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

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2014

Philadelphia Flyers' Claude Giroux looks on during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Sunday, April 13, 2014, in Philadelphia. The Hurricanes won 6-5 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
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
DateTime (ET)MatchupWatch
Friday, April 187:30 p.m.Detroit at BostonNBCSN
Sunday, April 203 p.m.Detroit at BostonNBC
Tuesday, April 227:30 p.m.Boston at DetroitNBCSN
Thursday, April 248 p.m.Boston at DetroitNBCSN
*Saturday, April 263 p.m.Detroit at BostonNBC
*Monday, April 28TBDBoston at DetroitN/A
*Wednesday, April 30TBDDetroit at BostonN/A
DateTime (ET)MatchupWatch
Friday, April 187 p.m.Montreal at Tampa BayCNBC
Sunday, April 207 p.m.Tampa Bay at MontrealNBCSN
Tuesday, April 227 p.m.Tampa Bay at MontrealNHL Network
*Thursday, April 247 p.m.Montreal at Tampa BayN/A
*Sunday, April 27TBDTampa Bay at MontrealNBCSN
Tuesday, April 29TBDMontreal at Tampa BayN/A
DateTime (ET)MatchupWatch
Saturday, April 197 p.m.Columbus at PittsburghNBCSN
Monday, April 217 p.m.Pittsburgh at ColumbusNBCSN
Wednesday, April 237 p.m.Pittsburgh at ColumbusNBCSN
*Saturday, April 26TBDColumbus at PittsburghN/A
*Monday, April 28TBDPittsburgh at ColumbusN/A
*Wednesday, April 30TBDColumbus at PittsburghN/A
DateTime (ET)MatchupWatch
Thursday, April 177 p.m.Philadelphia at NY RangersCNBC
Sunday, April 20NoonPhiladelphia at NY RangersNBC
Tuesday, April 228 p.m.NY Rangers at PhiladelphiaCNBC
Friday, April 257 p.m.NY Rangers at PhiladelphiaCNBC
*Sunday, April 27NoonPhiladelphia at NY RangersNBC
*Tuesday, April 29TBDNY Rangers at PhiladelphiaN/A
*Wednesday, April 30TBDPhiladelphia at NY RangersN/A
Western Conference
DateTime (ET)MatchupWatch
Thursday, April 179:30 p.m.Minnesota at ColoradoCNBC
Saturday, April 199:30 p.m.Minnesota at ColoradoNBCSN
Monday, April 217 p.m.Colorado at MinnesotaNHL Network
Thursday, April 249:30 p.m.Colorado at MinnesotaCNBC
*Saturday, April 26TBDMinnesota at ColoradoN/A
*Monday, April 28TBDColorado at MinnesotaN/A
*Wednesday, April 30TBDMinnesota at ColoradoN/A
DateTime (ET)MatchupWatch
Thursday, April 178 p.m.Chicago at St. LouisNBCSN
Saturday, April 193 p.m.Chicago at St. LouisNBC
Monday, April 218:30 p.m.St. Louis at ChicagoCNBC
Wednesday, April 239:30 p.m.St. Louis at ChicagoNBCSN
*Friday, April 258 p.m.Chicago at St. LouisNBCSN
*Sunday, April 273 p.m.St. Louis at ChicagoNBC
*Tuesday, April 29TBDChicago at St. LouisN/A
DateTime (ET)MatchupWatch
Friday, April 1810 p.m.Dallas at AnaheimNBCSN
Monday, April 219:30 p.m.Anaheim at DallasNBCSN
Wednesday, April 238 p.m.Anaheim at DallasCNBC
*Friday, April 2510:30 p.m.Dallas at AnaheimNBCSN
*Sunday, April 27TBDAnaheim at DallasN/A
*Tuesday, April 29TBDDallas at AnaheimN/A
DateTime (ET)MatchupWatch
Thursday, April 1710:30 p.m.Los Angeles at San JoseNBCSN
Sunday, April 2010 p.m.Los Angeles at San JoseNBCSN
Tuesday, April 2210 p.m.San Jose at Los AngelesNBCSN
Thursday, April 2410:30 p.m.San Jose at Los AngelesNBCSN
*Saturday, April 26TBDLos Angeles at San JoseNBCSN
*Monday, April 28TBDSan Jose at Los AngelesN/A
*Wednesday, April 30TBDLos Angeles at San JoseN/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
MatchupOdds
No. 4 Detroit Red Wings+250
No. 1 Boston Bruins-300
MatchupOdds
No. 3 Montreal Canadiens-105
No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning-115
MatchupOdds
No. 4 Columbus Blue Jackets+190
No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins-220
MatchupOdds
No. 3 Philadelphia Flyers+120
No. 2 New York Rangers-140
Western Conference
MatchupOdds
No. 4 Minnesota Wild+110
No. 1 Colorado Avalanche-130
MatchupOdds
No. 3 Chicago Blackhawks-115
No. 2 St. Louis Blues-105
MatchupOdds
No. 4 Dallas Stars+160
No. 1 Anaheim Ducks -180
MatchupOdds
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.