NHL playoff bracket predictions, picks, odds & series breakdowns for 2021 Stanley Cup second round
Sporting News projects the entire NHL playoff bracket, including expert predictions for each second-round series and our pick to win the 2021 Stanley Cup.Seven teams have punched their ticket to the second round with not only a division crown on the line but also the aim of taking one step closer to finding out who will win the sports world's greatest trophy. The remaining teams are a who's who of NHL royalty. The Avalanche, Golden Knights, Hurricanes, Lightning and Bruins were all in the top 10 in 2021 with the Islanders just on the outside looking in.
As could have reasonably been expected, the Tampa Bay Lightning have faced some criticism of their handling of the salary cap this season, especially as they race toward what could very likely be back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships. © Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov's return from long-term injured reserve sparked some controversy.
The Lightning employed the Long-Term Injured Reserve to keep forward Nikita Kucherov off the pay roll for the entire 2020-21 regular season, allowing them to re-sign other players and add at the trade deadline by using the entirety of his $9.5M cap hit as added space. Then, when the postseason began and the salary cap was no longer a factor, the 2018-19 Hart Trophy winner was ready to return, looking fresh and no worse for wear. At best, the timing of it all was extremely lucky. At worst, it was salary cap circumvention.
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Defending his team against these allegations, Tampa GM Julien BriseBois tells Sportsnet’s Josh Beneteau that the NHL did in fact investigate the club’s LTIR usage and found that they had not broken any rules. The league had issued a warning earlier this season, with an unusually high number of teams using the LTIR, that they would be monitoring those transactions and would investigate. This was the case with Kucherov, but nothing about the Bolts’ actual transactions raised any alarms. After all, the LTIR, for all intents and purposes, is a legal form of circumvention. If other clubs are upset with how it is being used, it is an area that will need to be addressed in the next CBA negotiation in 2026.
However, the vast majority of complaints were not how the LTIR itself is structured or was used by Tampa Bay, but rather the suspicious timing of Kucherov’s rehab lasting through the entire regular season but not into any of the postseason. BriseBois noted that this too had to be proven to the league. “We had to be able to justify the surgery, the rehab time, (and) the return to play clearance,” he told Beneteau. “Sometimes the stars align for you,” he added, qualifying what others believed to be a designed manipulation of the LTIR system. If the NHL was convinced that the timing was just right, then other teams and fans should be as well. BriseBois is right though – the team certainly got lucky and that luck might just lead them to another title.
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While it took a long time for Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov to come to North America, he proved to be well worth the wait. His rookie season was strong enough to make him a top contender for the Calder Trophy (the finalists will be revealed for Rookie of the Year on Thursday). With Minnesota opting to burn the first year of his contract in the bubble, Kaprizov is already up for his second contract. The team certainly wants to keep him around for the long haul as Michael Russo of The Athletic reports (subscription link) that the team has already offered a maximum eight-year contract with an AAV around the $8M mark.
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Related slideshow: Which players have scored the most points in NHL postseason history? (Provided by Yardbarker)
Which players have scored the most points in NHL postseason history?
When we think of the careers of NHL players, we think about their point totals. You know, how Wayne Gretzky has more assists than anybody else has points or Alex Ovechkin gunning for the Great One’s goal record. However, that’s all about the regular season. Let’s not forget the playoffs! After all, the goal is to hoist the Stanley Cup, right? Just as with regular-season points, playoff points are tallied and cataloged. Which players have the most career postseason points? These are the top 25, all of whom have scored 160 playoff points or more.
We start with Mr. Hockey himself. Howe played a lot of his career at a time when the postseason was quite a bit shorter, so he didn’t play in as many games on a year-to-year basis. Of course, he also stuck around for a long time which helped him accrue 160 playoff points. However, there’s something his son Mark can say that even Gordie can’t. Mark had 92 career postseason points in the WHA, the most of any player in that league.
When you talk about Bossy as a player, you are required by law to mention that he could have had even better numbers. Due to injuries the Hall of Famer only played until he was 30 and retired after 10 seasons. The Islanders made the playoffs in all 10 of those seasons and won four Cups, giving Bossy the chance to rack up 160 points as well.
Smith is the only player on this list who is not either in the Hall of Fame or a lock to make it someday. He won the Calder as a rookie with the Minnesota North Stars and won a Cup with Montreal in 1986, but he was never a truly elite player. That being said, he had 160 playoff points to go with 1,036 regular-season points, so nobody can knock his career by any means.
Rangers fans are never happy to see Potvin’s name, but the Islanders legend is another member of that ‘80s squad that won four Cups in a row. When you are playing that deep into the playoffs, especially in the offense-happy 190s, you are going to rack up the points. Potvin had 164 of them in the postseason.
Malkin is the first active player on this list, and one of only two total. Given that the Penguins are a perennial playoff team and Malkin likely has a few years left in him, he can probably climb further up the list, maybe even into the top 10. For now, Geno has 169 playoff points.
Forsberg’s career was shorter than you might have realized, and also hindered by injury and NHL lockouts. He played in 708 career regular-season games, but in that time won a Calder, an Art Ross, and a Hart in his Hall of Fame career. The Swede added 151 playoff games where he often dominated, tallying 171 points and winning two Cups.
It’s maybe a little surprising to see Lemieux this far down the list. Super Mario is an all-time legend of the game and won two Cups with the Penguins. Surely he would be in the top 10, right? Apparently not, as Lemieux had “only” 172 postseason points, which is “only” good for 18th.
Considering that the Blackhawks didn’t win a Stanley Cup from 1961 until well after Savard was retired, it’s a bit of a surprise that Savard managed to accumulate so many playoff points. The master of the “spin-o-rama” move, Savard played a long time, including a stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that was over a decade from existence when he started his career. Savard played in 16 postseasons and notched 175 points.
Beliveau also retired with 176 postseason points. He spent all 20 of his seasons with the Montreal Canadiens during a time when they were going from dynasty to dynasty. Beliveau played in 17 postseasons and won a whopping 10 Stanley Cups. Even in shorter postseasons that meant a lot of time to tally points.
Famously, Bourque left the Bruins after many years to join the Avalanche to try and win a Cup. Fortunately for him, it worked out. Not that the defenseman didn’t do his best to get the Bruins a Cup of their own. You don’t notch 180 playoff points in just one postseason.
Trottier is the top guy on this list from those Islanders dynasty teams. The secret, beyond his tremendous skill? He played 18 seasons and made the playoffs 17 times, which means he got a lot more bites at the apple than Bossy. Also, he joined the Penguins later in his career, winning two more Cups before retiring and helping himself reach 183 points.
Lidstrom is the best defenseman of his generation, and maybe the best defenseman ever, so it’s no surprise that he’s on this list. The Swede picked up a whopping seven Norris trophies in the regular season and added four Cups in the postseason. Oh, and 183 postseason points.
From one Red Wing to another. Lidstrom and Yzerman were the pillars of the Red Wings dynasty. In fact, when Steve Y retired, Lidstrom took over from “The Captain” as, well, the captain. Yzerman’s early years as a Wing did not yield many playoff appearances, but he still finished with 185 points in the playoffs.
Gilmour doesn’t have the same reputation as Sakic. He never won a Conn Smythe or a Hart. What Gilmour does have, though, is 188 playoff points, the same as Sakic. Sure, it took him 182 games to do it over 17 seasons, but that’s still impressive. He also did it for six different franchises, as opposed to the one-team man Sakic.
We get to our second, and final, active player on this list. In the battle between Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, you can definitely point to Crosby’s playoff success as a big factor in his favor. Crosby has hoisted multiple Cups and notched 189 postseason points. By the time he retires, he will almost definitely be in the top five.
Brett Hull and his big slap shot racked up a ton of goals in his career. In the regular season, he had 741 of them, the fourth most of all-time. Then, Hull added 103 more goals in the playoffs to go along with 87 assists, giving him 190 playoff points.
Coffey is the defenseman with the most points in postseason history. He played for a long time and had a knack for joining up with teams loaded with talent that made lengthy playoff runs. Or maybe they made those runs because Coffey was on the team? Either way, he had 196 playoff points.
Jagr is the first player on this list that has over 200 postseason points. He’s also the highest-ranked player on this list that wasn’t part of a specific dynasty. In a way, that’s another honor to throw on his name. Let’s not forget Jagr’s sojourn to the KHL for a few years as well. He could have had even more than 201 playoff points.
Was Anderson a great player? Sure. He had 498 career goals and is in the Hall of Fame. However, he was definitely a product of the team he spent the bulk of his career on. The first decade of his time in the NHL was spent with the Edmonton Oilers. You know, the team that won four Cups in five seasons and added a fifth in 1990. Anderson had 214 playoff points, and that’s definitely impressive. We also just have to note the three players ahead of him were all his teammates for those ‘80s Oilers teams.
The Finnish superstar once had over 60 goals in three straight seasons. That would make you a legend now, but in the ‘80s that was a bit easier. He never led the NHL in goals, after all. Kurri then left the Oilers to join the Kings, along with a teammate you’ve heard of and added some more postseason points. In the end, Kurri retired with 601 regular-season goals and 233 playoff points.
There is a huge jump from Kurri to Messier. Moose had a whopping 295 playoff points. Of course, it wasn’t all about the Oilers. Famously, Messier moved from Edmonton to New York and led the Rangers to a Stanley Cup in 1994, ending a 54-year Cup drought. He had 30 points in those playoffs.
Well, we are talking about points and the NHL. Who else would be on top of this list but Gretzky? The Great One is a big reason why the top-four players are all Oilers. However, Gretzky’s numbers are truly insane. He retired with a staggering 382 playoff points. That’s almost 100 more than Messier! Gretzky had more playoff points than Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic combined. Truly, he was one of a kind.
Canadiens HC Dominique Ducharme must isolate for 14 days after positive COVID test .
Although the NHL has relaxed many rules pertaining to its COVID protocol, a positive test still warrants a 14-day isolation period. Especially when the Canadiens were fortunate enough to not have any other positive tests among its players and staff, the league wants to maintain the health and safety of the team as well as the integrity of its semifinals. © Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports Dominique Ducharme is out for the next two weeks after testing positive for COVID. With that said, losing Ducharme is a blow for Montreal.