But in the next 48 hours the playoff picture will become crystal clear, and fans can turn to NHL.com and the NHL Network for complete coverage and information on the first round of the playoffs.
For both U.S. and Canadian audiences, NHL Network will begin more than five hours of live programming on Sunday, April 10, with a broadcast of the final game of the regular season -- a matchup between the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild beginning at 6 p.m. ET from Xcel Energy Center. The NHL On The Fly team will host live intermission shows throughout the game before rolling into a special edition of NHL On The Fly following the game.
Host Brian Duff, regular contributor Mike Johnson and special guest and Versus color analyst Billy Jaffe will begin the live playoff coverage at 10 p.m. ET with the NHL On The Fly: Playoff Match-Up Scheduling Show, during which they'll reveal the schedule and matchups for the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The show also will also be streamed live on NHL.com for U.S. audiences.
With seven playoff spots still up-for-grabs and only one team, Vancouver, locked into a seeded position, the NHL Network team will have plenty to discuss. They'll preview the match-ups and offer their in-depth analysis of all eight conference quarterfinal match-ups. And they'll tell viewers which teams they believe have the competitive edge.
On Monday, April 11 beginning at 6 p.m. ET, NHL Network will broadcast a special hour-long preview show focused upon the Eastern Conference. NHL On The Fly: Eastern Conference Playoff Preview, hosted by David Amber with analysts Johnson and Jaffe, will alert viewers to the storylines and games within the games that will make for compelling and competitive first-round series.
The same panel will preview the West on Tuesday, April 12 at 6 p.m. ET. NHL On The Fly: Western Conference Playoff Preview will dissect the teams and series and offer expert analysis and insight before the post-season gets underway on Wednesday night. NHL Network also will have news hits throughout their On The Fly coverage to recap the results of 2011 NHL Draft Lottery, which will be conducted that evening.
On Monday and Tuesday, NHL Network also will give its U.S. viewers second looks at some of the best games from the 2010-11 regular season. A summary of the featured game is below:
2010-11 Greatest Games Series
Nov. 18: Tampa Bay 8, Philadelphia 7 -- Steven Stamkos said Tampa Bay's wild win at Wells Fargo Center reminded him of what hockey looked like in the 1980s. The Tampa Bay youngster had a hat trick and added two assists in the early-season thriller for his first five-point night in the NHL. Tampa Bay and Philadelphia combined for nine goals in the first period and five more in the second. But it was checker Nate Thompson's goal off a rebound 5:19 into the third period that held up as the difference in Lightning's rollicking 8-7 victory.
Dec. 23: Pittsburgh 3, Washington 2 (shootout) – You talk about the hype and the buildup and the rivalry and then the puck drops and it is exactly what the buildup is," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. "You think sometimes these games are overbilled, but this was a playoff-type game -- the building was rocking and (there were) a lot of ups and downs in that game and a lot of emotion not to disappoint the fans.” Pens captain Sidney Crosby extended his points streak to 23 games with a goal and assist. And Mike Knuble's shorthanded goal late in regulation for the Caps set up the dramatic overtime and shootout, which required seven rounds until a Pascal Dupuis goal won it for Pittsburgh.
Jan. 17: Montreal 5, Calgary 4 (overtime) -- Rookie P.K. Subban felt personally responsible for the Canadiens blowing a four-goal lead. So he went out and did something to rectify the situation, then let the whole world know just how happy he was. Subban scored at 1:06 of overtime on a screaming sharp-angle wrist shot to the top shelf to allow the Canadiens to save face and beat the Flames, 5-4, at the Bell Centre. After scoring the goal, Subban did a quick spin back toward centre ice before launching himself in a long slide, wiping the ice with his glove then pumping his fist in the air as he celebrated the first game-winning goal of his NHL career.
Feb. 2: Detroit 7, Ottawa 5 -- Detroit's Johan Franzen staged his own version of Groundhog Day, repeating the same feat over and over, as he became the first NHL player to score five goals in a game since Marian Gaborik, then with the Minnesota Wild, did it against the New York Rangers on Dec. 20, 2007. Franzen's fourth and fifth goals of the game snapped a 5-5 tie in the third period and lifted the Wings to victory in a wild game at Scotiabank Place.
Mar. 10: Vancouver 5, San Jose 4 (shootout) -- There's a good possibility the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks could meet again in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If they do, they'll have a challenge in coming up with a more entertaining game than this late-season meeting. Torrey Mitchell scored for San Jose, Daniel Sedin for Vancouver and Ryan Clowe for the Sharks in a dizzying final 2:13 of regulation, with Clowe's tying goal coming with only 21 seconds left. Cory Schneider then stopped all three shootout shots he faced, enabling Alex Burrows to win it for Vancouver.
NHL Network Schedule (all times ET)
Sunday, April 10
NHL Hockey: Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild 6:00 p.m.
NHL On The Fly 8:30 p.m.
NHL On The Fly: Playoff Match-Up Scheduling Show 10:00 p.m.
Monday, April 11
Encore Presentation: Red Wings at Blackhawks (10/4/11) 12:00 p.m. (U.S. only)
Greatest Games of 2010-11: Lightning at Flyers (11/18/10) 2:00 p.m. (U.S. only)
Greatest Games of 2010-11: Penguins at Capitals (12/23/10) 4:00 p.m. (U.S. only)
NHL On The Fly: Eastern Conference Playoff Preview 6:00 p.m.
NHL On The Fly: Eastern Conference Playoff Preview -- Replay 7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, April 12
Greatest Games of 2010-11: Canadiens at Flames (1/17/11) 12:00 p.m. (U.S. only)
Greatest Games of 2010-11: Red Wings at Senators (2/2/11) 2:00 p.m. (U.S. only)
Greatest Games of 2010-11: Canucks at Sharks (3/10/11) 4:00 p.m. (U.S. only)
NHL On The Fly: Western Conference Playoff Preview 6:00 p.m.
NHL On The Fly: Western Conference Playoff Preview -- Replay 7:00 p.m.