The NHL Stanley Cup playoffs start tomorrow, and we’ve got all the information you need in order to follow one of the most dramatic tournaments in sports.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. It’s the First Year With a New Seeding Format
— NHLEXPERTPICKS.COM (@NHLexpertpicks) July 23, 2013
The 2014 playoffs will be the first with the NHL’s realigned, four-division format. Rather than having three divisions in each conference, the league now has only two, with a more geographically appropriate alignment that allows teams to play the majority of their games against teams in the same timezone. (The map above shows the geographic breakdown.)
The realignment moved the Detroit Red Wings, an Original Six franchise that had been in the Western Conference, into the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference. The move makes it possible for the Wings to play their archrival Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup finals.
The top three teams in each division make the playoffs automatically, along with two wild card teams per conference. The division winners in each conference play the wild card teams, while the second and third place teams in each division play one another.
2. The Bruins and Ducks are the Top Seeds
— SB Nation (@SBNation) April 14, 2014
The Boston Bruins, who have been to the Stanley Cup finals in two of the last three seasons, are favored to get there again as the Atlantic Division champion and top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pacific Division champion Anaheim Ducks are the top seed in the Western Conference. The Pittsburgh Penguins (Metro) and Colorado Avalanche (Central) are the other division champions, and are seeded second and their respective conferences.
3. The Blackhawks Are Seeking Their Third Stanley Cup in Five Years
The Blackhawks, shown above visiting President Obama at the White House, ended a 49-year championship draught by winning the Stanley Cup in 2010. Their next draught was a whole lot shorter. The Hawks beat the Bruins in six games last year to win their second Cup in four years.
The defending champs are in the playoffs again, but they’re nowhere near the top of the pecking order after finishing third in the Central division. They play the division rival St. Louis Blues, who finished second in the division, in the first round.
4.The Bruins are Favored in Vegas
According to Vegas odds-maker Bovada, the Bruins have 7/2 odds to win their second Cup in four years. The St. Louis Blues, despite having finished second in their division, are next at 6/1, followed by the Penguins at 7/1 and the Blackhawks at 8/1.
The biggest longshots in then field are the Columbus Bluejackets and Dallas Stars, both of whom have 50/1 odds to win the Cup.
5. NBC Sports Has the TV Coverage
— NBC Sports Network (@NBCSN) April 14, 2014
Follow the link above for a full TV schedule.