The Boston Bruins became the second team in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs to punch their ticket to the second round after beating the Washington Capitals in Game 5 of their first-round series Sunday night.
The Bruins now must wait to find out which team they will face in Round 2, and it could be several days before that is determined.
Here's a look who the B's might play, a timeline of when we could know, and a look ahead at how the playoff format could impact Boston.
Penguins or Islanders
A divisional playoff format is being used for the first two rounds. The Bruins emerged from the No. 2 vs. No. 3 first-round matchup in the East Division, and they will play the winner of the No. 1 vs. No. 4 series.
The No. 1 seed Penguins and No. 4 seed Islanders are tied at two wins apiece entering Monday night's pivotal Game 5 in Pittsburgh.
The Bruins went 3-3-2 versus the Islanders in the regular season and were outscored 20-18. However, in the three matchups after the April 12 trade deadline, Boston went 3-0-0 and outscored New York 10-3. The Bruins went 5-3-0 against the Penguins in the regular season and outscored Pittsburgh 21-19.
The Penguins probably would be the easier second-round matchup for the Bruins because their goaltending is a mess. Pittsburgh starter Tristan Jarry was average-at-best during the regular season and has played poorly through four games in Round 1. Boston wouldn't have much trouble generating scoring chances and finding the back of the net versus Pittsburgh.
When will Penguins-Islanders series end?
Game 6 is scheduled for Wednesday night in New York, and Game 7 is set for Friday in Pittsburgh, if necessary. If the series ends in Game 6, the Bruins could maybe open the second round by the end of the weekend. If the Penguins-Islanders series goes seven games, Round 2 could possibly begin next week. The league, of course, has not announced any potential Round 2 dates for the B's. So, these are just guesses on our part.
Which team the Bruins play also could impact the start date of the second round.
The Bruins would have home-ice advantage against the Islanders and therefore host the first two games of the series. However, the Boston Celtics already are scheduled to play Game 3 and Game 4 of their first-round NBA playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night and Sunday night at TD Garden. So if it's Bruins vs. Islanders in Round 2, the series won't start Friday or Sunday.
If the Bruins are playing the Penguins in the second round, Pittsburgh would have home-ice advantage in the series as the higher seed. PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh does not have any events scheduled for Friday, Saturday or Sunday that would conflict with a Game 1 of the second round.
The unique playoff format the league is using this season could create some exciting matchups in the semifinal and Stanley Cup Final.
The four teams that emerge from the divisional format will be re-seeded based on regular season points percentage and put into a No. 1 vs. No. 4 and No. 2 vs. No. 3 bracket for the semifinal.
The Bruins finished the regular season with the 10th-best points percentage among the 16 teams that qualified for the playoffs. So, it's unlikely they will have home ice advantage in either the semifinal or Cup Final.
In fact, it's fairly likely that Boston will be the No. 4 seed if it reaches the semifinal round. In that scenario, the most probable semifinal matchup for the Bruins would be against the Colorado Avalanche or Vegas Golden Knights, who finished first and second, respectively, in regular season points percentage.
The 56-game regular season schedule only included divisional matchups, and this could make the semifinal round really exciting because teams would be playing each other, in some cases, for the first time in a year or more. For example, the last time the Bruins played the Avalanche was Dec. 7, 2019. Boston's most recent game versus the Golden Knights was Jan. 21, 2020.