(2) Golden Knights vs. (3) Wild||Golden Knights in 6|
|(1) Avalanche vs. (2) Golden Knights||Golden Knights in 7|
Stanley Cup semifinals
|(1) Golden Knights vs. (4) Bruins||Golden Knights in 6|
|(2) Hurricanes vs. (3) Maple Leafs||Maple Leafs in 6|
Stanley Cup Final
|(1) Golden Knights vs. (3) Maple Leafs||Golden Knights in 6|
|Conn Smythe Trophy||Marc-Andre Fleury|