After 56 games played during the 2020-21 regular season, the NHL Stanley Cup play-offs will commence this weekend.
The play-off format for this season is different than we have seen in the past due to the pandemic. The four divisions featuring all teams have used the new format of having to play teams within their divisions.
New format for the play-offs
This will continue for the first two rounds of the play offs. In the first round the top seed in each division will play the No.4 team with the No 2 facing the No.3. The winners of those series will meet to determine the division champion.
The four division champions will then be reseeded based on regular season points. Number 1 will face 4 and Number 2 against 3. The winners of those series will play for the right to hold the Stanley Cup.
East Division match ups
In the East Division, Pittsburgh Penguins will face the New York Islanders whilst the Washington Capitals will entertain the Boston Bruins.
Bruins are 4-1-2 against Washington this season, with the Capitals having home ice advantage in the first round series.
New York Islanders ended the regular season just six fewer points than Pittsburgh. The Islanders are 2-4-2 against the Penguins this year. The last time these two sides met in the play-offs was back in 2019 when New York swept Pittsburgh in the 1st round.
North Division all Canadian sides
In the North Division it will see the Toronto Maple Leafs up against fellow Canadian side the Montreal Canadiens with the Edmonton Oilers facing the Winnipeg Jets.
The Leafs and Oilers are locked into the top two seeds so will have home ice advantage in the opening rounds of the play-offs.
Central Division set up
In the Central Division it will be Carolina Hurricanes up against Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers who will play Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Hurricanes won their first six meetings against the Predators during the regular season. However, after the Canes clinched the division Nashville won the final two meetings between the teams over the weekend.
This will also be the first time the teams will face each other in the post season.
If Tampa Bay are going to retain the Stanley Cup trophy they will have to get past the Panthers who are 5-2-1 against the Lightning during the regular season.
Florida and Tampa Bay have also never faced each other in the play-offs.
West Division pairings
In the West Division, Vegas Golden Knights are up against St. Louis Blues with Colorado Avalanche playing Minnesota Wild.
Colorado still have a couple of games to play in the regular season and could overtake the Golden Knights. But if they lose both games against the Los Angeles Kings then the Wild could sneak into the No.2 seed, although this would appear unlikely.
Whatever happens come the weekend and the start of the play-offs then there is going to be some gripping hockey played.