2021 NHL Playoffs Central: Bracket, schedule, scores, highlights, analysis

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Lightning blank Islanders in Game 5 blowout (1:55)

The Lightning cruise past the Islanders in a pivotal Game 5 with an 8-0 win. (1:55)

After a bubble-encased 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, we're back to a more traditional setup for the 2021 postseason. However, there are some tweaks. Thanks to a one-year realignment, the first two rounds will be intra-divisional. Then, the four Cup semifinalists will be re-bracketed based on regular season record, with No. 1 facing No. 4, and No. 2 taking on No. 3.

From the first round all the way through the Stanley Cup Final, ESPN has you covered; consider this your homepage for the entire 16-team tournament from start to finish.

Read on for the full playoff picture, including previews, analysis, highlights, scores and more for each team and series.

More: Playoff schedule | Series previews
Goalie Confidence Index | Lapsed fan's guide

Stanley Cup semifinals

Jump to:
VGS-MTL | TB-NYI

No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 4 Montreal Canadiens

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1:07

Vegas sneaks away with OT win in Game 4 to even series

Nicolas Roy comes up big for the Golden Knights with an overtime goal to get the win as Vegas evens the series with the Canadiens at 2-2.

Schedule:

Game 1: Golden Knights 4, Canadiens 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Canadiens 3, Golden Knights 2 | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Canadiens 3, Golden Knights 2 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Golden Knights 2, Canadiens 1 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Tuesday, June 22, 8 p.m. | Preview
Game 6: Thursday, June 24, 8 p.m. | Preview
Game 7: Saturday, June 26, 8 p.m. | Preview

Consensus pick: Golden Knights (13/15)


No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 3 New York Islanders

Schedule:

Game 1: Islanders 2, Lightning 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Lightning 4, Islanders 2 | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Lightning 2, Islanders 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Islanders 3, Lightning 2 | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Lightning 8, Islanders 0 | Recap | Replay
Game 6: Wednesday, June 23, 8 p.m. | Preview
Game 7: Friday, June 25, 8 p.m. | Preview

Consensus pick: Lightning (8/15)

The second round

Jump to:
BOS-NYI | CAR-TB
COL-VGS | WPG-MTL

East Division

No. 3 Boston Bruins vs. No. 4 New York Islanders

Schedule:

Game 1: Bruins 5, Islanders 2 | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Islanders 4, Bruins 3 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Bruins 2, Islanders 1 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Islanders 4, Bruins 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Islanders 5, Bruins 4 | Recap | Replay
Game 6: Islanders 6, Bruins 2 | Recap | Replay

Series preview: The Islanders won the first five games of the season series, while the Bruins won the final three (all of which were played after Boston landed Taylor Hall at the trade deadline). The last time these two teams met was 1983, with the Isles winning before securing the Stanley Cup. Will the victor here have a similar fate this summer? Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Bruins (10/13)

Keys to the offseason for the Bruins


Central Division

No. 1 Carolina Hurricanes vs. No. 3 Tampa Bay Lightning

Schedule:

Game 1: Lightning 2, Hurricanes 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Lightning 2, Hurricanes 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Hurricanes 3, Lightning 2 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Lightning 6, Hurricanes 4 | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Lighting 2, Hurricanes 0 | Recap | Replay

Series preview: There is certainly no lack of high-end skill in this battle, as the defending Cup champions look to continue their title defense against the high-octane Hurricanes. Both buildings will be rocking for this one. Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Lightning (11/13)

Keys to the offseason for the Hurricanes


West Division

No. 1 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 2 Vegas Golden Knights

Schedule:

Game 1: Avalanche 7, Knights 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Avalanche 3, Knights 2 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Knights 3, Avalanche 2 | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Knights 5, Avalanche 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Knights 3, Avalanche 2 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 6: Knights 6, Avalanche 3 | Recap | Replay

Series preview: In a matchup for which we've all been hoping since the NHL's 2021 realignment plan was announced, two elite Cup contenders square off for the West crown. The Knights survived a seven-game series against the Wild, while the Avs got extra rest after dispatching the Blues in four games. Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Avalanche (10/13)

Keys to the offseason for the Avalanche


North Division

No. 3 Winnipeg Jets vs. No. 4 Montreal Canadiens

Schedule:

Game 1: Canadiens 5, Jets 3 | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Canadiens 1, Jets 0 | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Canadiens 5, Jets 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Canadiens 3, Jets 2 (OT) | Recap | Replay

Series preview: The Jets quieted the Oilers' superstar duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, while the Canadiens did the same to the Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner. Which one of these two teams will emerge as the best of the North Division? Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Jets (12/13)

Keys to the offseason for the Jets

The first round

Jump to:
East: PIT-NYI | WSH-BOS
Central: CAR-NSH | FLA-TB
North: TOR-MTL | EDM-WPG
West: COL-STL | VGS-MIN

East Division

No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 4 New York Islanders

Schedule:

Game 1: Islanders 4, Penguins 3 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Penguins 2, Islanders 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Penguins 5, Islander 4 | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Islanders 4, Penguins 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Islanders 3, Penguins 2 (2OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 6: Islanders 5, Penguins 3 | Recap | Replay

Series preview: While the Penguins' speed could present challenges for New York -- as it did in the regular season -- the Islanders' defensive structure thrives at this time of year. It's now a yearly tradition: discounting the Islanders until they go on a playoff run that forces you to pay attention. Who takes this one? Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Penguins (10/16)

Keys to the offseason for the Penguins


No. 2 Washington Capitals vs. No. 3 Boston Bruins

Schedule:

Game 1: Capitals 3, Bruins 2 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Bruins 4, Capitals 3 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Bruins 3, Capitals 2 (2OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Bruins 4, Capitals 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Bruins 3, Capitals 1 | Recap | Replay

Series preview: When Washington hired Peter Laviolette ahead of the season, they wanted to light a fire under the group and instill urgency. This is one of the most star-studded series of the opening round, and it's going to be a tight one. The last time these two met in the postseason, there were seven one-goal games; they also split the season series 4-4. Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Bruins (14/16)

Keys to the offseason for the Capitals

Central Division

No. 1 Carolina Hurricanes vs. No. 4 Nashville Predators

Schedule:

Game 1: Hurricanes 5, Predators 2 | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Hurricanes 3, Predators 0 | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Predators 5, Hurricanes 4 (2OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Predators 4, Hurricanes 3 (2OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Hurricanes 3, Predators 2 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 6: Hurricanes 4, Predators 3 (OT) | Recap | Replay

Series preview: The Predators shouldn't be discounted, but we need to look at this matchup for what it is: a fringe playoff team versus a deep and talented squad that has looked strong all season, and captured the division crown from the defending Stanley Cup champions. Can the Preds pull a giant upset? Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Canes (16/16)

Keys to the offseason for the Predators


No. 2 Florida Panthers vs. No. 3 Tampa Bay Lightning

Schedule:

Game 1: Lightning 5, Panthers 4 | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Lightning 3, Panthers 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Panthers 6, Lightning 5 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Lightning 6, Panthers 2 | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Panthers 4, Lightning 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 6: Lightning 4, Panthers 0 | Recap | Replay

Series preview: The Panthers were one of the best stories of the 2021 season, and have all the right pieces in place to have sustained success. But Tampa Bay has already been through its growing pains; their time is now. As long as health holds up, the Lightning should win this. Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Lightning (11/16)

Keys to the offseason for the Panthers

North Division

No. 1 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. No. 4 Montreal Canadiens

Schedule:

Game 1: Canadiens 2, Maple Leafs 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 0 | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 6: Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 7: Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 1 | Recap | Replay

Series preview: The first playoff meeting between these franchises since 1979 will undoubtedly be intense and physical, as the Canadiens try to brutalize and goad the Leafs with physical play. The infusion of reinforcements to the Canadiens' lineup, especially Brendan Gallagher, will be a boost to Montreal. But the Leafs are rolling, and clearly the better of the two teams here. Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Maple Leafs (16/16)

Keys to the offseason for the Maple Leafs


No. 2 Edmonton Oilers vs. No. 3 Winnipeg Jets

Schedule:

Game 1: Jets 4, Oilers 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Jets 1, Oilers 0 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Jets 5, Oilers 4 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Jets 4, Oilers 3 (3OT) | Recap | Replay

Series preview: The Jets were really spiraling down the stretch while the Oilers and a next-level Connor McDavid were steam-rolling through teams. Still, the return of Nikolaj Ehlers could be key, and Connor Hellebuyck is capable of a win on his own. That's the optimistic view. The realistic view? Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Oilers (13/16)

Keys to the offseason for the Oilers

West Division

No. 1 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 4 St. Louis Blues

Schedule:

Game 1: Avalanche 4, Blues 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Avalanche 6, Blues 3 | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Avalanche 5, Blues 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Avalanche 5, Blues 2 | Recap | Replay

Series preview: The Avs have been a top Stanley Cup pick since the season started in January. Can a red-hot Jordan Binnington stymie them? Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Avalanche (15/16)

Keys to the offseason for the Blues


No. 2 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 3 Minnesota Wild

Schedule:

Game 1: Wild 1, Golden Knights 0 (OT) | Recap | Replay
Game 2: Golden Knights 3, Wild 1 | Recap | Replay
Game 3: Golden Knights 5, Wild 2 | Recap | Replay
Game 4: Golden Knights 4, Wild 0 | Recap | Replay
Game 5: Wild 4, Golden Knights 2 | Recap | Replay
Game 6: Wild 3, Golden Knights 0 | Recap | Replay
Game 7: Golden Knights 6, Wild 2 | Recap | Replay

Series preview: The Wild have played the Golden Knights very tough. The Knights aren't nearly as strong defensively as they were under DeBoer last season, while the Wild are one of the NHL's best defensive teams in terms of limiting high-danger chances. Can Minnesota pull off the upset? Read the full preview.

Consensus pick: Golden Knights (15/16)

Keys to the offseason for the Wild