NHL Playoff Schedule 2014: 1st-Round TV Info and Updated Stanley Cup Outlook

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2014

MONTREAL, QC - APRIL 22: Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates with teammates Thomas Vanek #20, Andrei Markov #79 and P.K. Subban #76 after scoring the winning goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Four of the First Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 22, 2014 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
Francois Lacasse/Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens, who have generated plenty of attention as Canada's only team in the Stanley Cup playoffs, became the first squad to reach the second round with a surprisingly dominant series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Seven spots remain up for grabs.

One thing the early portion of the opening round has illustrated is that there isn't a clear favorite in the chase for the Stanley Cup. Even top teams like the Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks have looked vulnerable at times, and Montreal wasn't viewed as a major title threat before the playoffs began.

It should make the NHL playoffs, which are already the best in the four major American sports, even more intriguing over the next couple months. So let's check out the updated schedule for the first round followed by a look at how things are shaping up around the league.

2014 NHL Playoffs: First-Round Schedule

1st Round - Schedule and TV Info
DateMatchupTime (ET)TV
Friday, April 18Detroit 1, Boston 07:30 p.m.NBCSN
Sunday, April 20Boston 4, Detroit 13 p.m.NBC
Tuesday, April 22Boston 3, Detroit 07:30 p.m.NBCSN
Thursday, April 24Boston at Detroit8 p.m.NBCSN
Saturday, April 26Detroit at Boston3 p.m.NBC
Monday, April 28*Boston at DetroitTBDTSN
Wednesday, April 30*Detroit at BostonTBDTSN
DateMatchupTime (ET)TV
Wednesday, April 16Montreal 5, Tampa Bay 47 p.m.CNBC
Friday, April 18Montreal 4, Tampa Bay 17 p.m.CNBC
Sunday, April 20Montreal 3, Tampa Bay 27 p.m.NBCSN
Tuesday, April 22Montreal 4, Tampa Bay 37 p.m.NHL
DateMatchupTime (ET)TV
Wednesday, April 16Pittsburgh 4, Columbus 37:30 p.m.NBCSN
Saturday, April 19Columbus 4, Pittsburgh 37 p.m.NBCSN
Monday, April 21Pittsburgh 4, Columbus 37 p.m.NBCSN
Wednesday, April 23Columbus 4, Pittsburgh 37 p.m.NBCSN
Saturday, April 26Columbus at Pittsburgh7 p.m.CBC
Monday, April 28Pittsburgh at ColumbusTBDCBC
Wednesday, April 30*Columbus at PittsburghTBDCBC
DateMatchupTime (ET)TV
Thursday, April 17NY Rangers 4, Philadelphia 17 p.m.CNBC
Sunday, April 20Philadelphia 4, NY Rangers 212 p.m.NBC
Tuesday, April 22NY Rangers 4, Philadelphia 18 p.m.CNBC
Friday, April 25NY Rangers at Philadelphia7 p.m.CNBC
Sunday, April 27Philadelphia at NY RangersNoonNBC
Tuesday, April 29*NY Rangers at PhiladelphiaTBDTSN
Wednesday, April 30*Philadelphia at NY RangersTBDTSN
DateMatchupTime (ET)TV
Thursday, April 17Colorado 5, Minnesota 49:30 p.m.CNBC
Saturday, April 19Colorado 4, Minnesota 29:30 p.m.NBCSN
Monday, April 21Minnesota 1, Colorado 07 p.m.NHL
Thursday, April 24Colorado at Minnesota9:30 p.m.CNBC
Saturday, April 26Minnesota at ColoradoTBDTSN
Monday, April 28*Colorado at MinnesotaTBDTSN
Wednesday, April 30*Minnesota at ColoradoTBDTSN
DateMatchupTime (ET)TV
Thursday, April 17St. Louis 4, Chicago 38 p.m.NBCSN
Saturday, April 19St. Louis 4, Chicago 33 p.m.NBC
Monday, April 21Chicago 2, St. Louis 08:30 p.m.CNBC
Wednesday, April 23Chicago 4, St. Louis 39:30 p.m.NBCSN
Friday, April 25Chicago at St. Louis8 p.m.NBCSN
Sunday, April 27St. Louis at Chicago3 p.m.NBC
Tuesday, April 29*Chicago at St. LouisTBDCBC
DateMatchupTime (ET)TV
Wednesday, April 16Anaheim 4, Dallas 310 p.m.NBCSN
Friday, April 18Anaheim 3, Dallas 210 p.m.NBCSN
Monday, April 21Dallas 3, Anaheim 09:30 p.m.NBCSN
Wednesday, April 23Dallas 4, Anaheim 28 p.m.CNBC
Friday, April 25Dallas at Anaheim10:30 p.m.NBCSN
Sunday, April 27Anaheim at DallasTBDTSN
Tuesday, April 29*Dallas at AnaheimTBDTSN
DateMatchupTime (ET)TV
Thursday, April 17San Jose 6, Los Angeles 310:30 p.m.NBCSN
Sunday, April 20San Jose 7, Los Angeles 210 p.m.NBCSN
Tuesday, April 22San Jose 4, Los Angeles 310 p.m.NBCSN
Thursday, April 24San Jose at Los Angeles10:30 p.m.NBCSN
Saturday, April 26*Los Angeles at San JoseTBDNBCSN
Monday, April 28*San Jose at Los AngelesTBDCBC
Wednesday, April 30*Los Angeles at San JoseTBDCBC
NHL.com; *Denotes if necessary

Updated Postseason Outlook

The most impressive thing about Montreal's first-round sweep was its offensive performance. The Canadiens knew the Lightning had too much firepower to shut down completely, which meant the 21st-ranked scoring team had to elevate its level of play on that end of the ice.

Players like Brendan Gallagher and Rene Bourque rose to the occasion, and suddenly the team's playoff outlook is far more hopeful. It also helps to have a goalie in Carey Price, who's coming off his best regular season and is capable of carrying the team on his shoulders.

The Canadian Press (via CBC) passed along comments from Max Pacioretty, who fell just one goal short of 40, about emerging from a brief slump to score the series clincher and how the team has benefited from more balanced scoring:

I knew I had to step up. I've been frustrated lately and the only thing that kept me sane was the team winning and other people scoring.

When you realize you can end the series with one shot, that frustration goes away for a brief moment and that's what happened.

Montreal has sported the talent necessary to make a deep playoff run all season, but only showed it in spurts during the regular season. It could be a situation where a team gets hot at the exact right time to make some major noise.

The other team turning some heads in the early going is the San Jose Sharks. They have raced out to a 3-0 series lead over the Los Angeles Kings, who were viewed as a potential championship sleeper due to their league-leading Fenwick for percentage (via ExtraSkater.com) during the regular season.

Instead, it's the Sharks, who ranked third in the Fenwick numbers, who have looked downright unstoppable at times. They have scored 17 goals over the first three games and could close out the sweep with a win on Thursday night.

A lack of attention, and the pressure that comes with it, could be helping San Jose. The Sharks have been viewed among the top contenders several times in recent years and failed to live up to the expectations. They generated less buzz entering this season's playoffs and now they are on a roll.

Closing out a team with championship experience won't be easy, though. The Sharks don't want to see the Kings win a game or two and start building confidence, or a potential sweep could get really tricky.

Perhaps the best overall series in the first round is the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. The new playoff format made the road to the Stanley Cup Final much more difficult for both teams, in large part because they have to face each other in the opening round.

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 21: Michal Handzus #26 of the Chicago Blackhawks grabs Steve Ott #29 of the St. Louis Blues around the neck during a stop in play at the Blackhawk net in Game Three of the First Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Whichever team emerges from the battle will be a Cup contender, but it's been a physical series and that's going to have a lasting impact for the side that does move on. That physical toll is something often overlooked in the long grind that is the NHL playoffs.

Then there's the cast of top contenders that are still searching for their best hockey. The Boston Bruins, Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins are still very much in Cup contention but are being seriously challenged in the opening round, and none are out of the woods quite yet.

It all goes back to the fact the postseason is still waiting for a favorite to emerge. That trio of teams are all in the conversation, but if they don't start playing better, it won't take long before they end up on upset alert. The margin for error is very thin this year.

That's good news for hockey fans, who get to enjoy the journey.


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