Stanley Cup Playoffs 2014: Updated NHL Bracket and 2nd-Round Predictions

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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2014: Updated NHL Bracket and 2nd-Round Predictions
Steve Babineau/Getty Images

It was only fitting that a wild opening round of the NHL playoffs concluded with a trio of Game 7 battles. The most notable result of the bunch was the Los Angeles Kings fighting all the way back from a 3-0 deficit to shock the San Jose Sharks.

The focus quickly shifts to the conference semifinals, which get underway Thursday night. For the second straight round, all of the matchups are division rivalries, as the only wild card to advance, the Minnesota Wild, hail from the Central with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Each of the eight remaining teams can make a case as to why it will be the one to raise the Stanley Cup next month. Let's check out the paths every team will need to navigate with an updated look at the bracket, followed by predictions and a look at the top team in each conference entering the round.

 

Updated Bracket

East

First Round Conference Semifinals Conference Finals
(1) Boston 4    
(W) Detroit 1    
  (1) Boston  
(2) Tampa Bay 0 (3) Montreal  
(3) Montreal 4   TBD
    TBD
(1) Pittsburgh 4    
(W) Columbus 2 (1) Pittsburgh  
  (2) NY Rangers  
(2) NY Rangers 4    
(3) Philadelphia 3    

 

West

First Round Conference Semifinals Conference Finals
(1) Anaheim 4    
(W) Dallas 2    
  (1) Anaheim  
(2) San Jose 3 (3) Los Angeles  
(3) Los Angeles 4   TBD
    TBD
(1) Colorado 3    
(W) Minnesota 4 (W) Minnesota  
  (3) Chicago  
(2) St. Louis 2    
(3) Chicago 4    

 

Second-Round Predictions

2014 NHL Playoffs - Second Round
Conference Matchup Prediction
East Boston vs. Montreal Bruins in 5
East Pittsburgh vs. NY Rangers Penguins in 7
West Anaheim vs. Los Angeles Kings in 6
West Chicago vs. Minnesota Blackhawks in 5

Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions

 

Favorite in Each Conference

East: Boston Bruins

It looked like Boston might be in for an extended fight with the Detroit Red Wings in the first round after a 1-0 loss in Game 1. Instead, the Bruins rattled off four straight wins and scored at least three goals in each game to reassert themselves as the top team in the East.

What that series illustrated, and what makes the Bruins so tough to beat, is the team's terrific depth. Brad Marchand, Loui Eriksson and Carl Soderberg—three important offensive players—combined for just three total points and Boston still scored at an impressive clip over the final four games.

Now, they head into a series against the Montreal Canadiens. While the term "division rivalry" doesn't carry quite as much weight following realignment, these two teams definitely fit the bill. Joe McDonald of ESPN Boston passed along Milan Lucic's response when asked if he hated the Canadiens:

Yeah, I do. If you ask them the same question I'm sure they'll give you the same answer about if they hate us. It's just natural for me, being here seven years now, and being a part of this organization you just naturally learn to hate the Montreal Canadiens and the battles that we've had with them over the last couple of years has definitely made you hate them. This being the first time meeting them outside the first round, I think it's going to go up another level.

Montreal is coming off a sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning, which transformed Canada's only playoff team from an afterthought into a threat. That's especially true if Carey Price, who had a mundane .903 save percentage in Round 1, showcases his regular-season form in this series.

Yet the numbers say Boston has the clear edge. The Bruins ranked sixth in Fenwick percentage during the regular season, while the Canadiens ranked 25th, via ExtraSkater.com. That gap in possession is a major advantage and should lead to another relatively quick series.

 

West: Chicago Blackhawks

Much like Boston, Chicago fell behind early in its first-round series, as the St. Louis Blues grabbed a 2-0 lead on home ice. The Blackhawks then won four straight games to advance, thanks in large part to the usual cast of characters, including Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Once again, the X-factor is Corey Crawford. The Hawks goalie doesn't generate much attention due to all of the offensive star power. But he was a key cog in the team's journey to the Cup last season and outplayed the more highly touted Ryan Miller in the opening round this year.

Next up for the Blackhawks is a series with the Wild, which actually won the season series between the two teams. A series infographic provided by Minnesota shows most of the overall advantages are in favor of Chicago, however:

For the Wild to pull off the upset, they are going to need Darcy Kuemper or Ilya Bryzgalov to have an outstanding series between the pipes and some secondary scorers to elevate their level of play. Matt Moulson would be the most likely candidate after just two points in seven Round 1 games.

Ultimately, Minnesota deserves a lot of credit for taking down the Colorado Avalanche, but that was a better matchup. The Blackhawks are a more complete team than Colorado when healthy, and that should shine through as they move one step closer to a repeat.

 

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