The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin with five games Thursday. It's the start of hopes and dreams for the 16 teams on the quest for a championship, which will be realized after two-plus months of bangs, bruises and beard growth.
There is plenty at stake right from the opening face-off. The winner of Game 1 is 467-214 (68.5 percent) all-time in a best-of-7 series. Teams off to a 1-0 lead at home are 327-106 (75.5 percent) and teams that go up 1-0 on the road are 140-108 (56.4 percent).
[RELATED: Complete 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs bracket]
Lightning look to take first step
The Tampa Bay Lightning play the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Amalie Arena (7 p.m. ET; USA, SN360, TVAS, SUN, FS-O) looking to become the ninth Presidents' Trophy winner (since its inception in 1985-86) to win the Stanley Cup. The Detroit Red Wings (2008) and Chicago Blackhawks (2013) are the only teams to do it since 2003.
Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who won the Art Ross Trophy as the leading scorer in the NHL (128 points; 41 goals, 87 assists), has 59 points (29 goals, 30 assists) in 62 playoff games, nine points shy of Martin St. Louis' team record (68 points; 33 goals, 35 assists). Center Brayden Point led Tampa Bay with nine points (six goals, three assists) in three games against Columbus. The Lightning won all three, outscoring the Blue Jackets 17-3.
Video: Meaning of Lightning season if they don't win the Cup
Crosby, Penguins take on Islanders
Sidney Crosby will look to continue his success for the Pittsburgh Penguins against the New York Islanders in Game 1 at Nassau Coliseum (7:30 p.m.; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2, MSG+, ATTSN-PT).
The Penguins captain has 122 points (39 goals, 83 assists) in 71 games (regular season and playoffs) against the Islanders, including nine points (three goals, six assists) in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals won by Pittsburgh in six games. Only Jaromir Jagr (162 points; 64 goals, 98 assists in 125 games) and Mario Lemieux (140 points; 53 goals, 87 assists in 78 games) have more against New York during the postseason.
The Islanders open the playoffs on home ice for the first time since Game 1 of the Patrick Division semifinals against the New Jersey Devils, which New York lost in six games.
Islanders coach Barry Trotz is 20-13-7 in 40 regular-season games against the Penguins but 9-10 in the playoffs. He coached the Washington Capitals to a six-game victory against Pittsburgh in the 2018 Eastern Conference Second Round en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
Pittsburgh was 2-1-1 against New York this season.
Blues face Winnipeg Whiteout
The St. Louis Blues visit the Winnipeg Jets in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round at Bell MTS Place (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS3, FS-MW) hoping not to be blinded by the white (as in the color of choice worn by Jets fans during home playoff games) but trying to make history of their own.
The Blues will attempt to become the first NHL team to advance past the first round after being in last place at any point after New Year's Day (minimum 20 games played). They are the seventh team in NHL history to make the postseason in such a matter.
Winnipeg was 3-1-0 against St. Louis this season.
Video: Previewing the Blues vs. Jets First Round matchup
Johansen tries to keep points coming for Predators
Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen will take a six-game playoff scoring streak (nine points; three goals, six assists) into Game 1 against the Dallas Stars at Bridgestone Arena (9:30 p.m.; USA, SN1, TVAS, FS-TN, FS-SW).
Stars forward Jamie Benn has 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 19 playoff games. He can become the first player in Stars/Minnesota North Stars history to average at least one point per game through his first 20 games and first since the Stars relocated to Dallas in 1993-94.
Nashville was 3-2-0 against Dallas this season.
Sharks, Golden Knights go at it again
The Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks play Game 1 at SAP Center (10:30 pm. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS2, NBCSCA, ATTSN-RM) in a rematch of the 2018 Western Conference Second Round, a six-game win by the Golden Knights on their way to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season.
Sharks center Joe Thornton (1,566 regular-season games) will try to become the third player in NHL history to win the Cup for the first time after playing at least 1,500 regular-season games. The others are Ray Bourque (1,612) and Dave Andreychuk (1,597).
Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is two wins from tying Mike Vernon (77) for seventh place on the NHL all-time playoff list. Patrick Roy is first with 151.
San Jose and Vegas split four games this season, one of the Sharks' wins was in overtime.