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The Bruins are officially going back to the playoffs!

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Clinching a spot with time to spare.

Boston Celtics vs Charlotte Hornets Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

Playoffs, here we come!

By virtue of their win over the New Jersey Devils tonight, the Bruins officially clinched the final playoff spot in the East Division.

The B’s will join the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and New York Islanders in playoffs, with the match-ups to be determined by the results of the next few games.

Who will the Bruins play in the playoffs?

Unclear!

It’s fair to say that any spot from first to fourth is technically up for grabs for the Bruins, with two of their last five games against teams above them in the standings.

Here’s how things look after Monday night’s action:

  • The Capitals have four games left: two against the Philadelphia, one against the Rangers, and one against the Bruins.
  • The Penguins have three games left: two against Buffalo and one against Philadelphia.
  • The Islanders have four games left: two against New Jersey, one against Buffalo, and one against the Bruins.
  • The Bruins have five games left: two against the Rangers, one against the New Jersey, one against the Islanders, and one against Washington.

What is the NHL’s playoff format?

We get a little bit of a different playoff set-up this year, as the first two rounds will be division-based before chaos reigns in the third round.

In each division, the first round will feature 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 match-ups; the two teams remaining after the first round will face off to crown what you could essentially call the “division champion.”

After that, we’ll be left with four teams, setting up what would traditionally be the conference finals.

This year, those four teams will be re-seeded based on their regular-season points total.

Chaos reigns here because you could, in theory, see Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference match-ups in the semifinal, then East vs. East or West vs. West in the Stanley Cup Final.

If nothing else, it sure could make for some unique match-ups.

When do the NHL playoffs start?

Again, unclear.

The league originally set a target date of May 11, one week from tomorrow.

However, with multiple postponements and rescheduled games over the course of the season, that date has been bumped out.

Currently, the Vancouver Canucks are scheduled to play a game as late as May 19, so it’s fair to say May 20 may be the earliest the playoffs could start.

There’s a chance that the league could start some of the other series as Vancouver finishes up its slate, but it’s unlikely.


This will be the Bruins’ fifth playoff appearance in a row, all coming under head coach Bruce Cassidy, who’s batting 1.000 when it comes to making it to the postseason (as coach of the Bruins, at least).

It’ll also be the Bruins’ 14th playoff appearance in the last 16 seasons.

Another bit of good news in all this: effective May 10, the state of Massachusetts is increasing sporting event capacity limits to 25% of max capacity.

With the Garden fitting 17,565, that means we should see more than 4,000 fans in the building for the Bruins’ home playoff games.