NHL playoffs bracket 2024: What are the first round series in Stanley Cup playoffs?

After a six-month grind, the NHL's 2023-24 regular season is over. Now, the fun really begins.

The Stanley Cup playoffs field and matchups are set and postseason play begins Saturday. The Vegas Golden Knights will start their title defense Monday with a rematch of last year's Western Conference final.

There's a lot of familiar faces this year, with only three teams that didn't take part in last year's postseason in this year's field (Washington, Vancouver, Nashville). The first round will see three playoff rematches from last year, but there are other matchups of teams with recent postseason history — including the third edition of the Battle of Florida in the last four seasons.

Here's the quick scoop on every first round series in the NHL playoffs:

The Bruins and Maple Leafs will play in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Bruins and Maple Leafs will play in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Eastern Conference

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

Records: Rangers (55-23-4, 114 points); Capitals (40-31-11, 91 points)

Game 1: Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Rangers won the Presidents' Trophy as the best team in the league this season while the Capitals sneaked into the postseason sporting the worst goal differential by a playoff team in decades (-37). The Rangers had five players record more points than the Capitals' leading scorer (Dylan Strome, 67 points), including Artemi Panarin, who finished fourth in the league scoring race with 120 points. It's a mismatch on paper, but the Capitals do have one of the league's more underrated goalies in Charlie Lindgren and a core that has plenty of playoff experience. There's no love lost between these franchises that split their season series.

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

Records: Hurricanes (52-23-7, 111 points); Islanders (39-27-16, 94 points)

Game 1: Saturday, 5 p.m. ET, TBS

The Hurricanes and Islanders are meeting in the first round for the second consecutive year. Carolina, which recorded over 110 points for the third consecutive season, made a rare splash at the trade deadline in a bid to finally break through to the Stanley Cup Final. The biggest name the Hurricanes reeled in was Jake Guentzel, a proven playoff performer from the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he's fit in quite nicely with 25 points in 17 games. The Islanders won 10 of their final 13 games to surge into the playoffs. They made a midseason coaching change, bringing in Patrick Roy.

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

Records: Panthers (52-24-6, 110 points); Lightning (45-29-8, 98 points)

Game 1: Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Lightning dispatched their in-state rival in 2021 and 2022 en route to the Stanley Cup Final. But the Panthers are the defending Eastern Conference champs and have home ice after winning the division. The Lightning boast three 40-goal scorers, including NHL points leader Nikita Kucherov (144 points). The Panthers have the NHL's second-leading goal scorer in Sam Reinhart (57 goals) and plenty of tenacity with Matthew Tkachuk leading the way. There could be a lot of fireworks in this one.

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

Records: Bruins (47-20-15, 109 points); Maple Leafs (46-26-10, 102 points)

Game 1: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, TBS

The Bruins and Maple Leafs are meeting in the playoffs for the third time in seven seasons. While the key pieces in Toronto are mostly the same from those 2018 and 2019 matchups, highlighted by 69-goal scorer Auston Matthews, the Bruins no longer have longtime stalwarts Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara, who gave the Leafs plenty of trouble in postseasons past. Boston, which dropped its final two games of the regular season to fumble away the division title, still has one of the game's best offensive players in David Pastrnak (110 points, fifth in the NHL), solid defensive depth and the best goalie tandem in the league.

Western Conference

Dallas Stars (Central 1) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (Wild Card 2)

Records: Stars (52-21-9, 113 points); Golden Knights (45-29-8, 98 points)

Game 1: Monday, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

These teams battled in the Western Conference final last season, but this year one will be going home early. The Stars have impressive balance, with nine players recording at least 50 points. They bolstered their blue line ahead of the deadline, bringing in Chris Tanev. Goalie Jake Oettinger's numbers dipped this season, though he closed strong. Vegas did what Vegas does at the trade deadline, loading up with big moves for defenseman Noah Hanifin and forward Tomas Hertl. Those moves, of course, were made possible in part due to another serious injury suffered by captain Mark Stone. Will the heart and soul of the Golden Knights be able to return for the playoffs?

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

Records: Jets (52-24-6, 110 points); Avalanche (50-25-7, 107 points)

Game 1: Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN 2

This is a classic strength vs. strength series. The Avalanche sport the NHL's best offense, with likely MVP Nathan MacKinnon (140 points) leading the way. The Jets have the NHL's best defense backstopped by Connor Hellebuyck, who will likely be awarded the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender once again. Which wins out?

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

Records: Canucks (50-23-9, 109 points); Predators (47-30-5, 99 points)

Game 1: Sunday, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN

These teams are both playoff newcomers this year. The Canucks exploded out of the gate and largely cruised to their first division title since 2013. They bring a potent combo of high-end offensive skill (J.T. Miller, defenseman Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson all cleared 89 points) and strong goaltending with the recently returned Thatcher Demko. The Predators' return to the postseason was far from certain until they ripped off a streak of 18 games without a regulation loss that spanned the end of February and almost all of March — coming after management canceled a planned trip to see U2 at The Sphere in Las Vegas. Nashville got a career season out of forward Filip Forsberg (48 goals, 94 points) and another standout campaign from captain Roman Josi (85 points).

Edmonton Oilers (Pacific 2) vs. Los Angeles Kings (Pacific 3)

Records: Oilers (49-27-6, 104 points); Kings (44-27-11, 99 points)

Game 1: Monday, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2

For the third consecutive year the Oilers and Kings are squaring off in the first round. It was a fascinating season for the Oilers. A brutal 3-9-1 start got coach Jay Woodcroft fired and the team turned to Kris Knoblauch behind the bench. They rolled to a 46-18-5 mark the rest of the way, highlighted by a 16-game winning streak. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are on the short list of best players in the world, but there's pressure to win with both stars in their prime. The Kings started hot then cooled considerably to the point that coach Todd McLellan got fired at the All-Star break. Jim Hiller took over and managed to stabilize the ship enough to get L.A. back to the playoffs. Can the Kings pull off the upset and earn their first playoff series victory in 10 years? They're stout defensively (third in goals against) but their offense is middle-of-the-pack. It would be a great time for Pierre-Luc Dubois to come alive after a very disappointing first season in L.A.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NHL standings, Stanley Cup playoffs bracket 2024: First round series