2021 NHL playoff series previews: First-round matchups, picks

After the NHL staged a 24-team, bubble-based tournament to determine the Stanley Cup winner in 2020, we’re back to a more traditional 16-team event in 2021 — with a significant twist.

The first two rounds of the 2021 playoffs will be intradivisional. After a winner is crowned from the four divisions, the “final four” will be rebracketed based on their regular-season records, with No. 1 taking on No. 4 and No. 2 facing No. 3. The winners of those series will square off in the Stanley Cup Final.

That could result in some dream matchups for the Cup — BruinsMaple Leafs anyone? — but before we get there, it’s time for eight divisional series to kick things off, starting on Saturday.

How will the matchups play out? Let’s take an in-depth look at each first-round matchup and make our picks for which teams will advance.

Note: Emily Kaplan previewed the East and Central, while Greg Wyshynski did the honors for the North. West matchups will be found here once those series are finalized. Advanced stats are from Hockey Reference, Natural Stat Trick and Evolving Hockey

More: Check out the full NHL postseason schedule here.

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