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The quest for the Stanley Cup opens Saturday, and once again 16 qualified teams will battle in out for North American hockey supremacy. One quarter of those teams will be from north of the border, with Canada placing four teams in the NHL playoffs for the first time since the COVID-19-shortened 2020-21 season, when all seven Canadian teams competed in their own division to prevent cross-border travel during the regular season.

When do the NHL playoffs start?

The first round of the postseason opens this Saturday, April 20. The opening game will feature the New York Islanders visiting the Carolina Hurricanes, beginning at 5 p.m. ET.

The 2024 Stanley Cup final is scheduled to start on June 3, but that date could move up if the previous rounds of the playoffs finish early.

How do teams qualify for the NHL playoffs?

The NHL consists of 32 teams, divided into Eastern and Western conferences, each containing two divisions of eight teams each. To make the postseason, the teams each play 82 regular-season games, with the three teams in each division with the most points advancing to the playoffs.

The seventh- and eighth-placed teams in the conference – known as wild cards – also advance to the playoffs, with each playing one of the two division winners.

How do the NHL playoffs work?

The two conferences qualify eight teams each for the postseason, with the teams seeded within their divisions, with two additional wild cards coming from either division. The division champion with the most points then plays the second wild card, the other division winner plays the first wild card, while the second- and third-placed teams in each division face off against each other.

The teams meet in a best-of-seven-game series, with the higher seed playing host to the first two games of a series, and then the fifth and seventh games, if needed. The lower-seeded team plays host to the other games.

Unlike the regular season, there are no shootouts to decide games. If a game is tied at the end of regulation, teams will play 20-minute overtime periods of five-on-five hockey, repeated until someone scores a winning goal.

To win the Stanley Cup, a team will have to win four consecutive series, three within its own conference and then the final against the champion team of the other conference. So a team will have to win a total 16 games to become Stanley Cup champions.

Which teams have qualified for the 2024 NHL playoffs?

In the Eastern Conference, the first round (and the seeds) looks like this:

New York Rangers (Metropolitan 1) vs Washington Capitals (Wild Card 2)

Florida Panthers (Atlantic 1) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (WC1)

Carolina Hurricanes (M2) vs New York Islanders (M3)

Boston Bruins (A2) vs Toronto Maple Leafs (A3)

And in the Western Conference:

Dallas Stars (Central 1) vs Vegas Golden Knights (P3)

Vancouver Canucks (Pacific 1) vs Nashville Predators (WC1)

Winnipeg Jets (C2) vs Colorado Avalanche (C3)

Edmonton Oilers (P2) vs Los Angeles Kings (WC2)

NHL playoff bracket 2024

How can I watch the Stanley Cup playoffs in Canada?

Every game in this year’s playoffs will be available to watch on either CBC or Sportsnet.

What is the Round 1 schedule for the Canadian teams?

Toronto Maple Leafs playoff schedule

Game 1 – Sat., April 20 Toronto @ Boston, 8 p.m. ET

Game 2 – Mon., April 22 Toronto @ Boston, 7 p.m. ET

Game 3 – Wed., April 24 Boston @ Toronto, 7 p.m. ET

Game 4 – Sat., April 27 Boston @ Toronto, 8 p.m. ET

Game 5* – Tues., April 30 Toronto @ Boston, TBD

Game 6* – Thurs., May 2 Boston @ Toronto, TBD

Game 7* – Sat., May 4 Toronto @ Boston, TBD

Winnipeg Jets playoff schedule

Game 1 – Sun., April 21 Colorado @ Winnipeg, 7 p.m. ET

Game 2 – Tues., April 23 Colorado @ Winnipeg, 9:30 p.m. ET

Game 3 – Fri., April 26 Winnipeg @ Colorado, 10 p.m. ET

Game 4 – Sun., April 28 Winnipeg @ Colorado, 2:30 p.m. ET

Game 5* – Tues., April 30 Colorado @ Winnipeg, TBD

Game 6* – Thurs., May 2 Winnipeg @ Colorado, TBD

Game 7* – Sat., May 4 Colorado @ Winnipeg, TBD

Edmonton Oilers playoff schedule

Game 1 – Mon., April 22 Los Angeles @ Edmonton, 10 p.m. ET

Game 2 – Wed., April 24 Los Angeles @ Edmonton, 10 p.m. ET

Game 3 – Fri., April 26 Edmonton @ Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m. ET

Game 4 – Sun., April 28 Edmonton @ Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m. ET

Game 5* – Wed., May 1 Los Angeles @ Edmonton, TBD

Game 6* – Fri., May 3 Edmonton @ Los Angeles, TBD

Game 7* –Sun., May 5 Los Angeles @ Edmonton, TBD

Vancouver Canucks playoff schedule

Game 1 – Sun., April 21 Nashville @ Vancouver, 10 p.m. ET

Game 2 – Tues., April 23 Nashville @ Vancouver, 10 p.m. ET

Game 3 – Fri., April 26 Vancouver @ Nashville, 7:30 p.m. ET

Game 4 – Sun., April 28 Vancouver @ Nashville, 5 p.m. ET

Game 5* – Tues., April 30 Nashville @ Vancouver, TBD

Game 6* – Fri., May 3 Vancouver @ Nashville, TBD

Game 7* – Sun., May 5 Nashville @ Vancouver, TBD

(* = if necessary)

Who won last year’s Stanley Cup?

The Vegas Golden Knights won the 2023 Stanley Cup, beating the Florida Panthers in five games to clinch the team’s first NHL championship in just its sixth season of existence. Vegas winger Jonathan Marchessault won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL playoffs’ most-valuable player, registering 13 goals and 12 assists in 22 games.

Can a Canadian team win the Stanley Cup?

Absolutely. However, no Canadian-based team has lifted the cherished trophy since the Montreal Canadiens did it 31 years ago, in 1993.

Canadian teams have come close since then. The Vancouver Canucks lost in the seventh game of the final in both 1994 and 2011, while the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers both fell one win short in 2004 and 2006, respectively. And the Ottawa Senators lost in five games to the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, while most recently, the Montreal Canadiens fell by the same series scoreline to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2021 final.

Hockey author Roy McGregor has his say on Canada’s Stanley Cup drought.

Can the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup this time around?

Possibly, although Globe and Mail sports columnist Cathal Kelly thinks they won’t even get out of the first round.

What about the other Canadian teams?

Here’s a quick primer on Canada’s postseason participants.

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