The time of the year when hockey fans lose the most sleep is here: the 2014 Stanley Cup playoff matchups are set.
On Sunday night, the NHL announced not only the matchups, but also the schedule for fans to rearrange their lives around.
Here they are, as well as predictions on which teams' postseason schedules will be extended.
|Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings Schedule|
|1||Fri., April 18||7:30 p.m.||BOS||DET||NBC Sports, TSN|
|2||Sun., April 20||3 p.m.||BOS||DET||NBC, TSN|
|3||Tues., April 22||7:30 p.m.||DET||BOS||NBC Sports, TSN|
|4||Thurs., April 24||8 p.m.||DET||BOS||NBC Sports, TSN|
|5 (if needed)||Sat., April 26||3 p.m.||BOS||DET||NBC, TSN|
|6 (if needed)||Mon., April 28||TBD||DET||BOS||TSN|
|7 (if needed)||Wed., April 30||TBD||BOS||DET||TSN|
On paper, Boston should eliminate Detroit in no fewer than five games. The Bruins, winners of the Presidents Cup, entered Sunday outscoring their opponents by an average of 1.1 goals per game. The Red Wings finished the regular season having scored fewer goals than their opponents.
Despite being outscored at a pace of 0.1 goals per game, Detroit will enter the postseason with a winning 39-28-15 record. It defied paper this year, as well as the last. As a seventh seed in 2013, it eliminated the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks in Round 1.
The Red Wings now find themselves in a similar position as an eighth seed. And the Bruins will need to suffer memory loss to underestimate them. Detroit defeated Boston in three out of four of their regular-season showdowns.
However, as capable of an upset as the Red Wings are, Boston's consistency, racking up a league-high 54 wins, will be apparent in a seven-game series.
Prediction: Boston in six games
|Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Schedule|
|1||Wed. April 16||7 p.m.||TB||MON||CNBC, CBC, RDS|
|2||Fri., April 18||7 p.m.||TB||MON||CNBC, CBC, RDS|
|3||Sun., April 20||7 p.m.||MON||TB||CBC, RDS, NBC Sports|
|4||Tues., April 22||7 p.m.||MON||TB||CBC, RDS, NHL Network|
|5 (if needed)||Thurs., April 24||7 p.m.||TB||MON||CNBC, CBC, RDS|
|6 (if needed)||Sun., April 27||TBD||MON||TB||CBC, RDS, NBC Sports|
|7 (if needed)||Tues., April 29||TBD||TB||MON||CBC, RDS|
Unlike Boston, Montreal doesn't have a superior regular-season campaign to hang its hat on, facing an opponent that owned it head-to-head this year. The Canadiens couldn't muster a win in four games this season against the Lightning, which hold a record of 3-0-1 against them. Tampa Bay just came away with its most imposing win of the year against Montreal, too, winning by a score of 3-1.
The Canadiens could use Ryan Malone's arrest for, according to ESPN, driving under the influence and possession of cocaine to become a distraction, because the injury bug is showing slight favor to Tampa.
While NHL.com's Arpon Basu is reporting that Montreal forward Alex Galchenyuk will miss Round 1 with a lower-body injury, the Lightning's Missy Zielinski reported goaltender Ben Bishop has not yet been ruled out.
Injuries and head-to-head success will give Tampa the edge in a tight series.
Prediction: Tampa Bay in seven games
|Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Schedule|
|1||Wed., April 16||7:30 p.m.||PIT||COL||NBC Sports, CBC|
|2||Sat., April 19||7 p.m.||PIT||COL||NBC Sports, CBC|
|3||Mon., April 21||7 p.m.||COL||PIT||NBC Sports, CBC|
|4||Wed., April 23||7 p.m.||COL||PIT||NBC Sports, CBC|
|5 (if needed)||Sat., April 26||TBD||PIT||COL||CBC|
|6 (if needed)||Mon., April 28||TBD||COL||PIT||CBC|
|7 (if needed)||Wed., April 30||TBD||PIT||COL||CBC|
Pittsburgh had lost five of its last 10 games entering Sunday. If Columbus hadn't done the same, the injury-riddled Penguins should be worried. NHL.com's Wes Crosby reported that forwards Evgeni Malkin, Joe Vitale and Chris Conner are questionable for Game 1 against the Blue Jackets.
However, Pittsburgh still swept its season series with Columbus 5-0, outscoring its Eastern Conference rival by a combined score of 16-7. And the Penguins also have the best player on the ice, Sidney Crosby, whose 104 points this season are 17 more than any other player.
Depending on the status of Malkin, Columbus could keep the series close. But Crosby may not remember the last time Pittsburgh lost to the Blue Jackets. And that's not a concussion joke.
Prediction: Pittsburgh in five games
|New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers Schedule|
|1||Thurs., April 17||7 p.m.||NY||PHI||CNBC, TSN|
|2||Sun., April 20||12 p.m.||NY||PHI||NBC, TSN|
|3||Tues., April 22||8 p.m.||PHI||NY||CNBC, TSN|
|4||Fri., April 25||7 p.m.||PHI||NY||CNBC, TSN|
|5 (if needed)||Sun., April 27||12 p.m.||NY||PHI||NBC, TSN|
|6 (if needed)||Tues., April 29||TBD||PHI||NY||TSN|
|7 (if needed)||Wed., April 30||TBD||NY||PHI||TSN|
Philadelphia could've really used home-ice advantage. This matchup is sure to be one of, if not the most intense in Round 1 due to two evenly matched teams.
New York boasts a defensive edge, allowing the fourth-fewest goals in the NHL while Philadelphia surrenders just the 19th fewest. But the Flyers own the offensive edge, scoring the 10th-most goals compared to the Rangers' No. 18 ranking.
This balance was apparent, as they split the season series 2-2. However, New York won their most recent battle on March 26 by the score of 3-1. Not this victory, though, but its eight straight wins against the Flyers at Madison Square Garden should fuel Rangers' fans confidence.
Prediction: New York in seven games
|Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars Schedule|
|1||Thurs., April 17||10 p.m.||ANA||DAL||NBC Sports, TSN|
|2||Sat., April 19||10 p.m.||ANA||DAL||NBC Sports, TSN|
|3||Mon., April 21||9:30 p.m.||DAL||ANA||NBC Sports, TSN|
|4||Thurs., April 24||8 p.m.||DAL||ANA||CNBC, TSN|
|5 (if needed)||Sat., April 26||10:30 p.m.||ANA||DAL||NBC Sports, TSN|
|6 (if needed)||Mon., April 28||TBD||DAL||ANA||TSN|
|7 (if needed)||Wed., April 30||TBD||ANA||DAL||TSN|
Dallas' strength is its offense. It scored the ninth-most goals in the NHL this season. If matched up against a defensive juggernaut with an inefficient offense in Round 1, the Stars may have been able to outpace their foe to pull off the upset.
However, Anaheim is the least outpaceable team in the league. It boasts the highest-scoring offense, racking up 3.2 goals per game. Of course, Dallas fans will enter the playoffs unintimidated after their Stars went 2-1 against the Ducks in the regular season.
Dallas shutout Anaheim in its last meeting on Feb. 1, and it even scored six goals on Nov. 26. Those victories came months ago, though, and the Ducks—which finished with far more wins than the Stars—have been the better team all year.
Prediction: Anaheim in five games
|San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings Schedule|
|1||Thurs., April 17||10:30 p.m.||SJ||LA||NBC Sports, CBC|
|2||Sun., April 20||10 p.m.||SJ||LA||NBC Sports, CBC|
|3||Tues., April 22||10 p.m.||LA||SJ||NBC Sports, CBC|
|4||Thurs., April 24||10:30 p.m.||LA||SJ||NBC Sports, CBC|
|5 (if needed)||Sat., April 26||TBD||SJ||LA||NBC Sports, CBC|
|6 (if needed)||Mon., April 28||TBD||LA||SJ||CBC|
|7 (if needed)||Wed., April 30||TBD||SJ||LA||CBC|
When the Sharks and Kings played in the 2013 Stanley Cup Western Conference Semifinal, the home team won every single game. Last year, Los Angeles had home-ice advantage and advanced. This year, San Jose does.
This isn't the only reason why the Sharks will edge the Kings in Round 1. While Los Angeles boasts the No. 1 scoring defense in the NHL, San Jose has a top-five defense as well. The Kings' offense doesn't matchup with the Sharks', though.
San Jose has four players—Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture—who have scored more than 50 goals this season. Los Angeles has one: Anze Kopitar.
The Kings defense will force a long series, especially considering they finished with a 3-1-1 record against the Sharks in the regular season. But San Jose's offensive edge will be the deciding factor.
Prediction: San Jose in seven games
|Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild Schedule|
|1||Thurs., April 17||9:30 p.m.||COL||MIN||CNBC, TSN|
|2||Sat., April 19||9:30 p.m.||COL||MIN||NBC Sports, TSN|
|3||Mon., April 21||7 p.m.||MIN||COL||NHL Network, TSN|
|4||Thurs., April 24||9:30 p.m.||MIN||COL||CNBC, TSN2|
|5 (if needed)||Sat., April 26||TBD||COL||MIN||TSN|
|6 (if needed)||Mon., April 28||TBD||MIN||COL||TSN|
|7 (if needed)||Wed., April 30||TBD||COL||MIN||TSN|
Minnesota needs a miracle to upset Colorado in Round 1. It has the defense to pull it off, though.
The Wild allow the sixth-fewest goals in the league, compared to the Avalanche, which only allow the 14th fewest. Minnesota needs this defense to play its best hockey all season against a fourth-ranked, Matt Duchene-led Colorado offense, which averages 3.0 goals per game.
However, in the regular season, the Avalanche overpowered the Wild. Colorado finished with a 4-0-1 record in the matchup, not making for much of a Western Conference rivalry.
Prediction: Colorado in five games
|St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks|
|1||Thurs., April 17||8 p.m.||STL||CHI||NBC Sports, CBC|
|2||Sat., April 19||3 p.m.||STL||CHI||NBC, CBC|
|3||Mon., April 21||8:30 p.m.||CHI||STL||CNBC, CBC|
|4||Wed., April 23||9:30 p.m.||CHI||STL||NBC Sports, CBC|
|5 (if needed)||Fri., April 25||8 p.m.||STL||CHI||NBC Sports, CBC|
|6 (if needed)||Sun., April 27||3 p.m.||CHI||STL||NBC, CBC|
|7 (if needed)||Tues., April 29||TBD||STL||CHI||CBC|
When April began, St. Louis was a Stanley Cup favorite. Two weeks later, its ability to win a game looks bleak.
The Blues have lost six straight contests. Over this stretch, their opponents outscored them 22-5. This includes a 4-2 loss to Chicago, which won both of its games against St. Louis after the turn of the calender year by a combined score of 8-2.
The Blues' David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Barret Jackman and Alex Pietrangelo are expected to return from injuries in Game 1, according to ESPN's Scott Powers. But goalie Ryan Miller has still allowed 14 goals in his last four starts. His cold streak and the Blackhawks' second-ranked scoring offense isn't a favorable combination for the Blues.
Prediction: Chicago in six games
David Daniels is a breaking news writer at Bleacher Report and news editor at Wade-O Radio.