How to watch and what to expect in the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs

Of the 4 remaining teams, none have hoisted the cup in the last 25 years
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New York Rangers fans cheer the team on following a goal during the first period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes, Sunday, May 5, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Four teams are left to chase the Stanley Cup in the NHL playoffs, including three division champions and the undisputed best player in hockey.

The Eastern Conference final features the Florida Panthers facing off against the New York Rangers. The West final is the Dallas Stars versus reigning MVP Connor McDavid, German star Leon Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers.

Florida went to the Cup Final last year before losing to Vegas after injuries piled up. A new winner is guaranteed after the defending champion Golden Knights were eliminated by the Stars in the second round.

In fact, there will be a different franchise getting the Cup than any time else this century. Florida has never won it, Edmonton has the second-longest drought at 1990; New York last hoisted in 1994 and Dallas in 1999.

Florida and Dallas are co-title favorites at BetMGM Sportsbook. But it remains wide open given the star power left in the field and what these teams have shown since the regular season started in October.

THE MATCHUPS

In the East, the Panthers are considered by bettors to be the team to beat, but the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers have home ice advantage. After already beating two of the top goalies in the league in Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy and Boston’s Jeremy Swayman, they have another big test in front of them in New York’s Igor Shesterkin.

In the West, the Oilers are back in the conference final for the second time in three years after staving off elimination against Vancouver and holding on to defeat the Canucks on the road in Game 7. The Stars reached this round last year before losing to Vegas.

HOW TO WATCH

Every game of the Stanley Cup playoffs is televised nationally in the U.S. and Canada and available on streaming platforms. The NHL schedule is here and a streaming guide is here. Games are carried in the U.S. on an ABC, ESPN, TNT or TBS and in Canada on CBC or Sportsnet in English and TVA Sports in French.

WHO TO WATCH

Draisaitl, McDavid’s longstanding running mate, leads all players with 24 points through two rounds. McDavid, a three-time Hart Trophy as MVP, has just two goals but has a playoff-best 19 assists.

McDavid is coming off becoming just the fifth player in NHL history to record 100 assists in a season.

Just 12 points back of McDavid in the scoring race during the regular season, Rangers winger Artemi Panarin has the most game-winning goals in the playoffs with four. Teammate Vincent Trocheck has been dominant offensively, defensively and in the faceoff circle and is a big reason New York is still playing.

Dallas has the most prominent old guy to root for who hasn’t yet won the Cup in Joe Pavelski, who’s making yet another run under coach Peter DeBoer.

WHO ARE THE FAVORITES?

The betting favorites (in order) to win the Stanley Cup are Florida and Dallas at 9-4, Edmonton at 14-5 and New York at 16-5, according to BetMGM Sportsbook.

READ ALSO: ‘We were close’: Game 7 loss to Oilers hits Canucks hard

WHEN IS THE STANLEY CUP FINAL?

After the playoffs began April 20 and with the third round opening Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, the final is set to start in early June. If it goes the distance, Game 7 could go as late as June 24.

GO DEEPER

Scoring creativity hasn’t stopped now that the playoffs are here, with a handful of goals being scored off the masks of goaltenders. It’s an art form shooters are continuing to refine to put the puck in the net at the most difficult time of year to do so.

Some goals, however, have not counted, as goaltender interference challenges have caused plenty of controversy throughout the playoffs. Interference or not, scoring first is no guarantee, as blown leads of various kinds are also happening all over the place.

The Rangers have ridden Trocheck, Shesterkin and Panarin to the East final, but they have also gotten significant contributions from 2020 No. 1 pick Alexis Lafrèniere, who has carried his breakout season over into when it matters most.

On the other side is a a big Finn looking to finish the job for the Panthers, with captain Aleksander Barkov again leading the way on and off the ice. Barkov won the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward during the regular season.

Dallas, the top seed in the West, vanquished the Golden Knights with a mix of veterans and young players clicking at the right time and got past MVP front-runner Nathan MacKinnon and Colorado on Matt Duchene’s double-overtime goal in Game 6.

Buildings are full to the brim all over the continent from Boston to South Florida to Denver and Vancouver after a new record for attendance and fans filling arenas to 97% of capacity this season. It’s another result of the NHL’s booming business.

Fans who like fights on the ice have watched the brawls dwindle in recent years and they are a rarity in the postseason. Like tradition? Rest easy: The NHL has no plans to change its 16-team playoff format.

READ ALSO: Dallas Stars get some needed rest ahead of third-round date with Oilers

The Associated Press