While home-ice advantage between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens needs to be determined (this post will be updated accordingly), we know all four first-round matchups for the Eastern Conference in the 2014 playoffs.
Here they are, with a quick note or two (home-ice listed first, if already determined).
Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings
The Bruins won the 2014 Presidents’ Trophy, yet the Red Wings could present serious competition, and not just because of their name recognition. Detroit took three of the two teams’ four games in the season series and overcame serious injury issues to get this far. They also tend to satisfy fans of “fancy stats” with their competitive possession numbers.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
With the Blue Jackets victorious on Saturday, they clinch this series. The NHL had to hope something like this would happen, as the Penguins present at least the potential for a solid regional rivalry with the Blue Jackets (relatively speaking). Of course, the Penguins’ three Stanley Cups tower over the Blue Jackets franchise’s zero playoff wins, but all that matters is who wins the best-of-seven series …
Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Seeding to be determined, as the Montreal Canadiens’ overtime win against the New York Rangers keeps seeding open here. The Lightning won three of the teams’ four games in the season series, for whatever that’s worth.
New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Will the New York Rangers’ recent dominance at Madison Square Garden tilt things in their favor? Who will prevail in a goalie match between the established (Henrik Lundqvist) and the openly questioned (Steve Mason)? Can Martin St. Louis get it together? There are almost endless storylines in this one.
Feel free to weigh in regarding the series you expect to be most exciting, the host teams most vulnerable to upsets and all sorts of other fun factors.