NHL Playoffs 2014: Updated Predictions and Bracket for Remainder of 1st Round

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2014

DENVER, CO - APRIL 19: Nathan MacKinnon #29 and Paul Stastny #26 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrate an open net goal late in the third period against the Minnesota Wild in Game Two of the First Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Pepsi Center on April 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado.  The Avalanche defeated the Wild 4-2.  (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
Michael Martin/Getty Images

Hockey fans from across the world were excited for the start of the 2014 NHL playoffs, and with several marquee matchups in both the Eastern and Western Conferences living up to expectations, the first round has been must-watch television.

Besides a sweep by the Montreal Canadiens and a potential sweep by the San Jose Sharks, the majority of the first-round series have featured plenty of intense back-and-forth action that would satisfy even the most jaded hockey fans.

Here are the latest predictions for each first-round matchup and the bracket, via NHL.com. For an updated NHL playoff bracket, check out NHLPlayoffsBracket.com.


First-Round Matchups and Predictions
Eastern Conference
First-Round Matchup Predicted Winner
Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings Boston
Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Montreal
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Pittsburgh
New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers Philadelphia
Western Conference
First-Round Matchup Predicted Winner
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
Source: NHL.com


The Bracket


Best Series You’re Not Watching: Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild

There have been great first-round matchups across the league, but the best series that casual fans aren’t watching is the Western Conference battle between the Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild.

The series opened with two high-scoring victories for Colorado—the Avalanche won Game 1 by a score of 5-4 in overtime and Game 2 by a score of 4-2—but Minnesota got back to basics and won Game 3 by a score of 1-0.

With one more game on Wild ice before shifting back to Colorado, look for Minnesota to even the series using the elite goalie play of Darcy Kuemper. After starter Ilya Bryzgalov failed to make an impact, the team tried its hand with Kuemper and he shut out the high-powered Avalanche in Game 3.

After winning his first career postseason start, Kuemper told Brian Murphy of The Pioneer Press about Colorado netminder Semyon Varlamov’s performance on Tuesday and his own comfort level in net:

I wasn't sure how long it would take to get one tonight the way he was playing. I just tried to stick with it and make the saves I had to. My teammates were obviously playing unbelievable and making it pretty easy for me.

I think it just shows I'm confident right now. It doesn't matter if I get a ton of shots. I'm keeping myself in it. I'm comfortable even if I'm not feeling it a lot. Everyone was doing their job as well. So big win for us.

As well as Minnesota has played, the Avalanche are one of the most gifted offensive teams in the league. Led by the elite scoring of centers Paul Stastny and Nathan MacKinnon (seven points apiece), Colorado has proved that it has the depth and talent at the forward positions to make a deep run.

Despite getting beat down through the first two games, the Wild battled back in this series and kept their composure until Mikael Granlund was able to put in the amazing overtime winner in Game 3 to give his team a new lease on life.

Minnesota has the skill to win another game in this series, but Colorado is the better overall team and should be able to win the battle convincingly once they figure out the secret to getting pucks past Kuemper.

Series Prediction: Colorado wins 4-2


*Stats via NHL.com.