Defenseman Jaccob Slavin (74) and the Carolina Hurricanes face the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
May 2 (UPI) -- The Carolina Hurricanes will host the Boston Bruins in the first game of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs, launching the NHL's 16-team postseason bracket Monday in Raleigh, N.C.
The puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EDT at PNC Arena. The Bruins-Hurricanes game will air on ESPN. The Stanley Cup playoffs will run into June and air on ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS and ABC.
The top three teams from each of the NHL's four divisions and four wild card teams qualified from the Western Conference and Eastern Conference.
"Once you get into the playoffs, everything else is kind of irrelevant," Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin told reporters Sunday. "You start the [chance] to check off 16 wins. That's our goal going in.
"This is the best time of the year. You grind through the year to make it to this."
Four teams from each conference will advance to the second round. The surviving two teams from that group will advance to respective conference title series to determine a Stanley Cup Final matchup.
The Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Calgary Flames, Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs are among the favorites to hoist the 34.5-pound Stanley Cup.
The Tampa Bay Lightning also are among the Top-10, and can become the first team to win three-consecutive titles since the 1983 New York Islanders won four-consecutive times in the 1980s.
"In the playoffs, you have to go through everybody," Panthers center Aleksander Barkov told reporters Monday. "Whether its Round 1 or Round 2 or whatever, you think about that game. You don't think further than that.
"We are ready to start playing and get this thing going."
Just three Canadian teams -- the Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Maple Leafs -- qualified for the playoffs. They will look to end a drought of 29 years without a Stanley Cup winning team from Canada.
The Maple Leafs host the Lightning in the second playoff game at 7:30 p.m. Monday in Toronto. The final two games of Monday's playoff slate feature the St. Louis Blues against the Minnesota Wild and the Los Angeles Kings against the Edmonton Oilers.
Another four Game 1 meetings are scheduled for Tuesday. The NHL playoff slate features another four playoff games daily through at least Monday. The best-of-seven series could run through May 15.
Who to watch
The Panthers posted an NHL-best 58 wins and 122 points this season. They are the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Avalanche logged 56 wins and 119 points for the top seed in the Western Conference.
Nathan Mackinnon, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Mikko Rantanen, Auston Matthews and Johnny Gaudreau are among the players to watch.
They are among the favorites to claim the Conn Smythe Trophy, the award given to the playoffs MVP. Perennial All-Stars Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby also should be must-watch players throughout the tournament.
Andrei Vasilevksy, Sergei Bobrovsky, Jacob Markstrom, Darcy Kuemper and Igor Shesterkin are among the top goaltenders in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
McDavid led the NHL with 123 points this season, followed by Huberdeau and Gaudreau. Shesterkin posted a goals allowed average of just 2.07, the stingiest mark among goaltenders.
Matthews scored a league-high 60 goals. Huberdeau led the league with 85 assists.
The Panthers led the NHL with 337 goals. The Maple Leafs led the league with a 27.3% conversion on power plays. The Hurricanes allowed a league-low 200 scores and 89.5% penalty kill.
"We've had success against Carolina in the playoffs over the years," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters Monday. "Will that continue? Who knows?
"We know they have great penalty kill and we have to work hard to get pucks back."
Stanley Cup playoff openers
Game 1: Bruins at Hurricanes at 7 p.m. on ESPN
Game 1: Lightning at Maple Leafs at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2
Game 1: Blues at Wild at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN
Game 1: Kings at Oilers at 10 p.m. on ESPN2
Game 1: Penguins at Rangers at 7 p.m. on ESPN
Game 1: Capitals at Panthers at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2
Game 1: Predators at Avalanche at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN
Game 1: Stars at Flames at 10 p.m. on ESPN2