NHL Playoffs 2014: Latest 1st-Round Bracket Odds and Updated Schedule

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NHL Playoffs 2014: Latest 1st-Round Bracket Odds and Updated Schedule
Chris Szagola

The NHL playoffs are the best playoffs, hands down—well, outside of the NCAA basketball tournament, perhaps—and Wednesday night was another indication of why that always holds true.

One game, between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning, went to overtime. The other both finished as 4-3 scores, with the Pittsburgh Penguins erasing a two-goal deficit to overcome the Columbus Blue Jackets on Brandon Sutter's game-winning goal with 8:18 remaining in the third period.

It was a reminder that if you miss any of these games, you do so at your own peril. You never know when one of these games will be an all-time classic. So here's the current playoff schedule, so you don't have to miss a thing.

NHL Playoff Schedule
Eastern Conference
Date Time (ET) Matchup Watch
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
Date Time (ET) Matchup Watch
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
Date Time (ET) Matchup Watch
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
Date Time (ET) Matchup Watch
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
Western Conference
Date Time (ET) Matchup Watch
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
Date Time (ET) Matchup Watch
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
Date Time (ET) Matchup Watch
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
Date Time (ET) Matchup Watch
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)

It was also a reminder that few events are harder to predict than the NHL playoffs. Upsets are a huge part of the annual postseason tournament, but that won't stop folks from trying to unlock the code. So for those folks, here's a look at the first-round odds, via Ben Valentine of The Linemakers:

1st-Round Odds
Eastern Conference
Matchup Odds
No. 4 Detroit Red Wings +250
No. 1 Boston Bruins -300
Matchup Odds
No. 3 Montreal Canadiens -105
No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning -115
Matchup Odds
No. 4 Columbus Blue Jackets +190
No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins -220
Matchup Odds
No. 3 Philadelphia Flyers +120
No. 2 New York Rangers -140
Western Conference
Matchup Odds
No. 4 Minnesota Wild +110
No. 1 Colorado Avalanche -130
Matchup Odds
No. 3 Chicago Blackhawks -115
No. 2 St. Louis Blues -105
Matchup Odds
No. 4 Dallas Stars +160
No. 1 Anaheim Ducks -180
Matchup Odds
No. 3 Los Angeles Kings +120
No. 2 San Jose Sharks -140

Via Ben Valentine of The Linemakers

There are so many intriguing matchups in this postseason, but a few stand above the rest. 

For starters, there are the Philadelphia Flyers taking on the New York Rangers, traditional rivals who come into this series pretty even in talent. They also split the season series, so it's hard to find much to separate the two. 

The Rangers are the stingier defensive team (fourth in goals allowed this season) and have an excellent goalie in Henrik Lundqvist. The Flyers are the superior offensive team, eighth in the NHL with 233 goals on the year and seventh with a 19.8 power play percentage, led by superstar Claude Giroux (86 points).

The teams do, however, represent an interesting clash of styles, as Jeff Z. Klein of The New York Times writes:

The Rangers rely on puck movement and balanced scoring while playing 'between the whistles,' as their playoff-seasoned coach, Alain Vigneault, puts it. The Flyers also rely on balanced scoring, but under their rookie coach, Craig Berube, they emphasize 'being physical.'

A Flyers team that relies on physicality—fancy that. Don't be shocked if this series goes the distance.

Another matchup between traditional rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues, also promises fireworks. The Blues won the season series, 3-2, and also had the better record on the year, but a six-game losing streak down the stretch has all of St. Louis feeling a bit nervous.

Jeff Roberson

St. Louis comes into the series battling injuries, a concern for sure, but perhaps the bigger concern will be slowing down a Chicago attack that scored 261 goals this year, second in the NHL. 

The key man in this series will be Blues' goalie Ryan Miller, who has struggled of late. From Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The netminder made several stops on breakaways in Sunday’s 3-0 loss to Detroit, and he’s had no offensive support to speak of in the last two games, but heading into the Blues’ first-round series against Chicago Miller is 0-5 in his last five starts with an 3.82 goals-against average and an .856 save percentage.

'Obviously it’s been a tough stretch as far as goals-against, but I don’t feel like I’m in a really bad place,' Miller said. 'I feel like I’m in a pretty good place, honestly. I know people probably will take that and just chop it up and laugh about it, but I feel pretty good.

'I can compete. I just have to worry about battling and competing. It was going to be the same job no matter what. Once you get to the playoffs everybody’s at zeros, so compete.'

If Miller doesn't come up big for St. Louis, their trip to the postseason will be brief.

Finally, a matchup between California powers, the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, promises to bring plenty of intrigue. The Kings struggle to score goals but it generally hasn't mattered, as they've only allowed 168 on the year, tops in the league, led by Jonathan Quick.

Kevork Djansezian

San Jose is no slouch defensively, however, having allowed just 193 scores on the season (fifth in the league), led by goalkeeper Antti Niemi. 

As Chris Peters of CBS Sports writes, however, the Sharks are probably very pleased they own the home-ice advantage in this one:

The Kings were on top in the season series, winning three of the five meetings between the two clubs. All but one of those games ended via one-goal differences, including one overtime win for the Kings and one shootout win for the Sharks.

Getting back to the home ice thing, in this season's series, the home team only lost one of the five games as the Sharks did in January. In fact, over the last three seasons, including the postseason, the home team is 20-2 in this series. Think the Sharks are happy to be the higher seed for this one?

You can expect a physical, forecheck-heavy, defensively disciplined series here, with an emphasis on great goalkeeping. The Kings have been better offensively since adding Marian Gaborik, but they don't want this series to become a collection of high-scoring games. They won't win that series. 

So the battle between the Sharks' talented attack and the Kings' stifling defense will be the key. Whichever team is able to dictate their style of play is going to scrape by with a close series win. But you can bet it will be close.

 

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