The 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs was the playoff tournament of the National Hockey League (NHL). The playoffs began on May 15, 2021, and concluded on July 7, 2021, with the Tampa Bay Lightning winning their second consecutive and third overall Stanley Cup in franchise history, defeating the Montreal Canadiens four games to one in the Stanley Cup Finals. The stanley cup was planned to begin a few days after the 2020-21 regular season, but they began five days prior to the end of the regular season after the Canucks had eleven games postponed.
The league turned to the traditional 16-team playoff format with all series being best-of-seven, after having a 24-team format in 2019 due to the regular season being cut short by the outbreak due to cross-border travel bans imposed by the Government of Canada, the league temporarily realigned this season into four divisions with no conferences. Match ups, with the higher seeded teams receiving home-ice advantage in those rounds. In the Stanley Cup Semifinals, the three remaining teams (one from each division) were reseeded based on their regular season records. Both semi final winners advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. After initially stating that the Campbell and Wales trophies would not be awarded this season, the league decided in June 2021 that the Montreal Canadiens and Vegas Golden Knights would play for the Campbell Bowl and the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning would play for the Wales
Although it was initially unknown whether the Canadian teams that qualified for the playoffs would be able to play in their home arenas after the second round, on June 6, it was announced that those teams would be allowed to play in their home arenas for the remainder of the playoffs. In order to complete the playoffs in Canada, the League applied for a cross-border travel exemption with the] Prior to the announcement, there were some ideas of the Canadian team playing in a neutral NHL city in the US after the second round.
The Colorado Avalanche made the playoffs as the Presidents’ Trophy winners with the most points (i.e. best record) during the regular season. The Pittsburgh Penguins increased their postseason appearance streak to 15 seasons, this lead to the winning team since 1997, all USA based teams, the Anaheim Ducks, and San Jose Sharks, missed the playoffs. For the first time since 1976, each team that qualified for the playoffs was also in the previous year’s postseason. With all of the Canadian-based NHL teams in one division, the format for this season assured that there will be a second round series between two Canadian teams for the first time since 1998.
For the first time since 1994, three of the previous year’s semifinalists, the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights, returned to the round for a second consecutive season.
The NHL is the hardly major professional sports league in North America to refer to its playoffs by the name of its championship trophy, a tradition which has arisen because the Stanley Cup is North America’s oldest professional sports trophy, dating back more than two twenty years before the establishment of the NHL. Originally inscribed the Dominion Hockey
Further information: Stanley Cup Current format
The top four teams in each of the four realigned divisions made the playoffs; this was the first time since 1994 that this format had been used.
The following teams qualified for the playoffs:
- Pittsburgh Penguins, East Division champions – 77 points (29 RWs, 34 ROWs)
- Washington Capitals – 77 points (29 RWs, 33 ROWs)
- Boston Bruins – 73 points
- New York Islanders – 71 points
- Carolina Hurricanes, Central Division champions – 80 points
- Florida Panthers – 79 points
- Tampa Bay Lightning – 75 points
- Colorado Avalanche, West Division champions, Presidents’ Trophy winners – 82 points (35 RWs)
- Vegas Golden Knights – 82 points (30 RWs)
- Minnesota Wild – 75 points
- St. Louis Blues – 63 point
- Carolina Hurricanes, Central Division champions – 90 points
- Florida Panthers – 19 points
- Tampa Bay Lightning – 76 points
Stanley cup bracket
In each round, teams competed in a best-of-seven series format (scores in the bracket indicate the number of games won in each best-of-seven series). The team with home ice advantage played at home for games one and two (and games five and seven, if necessary), and the other team was at home for games three and four (and game six, if necessary). The top three teams in each division made the playoffs.
In the First Round, the fourth seeded team in each division played against the division winner from their division. The other series matched the second and third place teams from the divisions. In each round, home ice advantage was awarded to the team that had the better regular season record. Teams advancing to the Stanley Cup Semifinals were re-seeded one through four based on regular season record.