2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs: The Ideal First Round Matchups
With the playoffs less than a week away, hockey fans around the world are beginning to see the possibilities of a historic first round. There have been so many great stories this season as a handful of teams have been resurrected from the dead and will now have chances to play for the greatest trophy in sports: the Stanley Cup.
At this point, the picture is clearing up a little bit with 12 teams already clinching berths, but many different scenarios can still happen in terms of seeding.
Let's take a look at the scenarios that could create possibly the most exciting first round of playoffs in NHL history.
Eastern Conference 1 vs. 8
1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 8 Winnipeg Jets
This likely wouldn't be much of a series, but the return of playoff hockey to Winnipeg would certainly be something every hockey fan would love to see.
Pittsburgh has already wrapped up the top seed in the East, and the Penguins have their minds focused on getting a Stanley Cup for Jarome Iginla.
The Jets' playoff hopes took a major hit Tuesday night after a loss to Washington, but they could still sneak in with the Rangers and Senators playing inconsistently.
Western Conference 1 vs. 8
1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. 8 Detroit Red Wings
One last time, please.
With the first seed already locked up, the Chicago Blackhawks are awaiting their first-round opponent. Will it be Detroit, Columbus, Dallas or Minnesota?
The Red Wings are trying mightily to extend their playoff streak, which has lasted an incredible 21 years. Right now, they find themselves in a fierce battle for the last spot in the West. They are in the driver's seat, but will they be able to squeeze in yet again?
This Original Six matchup would provide for an electric series, as the rivalry will come to a close when Detroit heads East next season. Chicago has won the past seven meetings between these two, but three of the four this year went to either overtime or a shootout. The other game was a 7-1 blowout in Detroit.
Eastern Conference 2 vs. 7
2 Boston Bruins vs. 7 New York Rangers
It's Boston-New York, it's Original Six and it hasn't happened since 1973.
The significance of this matchup would be great for the game in general, and it would surely draw in great ratings. Everyone who considers themselves as a hockey fan should have their eyes glued to the television if this matchup does indeed happen.
Western Conference 2 vs. 7
2 Anaheim Ducks vs. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets
In order for this to happen, the Minnesota Wild would have to endure a major collapse to drop them from seventh seed to out of the playoffs, but it could still happen.
What would make this matchup so remarkable is that Anaheim and Columbus finished 13th and 15th in the West last year, respectively, and neither was really expected to improve at all this year.
Eastern Conference 3 vs. 6
3 Washington Capitals vs. 6 New York Islanders
The Islanders have been one of the greatest stories of the 2013 season, riding a tremendous hot streak over the past few weeks to their first playoff appearance since 2007.
The red-hot Caps secured the third seed in the Eastern Conference with a win over the Winnipeg Jets last night, as they clinched their fifth Southeast Division title in six years.
This series would rekindle an old rivalry that had historic moments like the "Easter Epic" and the infamous Dale Hunter brawl. Now, with Washington's Alexander Ovechkin and New York's John Tavares, this matchup could quickly turn into a top rivalry again, especially since these two are moving to the same division next year.
Western Conference 3 vs. 6
3 Vancouver Canucks vs. 6 St. Louis Blues
These two battled in the first round in 2009 and while the Canucks won all four games, the series was always exciting to watch because of the pure hate that these teams had for each other.
That hate still continues today, as even regular-season contests feature an awful lot of fighting and aggressiveness.
Everyone should be praying for these two to meet up in the playoffs, as it would be a series that would showcase what playoff hockey is all about.
Eastern Conference 4 vs. 5
4 Montreal Canadiens vs. 5 Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs' monumental playoff drought is now over, as the team that plays in the hockey capital of the world has secured a berth for the first time since 2004. Toronto looks like it will be the five seed in the East, meaning it will play whoever loses out on the Northeast Division battle between the Canadiens and Bruins.
If Boston wins the division and claims the second seed in the conference, the Leafs and Habs would be set to renew one of the greatest rivalries in sports history. This all comes at an unexpected time as well, as Toronto and Montreal finished 13th and 15th in the conference last year, respectively.
Also, if Boston-New York and Chicago-Detroit both happen, this would mean that all Original Six teams would be playing another one. Tell me that wouldn't be amazing.
Western Conference 4 vs. 5
4 Los Angeles Kings vs. 5 San Jose Sharks
Not a lot of East Coasters know because of how late these games start for them, but West Coast hockey can be as entertaining as it can get.
These two would almost certainly create a tight six- or seven-game series, as they are about equal in terms of talent. Also, both have terrific home records and subpar away records. This could change in the playoffs, but it would definitely be something to keep an eye on.