NHL Playoffs – Atlantic Division

One of the most interesting aspects of the NHL realignment that preceded the 2013-14 regular season was the decision to move the Detroit Red Wings into the Eastern Conference. Easing the team’s once-brutal travel schedule by taking them out of frequent West Coast road trips, they’ll finally be able to play a majority of their games in their Eastern time zone. This split the Wings from their traditional, Original Six rival Chicago Blackhawks and landed them in the recreated Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference which includes four of the Original Six – the Wings, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, and Toronto Maple Leafs. Three of these teams have qualified for the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the new division-heavy format, giving the new-look NHL an old school feel in this year’s first round.

Boston Bruins – Detroit Red Wings Matchup

After the Bruins trounced the Penguins to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013, they entered the 2014 season as presumptive favorites to win their division and once again challenge for the Eastern Conference crown. The huge trade of Tyler Seguin to Dallas landed the B’s underrated two-way star Loui Eriksson, free agency brought them future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla, and the continued team depth and individual dominance of veterans Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask, did manage to produce another regular season with the Bruins at the head of their conference’s class.

Late-season playoff matchup shuffling, however, has “rewarded” their top seed with perhaps their most troublesome matchup. In four regular season games, the Red Wings defeated the Bruins three times, the last of which occurred less than two weeks before their Divisional Semifinal begins. The Red Wings did have to scramble to keep their 23-season postseason streak alive, while the Bruins have made two Stanley Cup Finals since the Wings last got that close to hockey’s Holy Grail, so let’s not go so far as to call Boston an underdog. Let’s just say they’ll have to flex their considerable playoff muscle earlier than expected this time around.

Boston – Detroit Season Series

Date Winner, Score City State Venue
10/5/2013 Bruins, 4-1 Boston MA TD Garden
10/14/2013 Red Wings, 3-2 Boston MA TD Garden
11/27/2013 Red Wings, 6-1 Detroit MI Joe Louis Arena
4/2/2014 Red Wings, 3-2 Detroit MI Joe Louis Arena

Bruins – Red Wings Tickets

2014 Red Wings – Bruins Highlights

Tampa Bay Lightning – Montreal Canadiens Matchup

Three of four Canadiens - Lightning games went into overtime this season, so every scrum in front of the net will be crucial in their Atlantic Divisional Semifinal.

The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to be one of the oddballs in the new Atlantic Division because – along with their fellow Floridians, the Panthers – they were so far south compared to the Original Six hub in the the northeast. And, aside from their Conference Finals run in 2011, they had not qualified for the playoffs since 2007. So, it’s particularly surprising to see them rise to the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic this season after buying out their longtime captain Vincent Levcavalier in the offseason and trading away their other remaining veteran from a 2004 Stanley Cup run, Martin St. Louis, during the year.

Now, with the rise of goal scoring sensation Steven Stamkos and former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, the Lightning will try to win what many expect to be a tight series against the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs and Lightning played four games this year and three went to overtime, with two requiring a shootout. The Lightning managed to win three by slim margins, and that one extra victory was the difference in acquiring home ice advantage in this round over Montreal, a team which finished just one point back in the final standings. With two goalies capable of stealing games, front lines of snipers and talented defensemen manning the blue lines, expect the Tampa Bay – Montreal Divisional Semifinal to be pushed to a game seven, leaving the winner short on time to turn around and face the (we assume) angry Boston Bruins.

Tampa – Montreal Season Series

Date Winner, Score City State Venue
11/12/2013 Lightning, 2-1 (SO) Montreal QC Bell Centre
12/28/2013 Canadiens, 2-1 (SO) Tampa FL Tampa Bay Times Forum
2/1/2014 Lightning, 2-1 (OT) Montreal QC Bell Centre
4/1/2014 Lightning, 3-1 Tampa FL Tampa Bay Times Forum

Lightning – Canadiens Tickets

2014 Canadiens – Lightning Highlights