First Round matchups for the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs

With the 2021-22 regular season (essentially) over, we now know all eight playoff series matchups between 16 NHL teams. That goes from the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Panthers and West-winning Avalanche all the way down to two wild-card teams per conference.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

All eight First Round NHL matchups in 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Eastern Conference

• Atlantic Division bracket

Florida Panthers (ATL 1) vs. Washington Capitals (WC 2)

Down the stretch, the Capitals have been struggling, losing four games in a row and five of six (with Alex Ovechkin also suffering a troubling injury). Meanwhile, the Panthers have been on absolute fire, rarely losing unless they sit basically everyone but the team trainer. Florida looms as the favorites, but Washington has that vaunted “veteran savvy.”

We’ll see if someone gets schooled.

FLORIDA PANTHERS v. WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Game 1: May 3, 7:30 p.m. ET
– Capitals at Panthers (ESPN2, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 2: May 5 7:30 p.m. ET – Capitals at Panthers (TBS, SN360, TVA Sports )
Game 3:  May 7, 1 p.m. ET – Panthers at Capitals (ESPN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports)
Game 4: May 9, 7 p.m. ET –  Panthers at Capitals (TBS, SN1, TVA Sports)
*Game 5: May 11, TBD – Capitals at Panthers (TBD)
*Game 6: May 13, TBD – Panthers at Capitals (TBD)
*Game 7: May 15, TBD – Capitals at Panthers (TBD)

Toronto Maple Leafs (ATL 2) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (ATL 3)

With 54 wins and 115 standings points, the Maple Leafs put together the most prolific regular season in franchise history. Their reward is very fitting for the star-crossed Maple Leafs franchise: facing the repeat champion Lightning. On paper, this could be one of the best First Round playoff series in recent NHL history, and hopefully it reaches or exceeds that potential on the ice.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS v. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Game 1: May 2, 7:30 p.m. ET – Lightning at Maple Leafs (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Game 2: May 4, 7:30 p.m. ET – Lightning at Maple Leafs (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Game 3: May 6, 7:30 p.m. ET –  Maple Leafs at Lightning (TBS, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 4: May 8, 7 p.m. ET – Maple Leafs at Lightning (TBS, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 5: May 10, TBD – Lightning at Maple Leafs (TBD)
*Game 6: May 12, TBD – Maple Leafs at Lightning (TBD)
*Game 7: May 14, TBD – Lightning at Maple Leafs (TBD)

• Metropolitan Division bracket

Carolina Hurricanes (MET 1) vs. Boston Bruins (WC 1)

For years, the Hurricanes have been knocking on the door; first it was to make the playoffs, now it’s to put together a deep run. Don’t blame the Hurricanes if they feel like they’ve finally “broken through” if they beat a Bruins team that eliminated them twice in a row (2018-19 and 2019-20), once by a sweep, the other in five games. The Bruins already presented a challenging First Round opponent for the Hurricanes, yet with Carolina’s goalies banged up, there’s a real chance history can repeat itself.

CAROLINA HURRICANES v. BOSTON BRUINS
Game 1: May 2, 7 p.m. ET – Bruins at Hurricanes (ESPN, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 2: May 4, 7 p.m. ET – Bruins at Hurricanes (ESPN, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 3: May 6, 7 p.m. ET – Hurricanes at Bruins (TNT, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 4: May 8, 12:30 p.m. ET – Hurricanes at Bruins (ESPN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports)
*Game 5: May 10, TBD – Bruins at Hurricanes (TBD)
*Game 6: May 12, TBD – Hurricanes at Bruins (TBD)
*Game 7: May 14, TBD – Bruins at Hurricanes (TBD)

New York Rangers (MET 2) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (MET 3)

For a portion of the season, the Rangers’ overall play didn’t quite match their lofty place in the standings, while the Penguins showed sneaky-promise. Lately, the Rangers really started to cook, while the Penguins have been running out of gas. With some injury concerns for both teams, there’s some mystery to the series, but overall the Rangers look like strong favorites.

NEW YORK RANGERS v. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Game 1: May 3, 7 p.m. ET – Penguins at Rangers (ESPN, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 2: May 5, 7 p.m. ET – Penguins at Rangers (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 3: May 7, 7 p.m. ET – Rangers at Penguins (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 4: May 9, 7 p.m. ET – Rangers at Penguins (ESPN, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 5: May 11, TBD – Penguins at Rangers (TBD)
*Game 6: May 13, TBD – Rangers at Penguins (TBD)
*Game 7: May 15, TBD – Penguins at Rangers (TBD)

* if necessary
TBD – To Be Determined
JIP – Joined In Progress

colorado avalanche
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Western Conference

• Central Division bracket

Colorado Avalanche (CEN 1) vs. Nashville Predators (WC 2)

If possibly being without Juuse Saros didn’t already lower expectations for the Predators as they ace the awe-inspiring Avalanche, Nashville’s stunning regular-season-ending collapse to the Coyotes should do the trick. Hockey’s a strange sport, and the Predators already defied expectations by making the NHL playoff mix in the first place. In a First Round brimming with tough calls, few will pick the Predators over the Avalanche (unless it’s a bit).

COLORADO AVALANCHE v. NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Game 1: May 3, 9:30 p.m. ET – Predators at Avalanche (ESPN, SNE, SN360 [JIP], TVA Sports)
Game 2: May 5, 9:30 p.m. ET – Predators at Avalanche (TNT, SNE, SN360 [JIP], TVA Sports)
Game 3: May 7, 4:30 p.m. ET – Avalanche at Predators (TNT, Sportsnet, TVA Sports)
Game 4: May 9, 9:30 p.m. ET – Avalanche at Predators (ESPN, SN1, TVA Sports)
*Game 5: May 11, TBD – Predators at Avalanche (TBD)
*Game 6: May 13, TBD – Avalanche at Predators (TBD)
*Game 7 May 15, TBD – Predators at Avalanche (TBD)

Minnesota Wild (CEN 2) vs. St. Louis Blues (CEN 3)

No doubt about it, the Wild and Blues finished their seasons among the hottest teams in the NHL. For teams often associated with grinding hockey, both teams are lighting up scoreboards more than usual. This one could really go either way, setting the stage for a truly fascinating series.

MINNESOTA WILD v. ST. LOUIS BLUES  
Game 1: May 2, 9:30 p.m. ET – Blues at Wild (ESPN, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 2: May 4, 9:30 p.m. ET – Blues at Wild (ESPN, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 3: May 6, 9:30 p.m. ET – Wild at Blues (TNT, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 4: May 8, 4:30 p.m. ET – Wild at Blues (TBS, SN360, TVA Sports)
*Game 5: May 10, TBD – Blues at Wild (TBD)
*Game 6: May 12, TBD – Wild at Blues (TBD)
*Game 7 May 14, TBD – Blues at Wild (TBD)

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

• Pacific Division bracket

Calgary Flames (PAC 1) vs. Dallas Stars (WC 1)

At face value, it’s tempting to frame the Flames and Stars as two defense-oriented teams. The gulf between the two is significant, though; consider the Flames’ +85 goal differential compared to the Stars’ -8 mark as just one example. Beyond that defensive acumen, both the Stars and Flames boast top lines with a claim for best line in the NHL, so there’s room for this to get interesting. Consider the Flames the overwhelming favorites over the Stars, however.

CALGARY FLAMES v. DALLAS STARS
Game 1: May 3, 10 p.m. ET – Stars at Flames (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Game 2: May 5, 10 p.m. ET – Stars at Flames (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, TBS)
Game 3: May 7, 9:30 p.m. ET – Flames at Stars (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 4: May 9, 9:30 p.m. ET – Flames at Stars (TBS, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 5: May 11,  TBD – Stars at Flames (TBD)
*Game 6: May 13, TBD – Flames at Stars (TBD)
*Game 7 May 15, TBD – Stars at Flames (TBD)

Edmonton Oilers (PAC 2) vs. Los Angeles Kings (PAC 3)

As improved as the Oilers’ team play has been under Jay Woodcroft, this series still screams “Kings’ system vs. Oilers’ stars.” There’s a ton of pressure on Connor McDavid and the Oilers to deliver, while the Kings appear ahead of their rebuild schedule. Perhaps that underdog mentality will work for the crafty Kings?

EDMONTON OILERS vs. LOS ANGELES KINGS
Game 1: May 2, 10 p.m. ET – Kings at Oilers (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Game 2: May 4, 10 p.m. ET – Kings at Oilers (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Game 3: May 6, 10 p.m. ET – Oilers at Kings (TBS, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 4: May 8, 10 p.m. ET – Oilers at Kings (TBS, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 5: May 10, TBD – Kings at Oilers (TBD)
*Game 6: May 12, TBD – Oilers at Kings (TBD)
*Game 7: May 14, TBD – Kings at Oilers (TBD)

* if necessary
TBD – To Be Determined
JIP – Joined In Progress

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

    mark stone surgery
    Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports
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    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

    brunette dui
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
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    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

    Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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    DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

    At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

    “Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

    The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

    There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

    The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

    “Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

    “Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

    The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

    “Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

    Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

    “We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

    The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

    Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

    Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

    Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

    “They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”

    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.