The 2014 NHL playoffs have lived up to the hype in ways even the most hardcore fans could not have imagined, with some of the best action still on the docket as we're only a few games into the first round.
Classic duels between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues, not to mention a wealth of other great contests, have captured the attention of the globe despite the NBA playoffs and impending arrival of the NFL draft.
It won't stop. Yet again, the NHL has proven to have the most entertaining postseason. While fans catch their breath, here's a look at the full first-round schedule and a few matchups to watch.
|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|
|NHL.com. (*if necessary)|
San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings
After two offensive-minded battles to open the series, the bout between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings switches to the Staples Center for two contests.
Fans of offense won't want to miss out.
Most of the credit goes to San Jose, which has scored 13 goals in two games. Thirteen. Even head coach Todd McLellan doesn't know what to think about the output, as captured by ESPN's Pierre LeBrun:
Could I have envisioned it? No, I would be lying. Yesterday, I talked about the fact I didn't think we'd be in this situation again, but we ended up there. Again, I don't think this series is going to play out in blowouts like this night after night. They're a very good hockey club, they're going to find their game and we have to be prepared for that.
The numbers—and records—speak for themselves:
Perhaps most surprising of all is the sudden depth of the Sharks. Six players scored goals in the first victory, while seven different players found the back of the net in the second game.
It's a stunning passing-of-the-torch moment through two games, as the Sharks are usually known for falling flat in the postseason while their California rival rises to the occasion.
Now in front of a home crowd with their backs against the wall, do the Kings have what it takes to respond? They were down 0-2 last year before rattling off four straight wins over the Blues, so fans will want to tune in and see if they have another miracle run in them.
Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings
Bad blood reigns supreme between the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings, especially after violent affairs in the first two contests in which the bigger Bruins looked to physically impose their will.
It didn't work in Game 1, as Detroit managed a 1-0 win in a beauty of a game by both netminders. The same can't be said for Sunday's contest in which the Bruins turned up the physicality a notch and scored a 4-1 victory.
Now things transition to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, where the smaller Red Wings will have to find an answer rather quickly. For the No. 8 seed in a dance with the NHL's No. 1 overall seed, the Red Wings must learn quickly from two pivotal opening games. Or as Pat Caputo of the Oakland Press put it, it's all about the response:
The Red Wings need to just skate away and play their game. That doesn’t mean lack physicality, but there is no point in getting involved once the whistle blows.
The Red Wings got a real good gauge of what this series is about. Game 1 was ideal. Game 2 presented the wrong approach.
The rest of the series will depend on how well the Red Wings learned their lessons, both good and bad, in Boston.
Pavel Datsyuk, who scored with just more than three minutes left in the first contest, will have to step up offensively once more for the Red Wings to prevail.
The underdog narrative is strong in this one for good reason. Datsyuk and Co. certainly have what it takes to pull off the stunning upset, but it's going to have to come via their game, not by altering what they do to accommodate the aggressiveness of the Bruins.