After a wild end to the regular season, the 2014 NHL playoffs schedule begins on Wednesday, April 16, as 16 of the best teams in the league go to war for the right to hoist the Stanley Cup trophy.
With the Eastern Conference stacked with viable championship contenders and the Western Conference boasting some of the most talented offensive and defensive players in the sport, the dream matchups the postseason produces will have hockey fans excited.
Here is all the vital viewing information, complete schedule, odds and everything else hard-core and casual NHL fans need to enjoy the first-round action.
|First-Round Matchups and Predictions|
|First-Round Matchup||Predicted Winner|
|Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings||Boston|
|Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning||Tampa Bay|
|Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets||Pittsburgh|
|New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers||Philadelphia|
|Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars||Anaheim|
|San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings||San Jose|
|Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild||Colorado|
|St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks||St. Louis|
|Complete 2014 NHL Playoffs First-Round Schedule|
|Friday, April 18||7:30 p.m.||Detroit at Boston||NBCSN|
|Sunday, April 20||3 p.m.||Detroit at Boston||NBC|
|Tuesday, April 22||7:30 p.m.||Boston at Detroit||NBCSN|
|Thursday, April 24||8 p.m.||Boston at Detroit||NBCSN|
|*Saturday, April 26||3 p.m.||Detroit at Boston||NBC|
|*Monday, April 28||TBD||Boston at Detroit||N/A|
|*Wednesday, April 30||TBD||Detroit at Boston||N/A|
|Wednesday, April 16||7 p.m.||Montreal at Tampa Bay||CNBC|
|Friday, April 18||7 p.m.||Montreal at Tampa Bay||CNBC|
|Sunday, April 20||7 p.m.||Tampa Bay at Montreal||NBCSN|
|Tuesday, April 22||7 p.m.||Tampa Bay at Montreal||NHL Network|
|*Thursday, April 24||7 p.m.||Montreal at Tampa Bay||N/A|
|*Sunday, April 27||TBD||Tampa Bay at Montreal||NBCSN|
|Tuesday, April 29||TBD||Montreal at Tampa Bay||N/A|
|Wednesday, April 16||7:30 p.m.||Columbus at Pittsburgh||NBCSN|
|Saturday, April 19||7 p.m.||Columbus at Pittsburgh||NBCSN|
|Monday, April 21||7 p.m.||Pittsburgh at Columbus||NBCSN|
|Wednesday, April 23||7 p.m.||Pittsburgh at Columbus||NBCSN|
|*Saturday, April 26||TBD||Columbus at Pittsburgh||N/A|
|*Monday, April 28||TBD||Pittsburgh at Columbus||N/A|
|*Wednesday, April 30||TBD||Columbus at Pittsburgh||N/A|
|Thursday, April 17||7 p.m.||Philadelphia at NY Rangers||CNBC|
|Sunday, April 20||Noon||Philadelphia at NY Rangers||NBC|
|Tuesday, April 22||8 p.m.||NY Rangers at Philadelphia||CNBC|
|Friday, April 25||7 p.m.||NY Rangers at Philadelphia||CNBC|
|*Sunday, April 27||Noon||Philadelphia at NY Rangers||NBC|
|*Tuesday, April 29||TBD||NY Rangers at Philadelphia||N/A|
|*Wednesday, April 30||TBD||Philadelphia at NY Rangers||N/A|
|Thursday, April 17||9:30 p.m.||Minnesota at Colorado||CNBC|
|Saturday, April 19||9:30 p.m.||Minnesota at Colorado||NBCSN|
|Monday, April 21||7 p.m.||Colorado at Minnesota||NHL Network|
|Thursday, April 24||9:30 p.m.||Colorado at Minnesota||CNBC|
|*Saturday, April 26||TBD||Minnesota at Colorado||N/A|
|*Monday, April 28||TBD||Colorado at Minnesota||N/A|
|*Wednesday, April 30||TBD||Minnesota at Colorado||N/A|
|Thursday, April 17||8 p.m.||Chicago at St. Louis||NBCSN|
|Saturday, April 19||3 p.m.||Chicago at St. Louis||NBC|
|Monday, April 21||8:30 p.m.||St. Louis at Chicago||CNBC|
|Wednesday, April 23||9:30 p.m.||St. Louis at Chicago||NBCSN|
|*Friday, April 25||8 p.m.||Chicago at St. Louis||NBCSN|
|*Sunday, April 27||3 p.m.||St. Louis at Chicago||NBC|
|*Tuesday, April 29||TBD||Chicago at St. Louis||N/A|
|Wednesday, April 16||10 p.m.||Dallas at Anaheim||NBCSN|
|Friday, April 18||10 p.m.||Dallas at Anaheim||NBCSN|
|Monday, April 21||9:30 p.m.||Anaheim at Dallas||NBCSN|
|Wednesday, April 23||8 p.m.||Anaheim at Dallas||CNBC|
|*Friday, April 25||10:30 p.m.||Dallas at Anaheim||NBCSN|
|*Sunday, April 27||TBD||Anaheim at Dallas||N/A|
|*Tuesday, April 29||TBD||Dallas at Anaheim||N/A|
|Thursday, April 17||10:30 p.m.||Los Angeles at San Jose||NBCSN|
|Sunday, April 20||10 p.m.||Los Angeles at San Jose||NBCSN|
|Tuesday, April 22||10 p.m.||San Jose at Los Angeles||NBCSN|
|Thursday, April 24||10:30 p.m.||San Jose at Los Angeles||NBCSN|
|*Saturday, April 26||TBD||Los Angeles at San Jose||NBCSN|
|*Monday, April 28||TBD||San Jose at Los Angeles||N/A|
|*Wednesday, April 30||TBD||Los Angeles at San Jose||N/A|
|Source: NHL.com. (*if necessary) TV Info for extra games released as determined.|
|2014 Stanley Cup Odds|
|St. Louis Blues||+600|
|San Jose Sharks||+900|
|Los Angeles Kings||+1000|
|Detroit Red Wings||+2000|
|New York Rangers||+2000|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+2800|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+5000|
Must-Watch Series: New York vs. Philadelphia
When the New York Rangers (45-31-6, 96 points) square off against the Philadelphia Flyers (42-30-9, 93 points) in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, this will be the most hotly contested opening series of the year.
These two Metropolitan Division rivals don’t like each other.
Despite not meeting in the postseason since 1997, these two franchises have faced off each season in heated competition. Both fanbases have learned to hate each other as well, and there is absolutely no love lost between the teams and the cities.
While there will be plenty of bad blood on and off the ice in this series, Rangers alternate captain Marc Staal told Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News about his team keeping the focus on winning games:
I think because we needed to, to be honest. You get down to that stretch there the last month, and we knew we had to string some wins together to get into the playoffs. I think when our best was needed, we gave it, and we’ve been giving it for a while now.
Philadelphia is spreading the same message around its locker room, and several players and coaches shared their opinions via the team’s official Twitter account:
New York made the biggest trade at the 2014 deadline by acquiring veteran forward Martin St. Louis, and the offense has responded. Now that the team has depth with stars like St. Louis, Rick Nash and Brad Richards, the offense is one of the most dangerous in the league.
Add in one of the best goalies in the NHL with Henrik Lundqvist, and the Flyers will be forced to come together as a team and upset their division rivals.
Led by captain Claude Giroux, the Philadelphia offense struggled to start the season but ended up finishing strong by ranking eighth overall in the league with an average of 2.8 goals per game and ranking seventh on the power play.
While the matchup against Lundqvist won’t be easy, Flyers goaltender Steve Mason has proved to be the steady backstop the franchise desperately needed. Philadelphia boasts the better overall defense, and that will ultimately be the difference in the matchup.
As well as New York has played in 2014, the Flyers finished the regular season strong and will advance to the second round.
Prediction: Philadelphia wins series 4-2
*All stats and information via NHL.com.