For a strike-shortened 48-game regular season that opened with a record-breaking run and a welcome return from fans, the postseason looks to be matched by an equally thrilling conclusion, as the 2013 NHL Playoffs get underway. The road to the Stanley Cup Finals will travel through Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference and Chicago in the Western Conference, as these two star-studded teams secured home-ice advantage after sensational regular seasons. Any team with dreams of hoisting the Cup must begin its journey in the first round, and we’ve compiled a preview of all of the exciting best-of-seven series matchups set to take place. Check out the guide below, and purchase your NHL Playoff tickets from Vivid Seats to experience an unforgettable evening of postseason hockey.
No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins (36-12-0, 72 points) vs. No. 8 New York Islanders (24-17-7, 55 points)
Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference through their dominant play in the Atlantic Division and the ability to put the puck in the net—the Penguins led the NHL in goals per game and were second in power play percentage. Their first-round opponent will be the New York Islanders, with whom the Penguins are quite familiar from several Atlantic Division regular-season matchups, of which the Penguins claimed four of five.
Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. – (Game 1: May 1; Game 2: May 3; Game 5: May 9; Game 7: May 12)
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. – (Game 3: May 5; Game 4: May 7; Game 6: May 11)
No. 2 Montreal Canadiens (29-14-5, 63 pts) vs. No. 7 Ottawa Senators (25-17-6, 56 pts)
In another intra-division matchup, two of the Northeast Division’s finest will face off in a seven-game series. The Senators’ best chance to pull off the upset is to rely on their strength, as they rank first in the league in shots per game. However, something will have to give, as the second-seeded Canadiens have been stellar on defense throughout the year, allowing the fifth fewest shots per game.
Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec – (Game 1: May 2; Game 2: May 3; Game 5: May 9; Game 7: May 12)
Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ontario – (Game 3: May 5; Game 4: May 7; Game 6: May 11)
No. 3 Washington Capitals (27-18-3, 57 pts) vs. No. 6 New York Rangers (26-18-4, 56 pts)
If the New York Rangers hope to pull off the upset in this series, they will need a strategy to stop Alexander Ovechkin, who led the NHL in goals scored this year with 32. The key for the Rangers, which won the regular-season series, 2-0-1, will be to start the final period with the lead—they were undefeated when leading after two periods during the regular season.
Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. – (Game 1: May 2; Game 2: May 4; Game 5: May 10; Game 7: May 13)
Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y. – (Game 3: May 6; Game 4: May 8; Game 6: May 12)
No. 4 Boston Bruins (28-14-6, 62 pts) vs. No. 5 Toronto Maple Leafs (26-17-5, 57 pts)
After being eliminated in the first round of last year’s postseason a year after winning the 2011 Stanley Cup, the Bruins are looking for a bounce-back effort this year. The journey to the Finals will start with the Toronto Maple Leafs, over whom Boston held a 3-1 regular-season advantage. Power play situations will be especially interesting in this series, as both teams ranked in the top five in penalty-kill percentage.
TD Garden in Boston, Mass. - (Game 1: May 1; Game 2: May 4; Game 5: May 10; Game 7: May 13)
Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario – (Game 3: May 6; Game 4: May 8; Game 6: May 12)
No. 1 Chicago Blackhawks (36-7-5, 77 pts) vs. No. 8 Minnesota Wild (26-19-3, 55 pts)
The Blackhawks caught the attention of the sports world when they began the season by securing at least one point in a league-record 24 straight contests, and that strong play continued even after the streak ended. The Wild will have their work cut out for them with Patrick Kane and Co., as the Blackhawks have locked up home ice throughout the duration of the postseason after earning a league-best 77 points en route to claiming the Presidents’ Trophy.
United Center in Chicago, Ill. – (Game 1: April 30; Game 2: May 3; Game 5: May 9; Game 7: May 12)
Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. – (Game 3: May 5; Game 4: May 7; Game 6: May 11)
No. 2 Anaheim Ducks (30-12-6, 66 pts) vs. No. 7 Detroit Red Wings (24-16-8, 56 pts)
The Ducks didn’t have trouble with many teams in the league this year, but they did struggle with the Detroit Red Wings, who happen to be their opponent in the first round of the playoffs. The Red Wings’ stout defense was key in stopping Anaheim’s balanced offensive attack, and helped lead the squad to victory in two of three matchups during the regular season. The postseason may be a different story, however, as home-ice advantage and a raucous Honda Center crowd will surely make the Ducks a tough team to beat.
Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. – (Game 1: April 30; Game 2: May 2; Game 5: May 8; Game 7: May 12)
Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Mich. – (Game 3: May 4; Game 4: May 6; Game 6: May 10)
No. 3 Vancouver Canucks (26-15-7, 59 pts) vs. No. 6 San Jose Sharks (25-16-7, 57 pts)
While the lower-seeded Sharks won all three of the teams’ regular-season meetings, the Canucks hope the home crowd at Rogers Arena will be the difference-maker in the postseason. Home ice may indeed be the deciding factor in this series, as the Sharks—28th in the league in road scoring—will have to produce offensively against a very stingy defense in one of the league’s most hostile environments.
Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada – (Game 1: May 1; Game 2: May 3; Game 5: May 9; Game 7: May 13)
HP Pavilion at San Jose in San Jose, Calif. – (Game 3: May 5; Game 4: May 7; Game 6: May 11)
No. 4 St. Louis Blues (29-17-2, 60 pts) vs. No. 5 Los Angeles Kings (27-16-5, 59 pts)
The defending champion Los Angeles Kings will take on the up-and-coming St. Louis Blues in what will be one of the most exciting matchups of the first round. Although the Kings swept the regular-season series, the Blues' home-ice advantage could play a pivitol role in the postseason, as the Blues have enjoyed tremendous success at the Scottrade Center this season. If the Blues hope to knock off last year’s champs, they’ll have to keep a close eye on the Kings’ Jeff Carter during crunch time, as the center led the league in game-winning goals with eight in 2013.
Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo. – (Game 1: April 30; Game 2: May 2; Game 5: May 8; Game 7: May 13)
Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. – (Game 3: May 4; Game 4: May 6; Game 6: May 10)