2024 NHL Playoffs: Post-Season Picture, How to Watch & More

2024 NHL Playoffs: Post-Season Picture, How to Watch & More

It’s been long, hard-fought season for the 32 teams of the National Hockey League (NHL), and for half of them, it will soon come to an end with the conclusion regular season. For the top 16, however, there’s bonus hockey in the cards: the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.

Here’s your guide to catching all of the NHL playoffs action, plus a look at how the field of contenders is shaping up.

When do the NHL Playoffs Start?

The 2023-2024 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs will begin on Monday, April 22, 2024. The latest possible day the playoffs will end is June 24, 2024.

How to Watch the NHL Playoffs

You can catch every post-ringing, glove-slinging, slap-shooting moment of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on DIRECTV on the following networks:

NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Picture

So, which teams are expected to make the playoffs this season? And which team is expected to go all the way to bring the Stanley Cup home?

Here’s what the first-round bracket would look like if the season were to end right now:

Eastern Conference

Florida Panthers (Atlantic 1) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (Wild Card 1)

Boston Bruins (Atlantic 2) vs. Toronto Maples Leafs (Atlantic 3)

New York Rangers (Metropolitan 1) vs. Washington Capitals (Wild Card 2)

Carolina Hurricanes (Metropolitan 2) vs. New York Islanders (Metropolitan 3)

Western Conference

Dallas Stars (Central 1) vs.  LA Kings (Wild Card 2) 

Colorado Avalanche (Central 2) vs. Winnipeg Jets (Central 3)

Vancouver Canucks (Pacific 1) vs. Nashville Predators (Wild Card 1)

Edmonton Oilers (Pacific 2) vs.  Vegas Golden Knights (Pacific 3, Defending Champion) 

NHL Playoffs Schedule

Watch as all the teams take to the ice during the Stanley Cup Finals. Find the full NHL Playoffs schedule right here.

Favorites to Win 2024 Stanley Cup

Right now, the Carolina Hurricanes are the favorite to win the Stanley Cup Final, according to most major sports betting sites.

The Hurricanes, coached by Rod Brind’Amour, who as a player led the team to its only Stanley Cup championship in 2006, have been ascendant in recent weeks and brought some additional star power on in the form of Jake Guentzel and Evgeny Kuznetsov at the trade deadline. Time will tell if the former Hartford Whalers can bring the trophy home to Raleigh.

The Hurricanes are followed closely by the Avalanche, who won the Stanley Cup Final in 2022, and the Panthers, who nearly did the same last year before being edged out by the Golden Knights. The New York Rangers, currently first overall in the league, the Dallas Stars and the Boston Bruins are also all in contention.

And let’s not forget the Tampa Bay Lightning. It’s a longshot bid for the Bolts, for sure, but they’re just two years removed from three straight trips to the Stanley Cup finals and a pair of wins.

How do the NHL Playoffs Work?

The Stanley Cup playoffs spans three elimination rounds of four to seven games each between qualifying teams, culminating in the Stanley Cup Final between the Western and Eastern Conference champions.

The winner of the Stanley Cup Final earns the honor of hoisting the coveted and massive Stanley Cup.

Seeding & Bracket

In total, 16 teams will make it to the playoffs. The top three teams from each of the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific divisions automatically qualify, and the four other playoff spots are awarded to the next two highest-ranking teams by regular season record in each conference, no matter which division they’re drawn from. Those teams are known as “wild cards.”

Playoff teams are then seeded based on their regular season point totals. Teams earn two points for a regulation win, one point for an overtime loss/tie, and no points for a regulation loss during the regular season.

If there’s a tie, there’s a series of tiebreaking statistics that are examined to determine which has the right to the higher seed.

If that still doesn’t break the tie, the two teams are pitted against each other in a game, and the winner gets home-ice advantage.


The rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs are played as best-of-seven series between the two teams. The higher seeded team gets home-ice advantage for the first two games, then visits their opponent for the next two. After that, they alternate locations if more games are necessary with the higher seed hosting games 5 and 7.

In the first round, the top seeded team from each conference plays the lowest seeded wild card team in their conference, and the other wild card team plays the winner of the other division in the conference. The second- and third-seeded teams in each division play each other.

First-round winners move on to play the other divisional winners in their conference, and the winners of those series go to the Conference Finals. Then, conference champions play each other for the Cup.

Overtime Rules

In the regular season, games that end after three periods in a tie go into three-on-three overtime. If no winner emerges from the overtime round, a shootout is held to determine the winner.

The same can’t be said for the NHL playoffs: if a game goes to overtime, additional 20-minute periods are added until one team scores. This means playoffs games could get very, very long. The longest playoff game ever occurred in 1934 between the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens, going to six overtimes. Yep: the overtime for that game was longer than the regulation play itself.

In recent years, a game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Columbus Blue Jackets went to five overtimes in 2020, and a game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers in 2023 went to four overtimes.

History of the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Stanley Cup is named after Lord Stanley of Preston, who was the Governor General of Canada at the time it was commissioned in 1892. Preston gave it to Canada’s top-ranked amateur ice hockey team. The trophy was passed to the team with the best record at the end of each season.

In subsequent years, the Cup was passed between the emergent National Hockey League and its rivals in the Western Canada Hockey until 1926, when the NHL took sole possession of the trophy.

Today, the Stanley Cup is the ultimate prize for a professional hockey player. Teams who win the cup have their member’s names engraved on the bands that run around it, which are periodically removed and enshrined to make room for new engravings. It’s the oldest sports trophy in North American sports.

Stanley Cup Winners by Year (2000 – Present)

Wondering the last time your team took home the Cup? Here are the Stanley Cup winners from 2000 to today.

2023: Vegas Golden Knights
2022: Colorado Avalanche
2021: Tampa Bay Lightning
2020: Tampa Bay Lightning
2019: St. Louis Blues
2018: Washington Capitals
2017: Pittsburgh Penguins
2016: Pittsburgh Penguins
2015: Chicago Blackhawks
2014: Los Angeles Kings
2013: Chicago Blackhawks
2012: Los Angeles Kings
2011: Boston Bruins
2010: Chicago Blackhawks
2009: Pittsburgh Penguins
2008: Detroit Red Wings
2007: Anaheim Ducks
2006: Carolina Hurricanes
2005: No season played
2004: Tampa Bay Lightning
2003: New Jersey Devils
2002: Detroit Red Wings
2001: Colorado Avalanche
2000: New Jersey Devils

Most Stanley Cup Wins & Appearances by Team

  • Montreal Canadiens – 24 wins in 33 appearances
  • Toronto Maple Leafs – 13 wins in 21 appearances
  • Detroit Red Wings – 11 wins in 24 appearances
  • Boston Bruins – 6 wins in 20 appearances
  • Chicago Blackhawks – 6 wins in 13 appearances

What is the President’s Trophy?

The President’s Trophy is the trophy awarded to the team that finishes the regular season with the highest total points. Last year, the Boston Bruins won the President’s Trophy, but were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the Florida Panthers.

Has the President’s Trophy Winner Ever Won the Stanley Cup?

Only eight teams have won the President’s Trophy and gone on to dominate the playoffs, too: the 1986-87 Edmonton Oilers led by NHL legend Wayne Gretzky were the first, followed by the 88-89 Calgary Flames, the 93-94 New York Rangers, the 98-99 Dallas Stars, 00-01 Colorado Avalanche, the 01-02 Detroit Red Wings, the 07-08 Detroit Red Wings and 12-13 Chicago Blackhawks.

Watch NHL Hockey on DIRECTV

Don’t miss a moment of the 2024 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sign up for DIRECTV today.

The content is featured on is editorial content brought to you by DIRECTV. While some of the programming discussed may now or in the future be available affiliates distribution services, the companies and persons discussed and depicted, and the authors and publishers of licensed content, are not necessarily associated with and do not necessarily endorse DIRECTV. When you click on ads on this site you may be taken to DIRECTV marketing pages that display advertising content. Content sponsored or co-created by programmers is identified as "Sponsored Content" or "Promoted Content."