NHL Playoffs Schedule: New Format Brings Exciting First-Round Matchups

The NHL playoffs schedule is out, and hockey fans will have some premiere matchups to look forward to in the first round of the playoffs this year.

The NHL playoffs schedule will look at bit different this year. The league's new format means that the first three teams in each division automatically qualify for the postseason. The final two teams for each conference are wild cards selected by record, regardless of division.

The two wild card teams will face the division winners in the first round of the NHL playoffs, while the second and third place teams face off against each other.

But the NHL playoffs schedule gets more confusing from there. Instead of re-seeding the teams so that the highest remaining seed faces the lowest remaining seed --- as the NHL has done for many years --- the bracket is now set in stone, regardless of who wins in the first round.

If fans are confused with the new NHL playoffs format, they're not alone.

"I still haven't figured it out, to be honest with you," said Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. "I understand the first round. I don't know where it goes from there."

As the postseason begins this week, there are plenty of compelling plotlines in an already exciting time of year. The Boston Bruins came into the playoffs as the Presidents' Trophy winners, ending the regular season with 117 points thanks in large part to a nearly perfect stretch in March.

NHL Playoffs Schedule: New Format Brings Exciting First-Round Matchups

In the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks seized the No. 1 seed, but there are at least five teams that have a legitimate chance of winning. Colorado, San Jose, and Los Angeles all have the talent to win not only the Western Conference but the Stanley Cup itself.

A few weeks ago, the St. Louis Blues would be considered the far and away favorites to win the Western Conference after a trade deadline bonanza that brought in Vezina winning goaltender Ryan Miller, but the team lost their final six games of the season, falling to second in the Central Division.

Now the playoffs schedule has the Blues pitted against the Chicago Blackhawks, who themselves have lost two in a row and six of 11.

NHL Playoffs Schedule: New Format Brings Exciting First-Round Matchups

The full NHL playoffs schedule can be found here.