The 2013-14 NHL regular season was full of incredible action, but the excitement is growing as the playoff schedule approaches. The intense hockey matchups will kick off on Wednesday, April 16.
With elite series in both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference—16 of the best teams in the NHL made the postseason—hockey fans around the world will be treated to a fierce competition for the Stanley Cup.
Here is all the vital viewing information for the entire first round of the 2014 NHL playoffs.
|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.|
Most Underrated Matchup: San Jose vs. Los Angeles
When the San Jose Sharks (51-22-9) square off against the Los Angeles Kings (46-28-8), the Western Conference battle will steal the show as the best first-round matchup.
San Jose is one of the most gifted offensive teams in the league. The Sharks finished the league sixth in goals per game (2.9) and finished with three players totaling 70 points or more (Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau).
As well as San Jose has played offensively, the major difference has been the commitment in the defensive zone in front of goalie Antti Niemi. After allowing only 2.4 goals per game during the regular season, the team finished fifth in that category.
Los Angeles was the No. 1 team in the league, allowing only two goals per game.
Led by elite two-way defender Drew Doughty—as well as a team-wide commitment to playing an aggressive forecheck—Los Angeles has made star goalie Jonathan Quick’s job much easier. With a matchup against the vaunted offensive unit of the Sharks, the Kings must continue to play the smart fundamental hockey they've become known for.
As The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle commented on Twitter, this is one of the most exciting first-round matchups and may yield the eventual champion:
This isn’t just an intriguing matchup on the ice, though, as the two California fanbases collide in a nontypical postseason series. Sharks coach Todd McLellan told David Pollak of The Mercury News about what the battle means to hockey on the West Coast:
Three out of four years against L.A., California teams, Northern California versus Southern California, I think it's a real strong rivalry between the two cities -- not only in hockey, but we see it in baseball and other sports and it carries through. It's exciting for the fans in both cities. It's great for California hockey.
With the California hockey craze growing with each passing year, the success of both franchises and the budding rivalry it has spawned has created an organic excitement within the sport.
There is no doubt the NHL wants to push hockey on people from all over the world, but it takes years of developing animosity before it has the kind of history the Los Angeles and San Jose rivalry currently possesses.
When the Sharks play the Kings, the West Coast will be treated to the best series of the first round.
*All stats and information via NHL.com.