Will the Presidents' Trophy winners of the past two seasons finally erase memories of early postseason exits? Will the league's top scorers prevail against some elite defensive units? Will Sidney Crosby and Co. cruise their way to a repeat championship?
Wait no more, because all the questions will be answered over the course of the coming months -- over the long haul of 16 teams' pursuit of the Stanley Cup.
The playoffs are here. And the race for a title begins now.
With the first-round schedule locked into place, make sure you knowand keep it here for updates on every series:
First-round series glance
Note: All game times are Eastern. Asterisks (*) denote games that will be played if necessary.
It's top-notch goalie vs. top-notch goalie as the Claude Julien-led Habs look to fend off an offensively geared contender in the Rangers, who were slotted into a wild card only because of their tightly contested division. In Game 1,. Game 2 .
- Game 1: Rangers 2, Canadiens 0 (lead 1-0)
- Game 2: Canadiens 4, Rangers 3 in OT (tied 1-1)
- Game 3: Canadiens 3, Rangers 1 (lead 2-1)
- Game 4: Rangers 2, Canadiens 1 (tied 2-2)
- Game 5: Rangers 3, Canadiens 2 in OT (lead 3-2)
- Game 6: Rangers 3, Canadiens 1 (won 4-2)
Top dog vs. underdog. The Capitals are the league's No. 1 team entering the playoffs for the second consecutive season, and they're hoping the Kevin Shattenkirk-bolstered defense they tout can tame Auston Matthews and the young Maple Leafs., albeit just barely, thanks to an OT win. Toronto in Game 2, then to take the series lead.
- Game 1: Capitals 3, Maple Leafs 2 in OT (lead 1-0)
- Game 2: Maple Leafs 4, Capitals 3 in OT (tied 1-1)
- Game 3: Maple Leafs 4, Capitals 3 in OT (lead 2-1)
- Game 4: Capitals 5, Maple Leafs 4 (tied 2-2)
- Game 5: Capitals 2, Maple Leafs 1 in OT (lead 3-2)
- Game 6: Capitals 2, Maple Leafs 1 in OT (won 4-2)
Under the interim watch of Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins are riding into the postseason as a hot upset candidate, hoping their rebound from a late-season slump is enough to upend a near-100-point, albeit inconsistent, club in Ottawa. The Senators, though, with an overtime decision, before doing the same thing in Game 3.
- Game 1: Bruins 2, Senators 1 (lead 1-0)
- Game 2: Senators 4, Bruins 3 in OT (tied 1-1)
- Game 3: Senators 4, Bruins 3 in OT (lead 2-1)
- Game 4: Senators 1, Bruins 0 (lead 3-1)
- Game 5: Bruins 3, Senators 2 in OT (trail 3-2)
- Game 6: Senators 2, Bruins 2 in OT (won 4-2)
The Eastern showdown we've all been waiting for pits the league's best and most dynamic offense (we're looking at you, Mr. Crosby) against the NHL's stingiest defense outside of Washington. Game 1 showcased the Pens' very offense and -- guess who -- an . Game 2 was more of the same and a , whose first hiccup did not arrive until Game 4.
- Game 1: Penguins 3, Blue Jackets 1 (lead 1-0)
- Game 2: Penguins 4, Blue Jackets 1 (lead 2-0)
- Game 3: Penguins 5, Blue Jackets 4 in OT (lead 3-0)
- Game 4: Blue Jackets 5, Penguins 4 (trail 3-1)
- Game 5: Penguins 5, Blue Jackets 2 (won 4-1)
The up and down Predators remain unpredictable, whereas Chicago is a near-lock to do damage deep into the playoffs, even after the Blackhawks' 2015-16 exit. It's championship material (Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, etc.) against a feisty Nashville team. The Predators virtually made history in Game 1,, then once more in Game 2 -- and, believe it or not, again thanks to an OT finish. Then, against all odds, they pulled off the sweep.
- Game 1: Predators 1, Blackhawks 0 (lead 1-0)
- Game 2: Predators 5, Blackhawks 0 (lead 2-0)
- Game 3: Predators 3, Blackhawks 2 in OT (lead 3-0)
- Game 4: Predators 4, Blackhawks 1 (won 4-0)
The Pacific champs for the fifth straight season, the Ducks are about as hot now as the Flames were over the course of February and March, so this one is a battle of the NHL's biggest late-season streakers. And they showed that was the case with a four-game sweep of their rivals.
- Game 1: Ducks 3, Flames 2 (lead 1-0)
- Game 2: Ducks 3, Flames 2 (lead 2-0)
- Game 3: Ducks 5, Flames 4 in OT (lead 3-0)
- Game 4: Ducks 3, Flames 1 (won 4-0)
Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues
Ready to erase memories of their steep fall from atop the Western Conference, the Wild still have one of the league's best goal differentials and begin their playoff journey against a Blues team that, yes, thrived after the departure of Kevin Shattenkirk. Jake Allen wasin a Game 1 upset as well as a , which set the stage for a 3-0 lead.
- Game 1: Blues 2, Wild 1 in OT (lead 1-0)
- Game 2: Blues 2, Wild 1 (lead 2-0)
- Game 3: Blues 3, Wild 1 (lead 3-0)
- Game 4: Wild 2, Blues 0 (trail 3-1)
- Game 5: Blues 4, Wild 3 in OT (won 4-1)
Connor McDavid gets his chance to take the Oilers for a run, and it starts against a team in San Jose that was once the apparent Pacific king but is still trying to right itself after an inexplicable late-year drop-off. The Sharks, however, made up for their slump with a close win to start the series. Edmonton, then eked out another win in Game 3.
- Game 1: Sharks 3, Oilers 2 in OT (lead 1-0)
- Game 2: Oilers 2, Sharks 0 (tied 1-1)
- Game 3: Oilers 1, Sharks 0 (lead 2-1)
- Game 4: Sharks 7, Oilers 0 (tied 2-2)
- Game 5: Oilers 4, Sharks 3 in OT (lead 3-2)
- Game 6: Oilers 3, Sharks 1 (won 4-2)