Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Monica McAlister on 04/09/14 at 10:08 AM ET
Things are heating up (or in the case in some NHL cities cooling down on ice and heating up behind closed doors) as we enter the final stretch for teams to earn a spot in the playoffs. Match ups are in constant flux still as we are just over 7 days from the start of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs and there are some surprises to the current match ups and some where did they go? teams missing from the match ups as of this morning.
Starting with the Western Conference there is a distinct lack of Canadian teams qualifying for the post-season while all three teams from California have bogarted the three automatic qualifying spots in the Pacific Division. The Anaheim Ducks taking the top spot in the division will see Saku Koivu play against his younger brother Mikko Koviu's Minnesota Wild. The San Jose Sharks will have short travel in their first round being matched up against the Los Angeles Kings. Kings leading the season series over the Sharks as both teams look to have a deep run and bring the Stanley Cup back to California in 2014.
The new Central Division is topped with the St. Louis Blues with the help of acquired goaltender Ryan Miller and Olympic shootout super star T.J. Oshie (The Blues have been notified that Oshie is going to need to score in live play in the playoffs as there is no shootout right?). The Blues will face-off against the Dallas Stars and Tyler Seguin, also acquired by trade with a team from the Eastern Conference. The reigning Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks have been without two of their top players as Patrick Kane and captain Jonathan Toews have sat out with injury down the stretch a familiar feeling for their opponents as the Colorado Avalanche have had to overcome obstacles as well this season. The Avalanche under the leadership and poise of new head coach Patrick Roy have won the season series between the two teams 4-1.
Before starting with the East I want to thank NHL.com for the fantastic bracket graphic.
In the Eastern Conference the addition of the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets has not gone without notice. With a slow start to the Metropolitan Division this season the Pittsburgh Penguins have pulled it together and snagged the top spot in the division and been rewarded with playing the Detroit Red Wings as the wild card spot. Two teams who will give hockey fans a look at a possible first round match up tonight on NBCSN as they are the Wednesday Night Rivals broadcast, with a season series tied at one win apiece it will be interesting to see if Detroit as injury plagued as they have been can pull off a win tonight to secure a spot in the playoffs against their 2008 and 2009 Stanley Cup Finals opponents. The New York Rangers in the second spot of the Metro will see the Philadelphia Flyers as both teams have seen struggles on the ice they also have a season series that is tied. Rangers with new head coach Alain Vigneault and the newly acquired Martin St. Louis look to push past a still struggling Flyers team with help from netminder Henrik Lundqvist.
The up-dated Atlantic Division has the sole Canadian team qualifying for the post season and fittingly it is the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal with the backing of pretty much all of Canadian hockey fans are set to face-off against Tampa Bay Lightning and their newly extended GM Steve Yzerman in a match up to breakdown Canadian loyalties. The NHL point leading Boston Bruins will see the other new edition to the Eastern Conference the Columbus Blue Jackets. Currently the Blue Jackets are in position to make the playoffs for the second time in franchise history. The team last qualified in the 2009 playoffs in which they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round. Boston currently leads the season series which does not bode well for Columbus.
New divisions. New Conferences. New Playoff format. One week to go.
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