Maybe it's the playoff beards. Or facing the same team, game after game, for two straight weeks. Or the sudden-death overtime games. Or the trophy -- Lord Stanley's Cup -- itself.
In every sport, the intensity increases come playoff time, but hockey takes it to another level with the Stanley Cup. There is a striking difference in the level of ferocity between a ho-hum regular-season NHL game and a packed-with-meaning NHL playoff game. There's nothing quite like the Stanley Cup. Here's how you can watch.
When do the NHL playoffs begin?
First-round games start Wednesday, April 10. The schedule for Round 2, the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals have yet to be announced, but with each series being a best-of-seven contest, you can expect the hockey to run (skate?) into June.
Which teams are playing in the NHL playoffs?
Here are the first round matchups:
- Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
- Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
- Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes
- New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
- Calgary Flames vs. Colorado Avalanche
- San Jose Sharks vs. Vegas Golden Knights
- Nashville Predators vs. Dallas Stars
- Winnipeg Jets vs. St. Louis Blues
How can I watch the NHL playoffs?
In the US, the first round is shown across NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, USA and the NHL Network. The second and third rounds are on NBC and NBCSN, and the Stanley Cup Finals are on NBC.
NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app will have livestreams of the games. To stream the games online, you will need to log in with a pay TV account. If you don't have a pay TV subscription, you can livestream the games with a live-TV streaming service.
Other stuff to know about live TV streaming services:
- You'll need a solid internet connection.
- You can watch any of them on TV as long as your smart TV has the service's app. You can also watch on your TV using a media streamer, including Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV and Chromecast ($55 at eBay).
- You can also watch on iPhones, Android phones, tablets and PC browsers.
- You can sign up and cancel anytime, no contract required.
- All of them offer free trial periods, so you can sign up to watch and then cancel.
Sling TV ($35)
Sling TV's $25-a-month Blue package includes NBC, NBCSN and USA. If you want to watch first-round games on CNBC and the NHL Network, you'll need to add the $5-a-month News Extra and the $5-a-month Sports Extra package, respectively. (The Blue plan is current discounted to $15 a month for the first three months.) You can check to see if you live in the right market for a live feed of NBC here.
FuboTV costs $45 per month and includes NBC, NBCSN, CNBC and USA, but not the NHL Network.
Hulu with Live TV ($45)
Hulu with Live TV costs $45 a month and includes NBC, NBCSN, CNBC and USA but not the NHL Network. Click the "View all channels in your area" link on its welcome page to see if a live feed of NBC is offered in your zip code.
PlayStation Vue ($45)
PlayStation Vue's $45-a-month Access plan includes NBC, NBCSN, CNBC and USA, but not the NHL Network. You can see if a live feed of NBC is available in your area here.
YouTube TV ($50)
YouTube TV costs $50 a month and includes NBC, NBCSN, CNBC and USA, but not the NHL Network. Plug in your zip code on its welcome page to see to see if a live feed of NBC is available where you live.
DirecTV Now ($50)
DirecTV Now's $50-a-month Plus package includes NBC, NBCSN, CNBC and USA, but not the NHL Network. You can use its channel lookup tool to see if you get a live feed of NBC in your zip code.