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NHL Playoff Bracket 2022 | Stanley Cup Playoffs Schedule & Format

It’s spring, the weather is improving, which means it’s just about time for the action to heat up on the ice.

The Stanley Cup playoffs, AKA the most wonderful time of the year for hockey fans, are nearly upon us. The year’s tournament should be as wide open as ever, especially in the Eastern Conference where all eight playoff team could finish with 100 points — the first time in league history that an entire postseason field has reached triple-digit points.

In the Western Conference, the Colorado Avalanche have been the best team in the league all season and are the betting favorite to win the Stanley Cup (+360 at Caesars), which would be their first championship since 2001.

But there’s a long way to go until NHL commissioner Gary Bettman awards the Cup to one team’s captain in late June. Here’s a breakdown about how the hockey playoffs work.

NHL Playoff Bracket 2022 Printable

NHL Playoff Bracket Printable Template

How Do the Stanley Cup Playoffs Work?

This was the most difficult playoff to qualify for in NHL history, with only 16 of the 32 teams (50 percent) qualifying for the annual postseason tournament. As many as 76.2 percent qualified — 16 of the 21-team league — as recently as 1990.

The postseason consists of four best-of-seven rounds, with the Cup champion needing to win 16 games to lift the trophy. Unlike the past two years, where the postseason format was affected due to COVID-19 restrictions, this season’s playoffs will return to the pre-pandemic format where eight teams from each conference qualify — three from each division plus a pair of wild cards in the Eastern and Western Conferences.

In the first round, the top team in each conference will face off against its conference’s wild-card team with the fewest number of points. The other division winner will then face the wild-card team with the most amount of points. The teams that finish 2-3 in each division will face off.  The tournament does not re-seed, meaning if a four-seed knocks off a No. 1, it will play the winner of its bracket’s 2-3.

Ultimately the tournament is played by conference until the Cup Final, when the surviving clubs will meet.

Recent NHL Playoff History

The past two seasons have been adversely affected by the pandemic. Sixteen teams still qualified for the playoffs a year ago, but they were broken down by divisions, four from each. In 2020, because the season was shortened with about 10 games to go for each team, 24 teams qualified for the postseason bubbles, played in Edmonton and Toronto, with best-of-5 play-in rounds deciding the final field of 16.

Still, the Tampa Bay Lightning found a way to persevere in each of the past two years, and here’s a look at their run — as well as a breakdown of the full tournament from 2021.

North Division

  • First Round (all series are best-of-seven)
    • No. 4 Montreal Canadiens 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 3
    • No. 3 Winnipeg Jets 4, No. 2 Edmonton Oilers 0
  • Second Round
    • No. 4 Montreal Canadiens 4, Winnipeg Jets 0

East Division

  • First Round
    • No. 4 Boston Bruins 4, No. 1 Washington Capitals 1
    • No. 3 New York Islanders 4, No. 2 Pittsburgh Penguins 1
  • Second Round
    • No. 3 New York Islanders 4, No. 4 Boston Bruins 2

Central Division

  • First Round
    • No. 1 Carolina Hurricanes 4, No. 4 Nashville Predators 2
    • No. 3 Tampa Bay Lightning 4, No. 2 Florida Panthers 2
  • Second Round
    • No. 3 Tampa Bay Lightning 4, No. 1 Carolina Hurricanes 1

West Division

  • First Round
    • No. 1 Colorado Avalanche 4, No. 4 St. Louis Blues 0
    • No. 2 Vegas Golden Knights 4, No. 3 Minnesota Wild 3
  • Second Round
    • No. 2 Vegas Golden Knights 4, No. 1 Colorado Avalanche 2

NHL Semi-finals

  • North No. 4 Montreal Canadiens 4, West No. 2 Vegas Golden Knights 2
  • Central No. 3 Tampa Bay Lightning 4, East No. 3 New York Islanders 3

2021 Stanley Cup Final

  • Central No. 3 Tampa Bay Lightning 4, North No. 4 Montreal Canadiens 1

Who is Playing in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs

The 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs will largely feature the same cast as the 2021 variety. Here’s a look at the teams that expect to be in contention when the postseason opens.

All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook and are current as of 2 p.m. ET on April 12, 2022

Stanley Cup Favorites

Colorado Avalanche (+360 to win the Cup; +150 to win the Western Conference)

The Avalanche have been the Cup favorites all season, and deservedly so. They’re loaded, led by likely Norris Trophy winner Cale Makar, perennial Hart Trophy candidate Nathan MacKinnon, a dominant top line that includes MacKinnon and forwards Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog plus they should have second-line center Nazem Kadri back in time for the playoffs.

Colorado is a terrific favorite given its potential record-breaking season. But there’s reason to pause before betting on the Avs. The last team to win the Presidents’ Trophy and Cup in the same season was the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks — and that came in a 48-game, lockout-shortened regular season. The 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings were last Presidents’ Trophy winner to claim the Cup in an 80-plus game season, and they were loaded.

Florida Panthers (+575 to win the Cup; +290 to win the Eastern Conference)

The Panthers are relentless. They have by far the most goals and most shots on goal of any team and are seemingly never out of games with a 10-13-1 record when trailing after two periods as of April 12. Florida is the only team with an above-.500 points percentage when trailing after the first period.

Still, coming from behind isn’t really sustainable come playoff time, when solid defensive teams and the best goalies in the league tend to lock things down. We’re hoping Florida can get out of the first round for the first time since 1996 — the Year of the Rat where Florida road a Cinderella run to the Cup Final before being swept by the Avalanche.

Calgary Flames (+900 to win the Cup; +350 to win the Western Conference)

The Flames are perhaps the most balanced team in the league. They rank seventh in the NHL in goals (253) and second in goals against (178) as of April 12. Goalie Jacob Markstrom leads the NHL in shutouts, and star forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk are likely to surpass 100 points for the first time in each’s career.

The Flames haven’t advanced past the first round since 2015 and were stunned in the first round after winning their division in 2019. Still, Calgary has two-time Cup-winning coach Darryl Sutter behind its bench calling the shots, which only adds to its Cup credibility.

Stanley Cup Contenders

Carolina Hurricanes (+1000 to win the Cup; +500 to win the Eastern Conference)

I love the Hurricanes. They don’t really have a flaw, playing an intense, puck-possession game for coach Rod Brind’Amour. Goalie Frederik Andersen has solidified Carolina’s goaltending. Sebastian Aho and partner left wing Andrei Svechnikov make up one of the best offensive tandems in the NHL, and Carolina’s defense is stingy, led by Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei.

I bet the Hurricanes to win the Cup a few months ago and believe you should too.

Tampa Bay Lightning (+1000 to win the Cup; +500 to win the Eastern Conference)

You’re the champ until someone knocks you off, right? The Lightning are the two-time defending champs, surviving consecutive wars of attrition to reach the mountain’s summit through bizarre conditions in 2020 and then again in 2021.

Tampa Bay has star power, led by perennial Norris candidate Victor Hedman, annual Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy and a star-laden forward group with notables like Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point.

Yet, the Lightning have looked mortal in the second half of the regular season and are likely to have to go through Florida and Carolina to get to the Cup Final. That’s no small task.

Toronto Maple Leafs (+1100 to win the Cup; +550 to win the Eastern Conference)

We’ll start by saying we’ll believe in the Maple Leafs’ Cup candidacy when we see it. The Leafs famously haven’t won the Cup since 1967 — its active drought of 55 years is the longest drought in NHL history — and also hold the longest playoff-series win drought of 18 years and counting, dating back to 2004. Toronto has lost in the decisive game of its first postseason series in four straight seasons dating back to 2018.

So why could these Leafs be different? For starters, they have likely Hart Trophy winner Auston Matthews, who set the single-season franchise record for goals and will likely surpass 60 for the first time in an NHL season since Stamkos scored 60 in 2010-11. They also have oodles of postseason experience even though they haven’t that fourth game to close out the playoff series yet.

Boston Bruins (+1500 to win the Cup; +800 to win the Eastern Conference)

The Bruins appear to be lying in the weeds. Boston started slowly at 14-10-2 but has taken off in the new year, led by top scorer and left wing Brad Marchand, perennial Selke Trophy candidate Patrice Bergeron and standouts like David Pastrnak and 2018 Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall.

Goaltending seems to be Boston’s only true concern come playoff time, other than the loaded field in the East, as rookie Jeremy Swayman and 1B Linus Ullmark have combined for just 19 career playoff minutes. The last rookie goalie to lead a team to the Cup was Jordan Binnington for the St. Louis Blues in 2019, who ironically beat the Bruins in the Cup Final.

Stanley Cup sleepers

Pittsburgh Penguins (+1600 to win the Cup; +850 to win the Eastern Conference)

The Penguins are taking aim at one last championship in the Sidney Crosby-Evgeni Malkin era, and this year Pittsburgh looks especially deep with those centers and Crosby’s linemates Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust as well as defenseman Kris Letang, who is aging like a fine wine.

Pittsburgh’s undoing, again, could come in goal given the fact Tristan Jarry struggled last year during the playoffs (3.18 goals-against average, .888 save percentage in the Penguins’ six-game series loss to the New York Islanders). Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, one of the best in the biz, has leaned on Jarry quite a bit again this season, which could lead to fatigue come postseason time.

Still, if Jarry can play well, the Penguins are as dangerous as anyone in the league.

Minnesota Wild (+1800 to win the Cup; +800 to win the Western Conference)

The Wild are totally flying below the radar given their relatively anonymous superstars, names like Kirill Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Hartman, Kevin Fiala and Matt Dumba. Yet, people forget that Kaprizov nearly willed Minnesota past the Vegas Golden Knights a year ago, and Minnesota appears to be even better this season, especially in goal with the tandem of Cam Talbot and Marc-Andre Fleury, who Minnesota GM Bill Guerin acquired at the trade deadline.

Minnesota will likely have to slay the Avalanche in order to even get to the conference finals, and there’s no telling if it is capable for that type of upset. Still, if Colorado gets picked off in the first round that would open up the entire Western Conference field, and Minnesota would be the primary benefactor.

Vegas Golden Knights (+3000 to win the Cup; +1200 to win the Western Conference

The Golden Knights have been decimated by injuries and salary-cap concerns all season and are still not guaranteed to make the playoffs. But if they can get to the postseason with stars like Jack Eichel, Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Jonathan Marchessault and Robin Lehner in goal, they’ll be a nightmare matchup for any of the top teams in the West.

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The playoffs are among the most exciting events to bet on the North American sports calendar. Betting on the postseason is as easy as placing a Futures bet at the moment, but more props and picks — including taking odds and bets on whether any bubble teams will miss the postseason — are available to wager at most online sportsbooks.

NHL Playoff Promotions

There will undoubtedly be boosts and prop promos come play-in time — aside from the aforementioned wagers we mentioned above. Be on the lookout for those in the coming days.

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