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Sports NHL playoffs bracket 2021: Central Division series predictions, odds, breakdowns, Stanley Cup predictions

06:15  17 may  2021
06:15  17 may  2021 Source:   sportingnews.com

Canadiens' Molson, Bergevin have been talking about future

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The Stanley Cup First Round will have eight best-of-7 series , all played within the four divisions -- the West, the MassMutual East, the Discover Central and Scotia North. The four teams that advance from their divisions will play in the Stanley Cup Semifinals, and will be seeded 1-4, based on regular-season points and The two winners from the semifinals will play in the Stanley Cup Final. Eight of the nine staff members who predicted the Avalanche to win the Stanley Cup believe Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon will win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the playoffs .

The 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs is the forthcoming playoff tournament of the National Hockey League ( NHL ). The playoffs will begin on May 15, 2021 , and will end with the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals, to determine the winner of the Stanley Cup in July 2021 .

The NHL postseason is officially here.

Sixteen teams are set to begin the gauntlet of the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs, and there's no telling who will be the last club standing and drinking out of Lord Stanley's Cup.

The Central Division saw eight teams battle for four spots. The Hurricanes and Predators are squaring off alongside the first Sunshine Showdown. Who will move one step closer to fulfilling their Cup dreams by advancing to the second round?

Here's a look at how Sporting News thinks the first round in the Central Division will shake out:

NHL playoffs bracket 2021

diagram: stanley-cup-playoffs-2021-first-round-051321-sn-illustration © Provided by Sporting News stanley-cup-playoffs-2021-first-round-051321-sn-illustration

NHL playoffs 2021: Central Division predictions

(1) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (4) Nashville Predators

The backstory

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STANLEY CUP PREDICTIONS : Sporting News' 2021 NHL playoff picks. NHL schedule 2021 . The first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs started on Saturday, May 15, and, if it runs the full NHL playoffs schedule 2021 : Full bracket , dates, times, TV channels for every series . NHL playoffs bracket 2021 : East Division series predictions , odds , breakdowns , Stanley Cup predictions .

The NHL 's return to play is officially a go. On Sunday afternoon, the league made a joint announcement with the players' union stating that it will play a 56-game season starting Jan. 13, 2021 . We've known for some time that the NHL would be looking to temporarily shake up the divisions for this upcoming season. That realignment comes as a method of limiting travel and ensuring that teams will not have to cross the United States-Canada border during the pandemic. As part of the changes, one division will be comprised entirely of the league 's Canadian teams.

The last time the Hurricanes won a division title was in 2006. It was also the last year they won the Stanley Cup. Will history repeat? That's still to be determined, but this is the strongest the team has been up and down the lineup in a long time. It's a mix of veterans and kids led by Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Vincent Trochek and Jaccob Slavin. Head coach Rod Brind'Amour, who just happened to be the captain of that '06 squad, has his team all-in.

The Predators' season started out so badly that many thought head coach John Hynes would be shown the door after just a little over a year in Nashville. Instead, things settled down and the club began to turn it up halfway through the year. The turnaround has been backstopped by Vezina Trophy-candidate Juuse Saros, who posted a career-best 21 wins and .927 save percentage in 2021.

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NHL PLAYOFFS 2021 : East Division series predictions , odds , breakdowns . Why the Maple Leafs? It’ll be almost two months since these clubs last met if they face off in the second round, and since the Oilers won in overtime on March 29, Toronto has gone 13-4-4. How will NHL playoffs work in 2021 ? Teams, format, bracket for Stanley Cup chase.

2021 Stanley Cup Odds for Top Contenders. SPORTSBETTINGDIME.COM. You can see the latest 2021 Stanley Cup odds here, along with how each NHL team has fared in the [May 7]: With the NHL Playoffs not far away, the Golden Knights and Hurricanes continue to make a The Hurricanes are currently leading the Central Division , while their average odds are at +1000 to win the Stanley Cup .

X-factor: Dougie Hamilton

The defenseman was on a roll last season until he broke his leg. He returned for the bubble, playing in five games, but he failed to relocate his game. In 2021, he found it. He posted 42 points in 55 games. If he can put up the production he did in March and April (27 points in 30 games) along with the better defensive game he showed, then he'll be a key asset for the Canes.

The big number: 3

What's the correlation? To the fact that the Canes have three players they can count on between the pipes. Goaltending has been an issue for Carolina in the past few years but the club now has Alex Nedeljkovic, James Reimer and Petr Mrazek to settle things down.

  • Mrazek: 6-2-3, 2.06 GAA, .923 save percentage, 4.4 goals saved above average (GSAA)
  • Reimer: 15-5-2, 2.66 GAA, .906 save percentage, minus-1.3 GSAA
  • Nedeljkovic: 15-5-3, 1.90 GAA, .932 save percentage, 15.6 GSAA

SN's pick: Hurricanes in 5

PREVIEW: Canes broadcaster Tripp Tracy talks Stanley Cup playoffs and more

NHL playoffs bracket 2021: North Division series predictions, odds, breakdowns, Stanley Cup predictions

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By The Athletic NHL Staff May 15, 2021 . This season is unlike any other. … It’s so hard to compare teams when they’ve only competed in their own division . … The NHL playoffs are always impossible to predict . … I’m going to get roasted in the comments when a surprise team wins the Stanley Cup . The Athletic’s NHL staff cast their ballots, predicting the Stanley Cup winner, the results of every first-round series and the playoff MVP. Also, submit your predictions at the bottom of this story. Let’s drop the puck!

Series schedule

Date Matchup Time (ET) (TV channel)/Results
Mon., May 17 at Carolina 8 p.m. (CNBC, SNE, TVA Sports)
Wed., May 19 at Carolina 8 p.m. (CNBC, FX-CA, TVA Sports)
Fri., May 21 at Nashville 7 p.m. (USA, FXX-CA, TVA Sports)
Sun., May 23 at Nashville TBD
*Tue., May 25 at Carolina TBD
*Thu., May 27 at Nashville TBD
*Sat., May 29 at Carolina TBD

(* If necessary)

(2) Florida Panthers vs. (3) Tampa Bay Lightning

The backstory

Finally! It's the battle we never knew we wanted: the Sunshine Showdown. These two clubs are evenly matched up top, with lots of grit. Both teams have studs in net, too, with the Bolts leaning on Vezina Trophy contender Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Panthers sporting Sergei Bobrovsky. Florida, by the way, also has Chris Driedger, his 14-6-3 record and his .927 save percentage.

The reigning Stanley Cup champion Lightning got a boost when Nikita Kucherov made his season debut in Game 1 and Steven Stamkos returned after missing a few weeks with an injury. They'll need these point-producing stars to compete with the Panthers, who averaged 3.36 goals for per game (fourth-best in the NHL).

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X-factor: 'Playoff' Sam Bennett

If you don't know "Playoff" Sam Bennett, do you know hockey? How the forward revs up his game in the postseason is hockey lore. Like clockwork, Bennett becomes a points-producing, hitting machine in the postseason. With the Flames in 2019, he tallied five points in five games; in 2020's bubble, it was five goals and eight points in 10 games. He had just 12 points in 52 games during the 2019-20 regular season.

Bennett has been a beast since his deadline trade to the Panthers: 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 10 games. He had 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 38 games this season for the Flames.

The big number: 31

The Lightning franchise played 56 games and won 36 of them in 2021. Vasilevskiy started 42 and won 31 of those. Wow.

SN's pick: Lightning in 6

Series schedule:

Date Matchup Time (ET) (TV channel)/Results
Sun., May 16 at Florida 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports)
Tue., May 18 at Florida 8 p.m. (CNBC, SNE, TVA Sports)
Thu., May 20 at Tampa Bay 6:30 p.m. (USA, FX-CA, TVA Sports)
Sat., May 22 at Tampa Bay 12:30 p.m. (CNBC, SN, TVA Sports)
*Mon., May 24 at Florida TBD
*Wed., May 26 at Tampa Bay TBD
*Fri., May 28 at Florida TBD

(* If necessary)

Central Division first-round odds

Lightning -162 Panthers +130
Hurricanes -280 Predators +225

Betting odds courtesy of FanDuel as of May 16.

Sporting News' 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs predictions

MORE: Breaking down the predictions

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Rounds 1, 2

East Division
(1) Penguins vs. (4) Islanders Islanders in 6
(2) Capitals vs. (3) Bruins Bruins in 5
(3) Bruins vs. (4) Islanders Bruins in 6
North Division
(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
Central Division
(1) Hurricanes vs. (4) Predators Hurricanes in 5
(2) Panthers vs. (3) Lightning Lightning in 6
(1) Hurricanes vs. (3) Lightning Hurricanes in 6
West Division
(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

John Tavares skates for first time since suffering frightening head injury .
It is an incredible sight to see after Tavares was knocked unconscious partway through the first period in game one of the Toronto-Montreal series, and could suggest that a return to the lineup can come a lot quicker than expected.It is an incredible sight to see after Tavares was knocked unconscious partway through the first period in game one of the Toronto-Montreal series, and could suggest that a return to the lineup can come a lot quicker than many expected. The Maple Leafs have a commanding lead in the series after winning the last three and could eliminate the Canadiens Thursday night.

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