The National Hockey League released the first round schedule for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This is the first season under the new divisions and the wild card teams and some fans weren’t sure how the games would all shake out. The goal with the new arrangement is that there would be more inter-division play longer into the Playoffs.
#1 Boston vs. #4 Detroit
The moving of the Detroit Red Wings to the Eastern Conference offered many more instances for Original Six match-ups during the regular season. As such, it should not be surprising to find an Original Six match-up in the first round of the playoffs. For the first time since 1957, the Boston Bruins and the Red Wings are meeting in the playoffs. And while there hasn’t been a lot of animosity between these two teams in the last few years, the realignment of the divisions will undoubtedly relight that fie.
There first game will take place on Friday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m., at TD Garden—since the Bruins secured home-ice. Game 2, also at Boston, takes place Sunday, April 20th, at 3:00 p.m. The teams will then travel to Detroit where game three is scheduled for Tuesday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m. and game four on Thursday, April 24th at 8:00 p.m. Game 5 sees the teams return to Boston, if necessary, for a Saturday afternoon tilt on the 26th at 3:00 p.m. Games six and seven, if needed, will take place Monday April, 28th in Detroit and Wednesday, April 30th, in Boston.
# 2 Tampa Bay vs. #3 Montreal
While the Lightning have played in Montreal, this is will be their first experience playing against the Canadiens during the playoffs. And if the Tampa Bay Lightning think that the Montreal fans are loud during a regular season game, they are about the see an entirely new level of fan enthusiasm. The playoffs though are not new to either of these teams and both of them are hungry to move on to the next level. Though every player on either team would say that the slate is clear and that they are starting from scratch, the reality is that during the regular season these two teams were almost identical in certain key areas such as goal against, wins and losses and goals per game. Both the Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens are going to supply hockey fans with some great hockey.
The two teams will meet on Wednesday, April 16th, at 7:00 p.m. in Tampa for game one. Game two will follow on Friday, April 18th also at 7:00 p.m. The teams will then travel to Montreal for games three, on Sunday April 20th, at 7:00 p.m. and four, on Tuesday, April 22nd, at 7:00 p.m. The fifth game will find the teams back in Tampa Bay on Thursday, April 24th, at 7:00 p.m. If necessary game six will take place at Montreal on Sunday, April 27th, and game seven in Tampa Bay on Tuesday April 29th.
#1 Pittsburgh vs. #4 Columbus
Unfortunately for the Columbus Blue Jackets, they will be missing a key player during in the playoffs in the form of Nathan Horton. However, given that he was only able to play in 36 games this season, it is clear that the Blue Jackets are used to playing without him. Whether or not they can hold off the Pittsburgh Penguins remains to be seen. Of course, the Penguins have often struggled in the playoffs in regard to goaltending. Despite having the point leader, Sidney Crosby, if the Penguins can’t keep the pucks out of their own net, then they will have a hard time taking this round.
The Penguins and the Blue Jackets will meet on the ice in Pittsburgh for game one on Wednesday, April 16th, at 7:30 p.m. They will then have to wait until Saturday, April 19th, at 7:00 p.m. to play game two. The third game will take place on Monday, April 21st, at 7:00 p.m. in Columbus. Game four, also in Columbus, is scheduled for Wednesday, April 23rd, at 7:00 p.m. A return to Pittsburgh for game five on Saturday, April 26th. If necessary game six will be played on Monday, April 28th in Columbus and game seven back in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, April 30th.
#2 NY Rangers vs. #3 Philadelphia
There certainly is no love lost between the Flyers and the New York Rangers. Both teams had their share of troubles this season. The Rangers were on the road for the beginning of the season because of a remodeling to Madison Square Garden. And it appeared that, after having been signed to a multi-million, multi-year contract that Ranger’s Henrik Lundqvist may have been discovering what it was like to be mortal. However, as the end of the regular season came closer, he rediscovered his game. The Philadelphia Flyers are always a tough team and they know what it means to be in the playoffs.
The Flyers will meet the Rangers in New York City for game one on Thursday, April 17th at 7:00 p.m. Game two will take place at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, April 20th at noon. The teams will then travel to Philadelphia where they will play game three on Tuesday, April 22nd, at 8:00 p.m. and compete again there for game four on Friday, April 25th, at 7:00 p.m. Game five will be played in New York on Sunday, April 27th, at noon. If necessary game six will find the teams back in Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 29th, followed by a return to New York on Wednesday, April 30th for game seven if needed.
#1 Colorado vs. $4 Minnesota (all times Eastern)
Under the tutelage of head coach Patrick Roy, the Colorado Avalanche have become a force to be reckoned with. Their many strong young players, coupled with the impressive net minding of Semyon Varlamov will make them a potent contender in the playoffs. Though the loss of Matt Duchesne for the first two games will require the rest of the roster to step up. And their first opponent, the Minnesota Wild, have improved their roster, with the likes of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter—two major acquisitions for the Wild during the offseason. This first round between these two teams will be one of interest.
The Wild will travel to Colorado where game one will take place on Thursday, April 17th at 9:30 p.m. The teams will then meet again on Saturday, April 19th for game two again at 9:30 p.m. Both teams will then head to St. Paul for game three on Monday, April 21st at 7:00 p.m. and game four on Thursday, April 24th at 9:30 p.m. Game five will find the Avs and the Wild back in Colorado on Saturday, April 26th. If necessary, game six will be played in Minnesota on Monday, April 28th and game seven will be back in Colorado on Wednesday, April 30th.
#2 St. Louis vs. #3 Chicago (all times Eastern)
It looked like the St. Louis Blues would claim the President’s Trophy this season, but they hit a skid toward the end of the regular season that many are wondering if it will carry into the playoffs. It was just announced that both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will be healthy and playing when the Chicago Blackhawks, the defending Stanley Cup champs, meet the Blues in round one. And while the Blues have acquired goal tender Ryan Miller, the last few games have caused concern for fans as to the strength of their team. And of course, there is no love lost between these two teams.
Game one will take place in St. Louis on Thursday, April 17th at 8:00 p,m., with game two on Saturday, April 19th at 3:00 p.m. Then it is off to Chicago for game three on Monday, April 21st at 8:30 p.m. and game four on Wednesday, April 23rd at 9:30 p.m. The teams will return to St. Louis for game five on Friday, April 25th at 8:00 p.m. And if they are still chirping over the faceoff dot, game six will be played in Chicago on Sunday, April 27th and game seven back in St. Louis on Tuesday, April 29th.
#1 Anaheim vs. #4 Dallas (all times Eastern)
The Anaheim Ducks finished the regular season in first place for the Western Conference. Strong game play from their veterans including Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, as well as a number of their newer players coupled with determination has made them one of the strongest teams in the playoffs. The Dallas Stars have the dynamic duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn who intend to make any team that opposes them know they were there. Kari Lehtonen is determined to fill the net behind them like a brick wall.
Game one will take place in Anaheim on Wednesday, April 16th at 10:00 p.m. followed by game two on Friday, April 18th beginning at the same time. The teams will travel to Dallas for game three on Monday, April 21st at 9:30 p.m., with game four taking place on Wednesday, April 23rd at 8:00 p.m. The teams will return to Anaheim for game five on Friday, April 25th at 10:30 p.m. Should they be necessary, game six is schedule in Dallas on Sunday, April 27th and game 7 will take place on Tuesday, April 29th.
#2 San Jose vs. #3 Los Angeles (all times Eastern)
If the Anaheim and Dallas matchup wasn’t enough hockey for California, the San Jose Sharks will be hosting the Los Angeles Kings for the first two games of round one. The rivalry of these two teams is well known and both have been in the playoffs before so they know what it takes. The Kings will have their best goalie, Jonathan Quick, doing what he does best, while San Jose will be counting on the likes of Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and perhaps a little young flash from Tomas Hertl.
Game one will find the Sharks doing their best to sink their teeth into the Kings on Thursday, April 17th at 10:30 p.m. with the second game taking place in San Jose on Sunday, April 20th at 10:00 p.m. A quick trip to Los Angeles and Kings will do their best to exert the royal power in their barn with game three on Tuesday, April 22nd at 10:00 p.m. followed by game four on Thursday, April 24th at 10:30 p.m. Game five is a return to San Jose on Saturday, April 26th. If needed, game six will be played in Los Angeles on Monday, April 28th and game seven back in San Jose on Wednesday, April 30th.
The playoff season is here and for fans it is the beginning of two months of sleep deprivation. For the players it is that time of year when no one admits to being hurt and everyone’s adrenalin is ramped up just a bit more.