While the usual conference-based format may not be in use for 2021, the same chaos will be present as the remaining four NHL teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs battle it out for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final.
Just one month ago, hockey fans were dealing with the excitement that comes with the start of arguably the most exciting postseason of any sport.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, teams were strewn about in different divisions based on their geographic locations, familiar foes inside the Eastern Conference or Western Conference found themselves on opposite sides of the bracket, and the league unintentionally added some life and freshness to its playoffs.
A few weeks later, the 16-team field that entered the postseason has dwindled down to a quarter of its size, and teams will collide with non-divisional opponents for the first time all season.
The Montreal Canadiens set the tone in June, sweeping the Winnipeg Jets in the Scotia North Division to become the first team to advance to the Stanley Cup Semifinals.
The reigning Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning followed suit shortly thereafter, knocking out the Carolina Hurricanes in five games to emerge out of the Discover Central Division and keep their streak of postseason success alive.
The New York Islanders needed six games to take down the Boston Bruins in the MassMutual East Division, and locked down a rematch with the Lightning, who eliminated the Islanders in five games in the 2020 playoffs.
Lastly, the Vegas Golden Knights successfully prevented having to play in another Game 7, defeating the Colorado Avalanche in six games to win the Honda West Division and solidifying their spot against the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Semifinals.
The NHL finds itself with a wide-ranging field heading into the next round, with a variety of postseason success among the remaining four teams in the bracket.
Will the Lightning strike twice and win back-to-back titles? Can the Golden Knights make it back to the Stanley Cup Final and redeem themselves after their last appearance a few years ago?
Can the Islanders win a championship to close down the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in an impressive fashion? Or, will the Canadiens break their home country’s curse and bring the Stanley Cup back to Canada?
As we await all of the answers to those questions, here’s all of the key information you need to know for the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals:
Vegas Golden Knights (No. 2, Honda West Division) vs. Montreal Canadiens (No. 4, Scotia North Division)
Game 1: Monday, June 14 at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and Sportsnet
Game 2: Wednesday, June 16 at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and Sportsnet
Game 3: Friday, June 18 at 8 p.m. ET on USA Network and Sportsnet
Game 4: Sunday, June 20 at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN and Sportsnet
Game 5 (if needed): Tuesday, June 22 at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and Sportsnet
Game 6 (if needed): Thursday, June 24 at 8 p.m. ET on USA Network and Sportsnet
Game 7 (if needed): Saturday, June 26 at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN and Sportsnet
Tampa Bay Lightning (No. 3, Discover Central Division) vs. New York Islanders (No. 4, MassMutual East Division)
Game 1: Sunday, June 13 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC and Sportsnet
Game 2: Tuesday, June 15 at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN and Sportsnet
Game 3: Thursday, June 17 at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN and Sportsnet
Game 4: Saturday, June 19 at 8 p.m. ET on USA Network and Sportsnet
Game 5 (if needed): Monday, June 21 at 8 p.m. ET on USA Network and Sportsnet
Game 6 (if needed): Wednesday, June 23 at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN and Sportsnet
Game 7 (if needed): Friday, June 25 at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN and Sportsnet