2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round Matchup Preview

It's time for the second season to begin, or as some prefer calling it, "the real season." It's going to be tough, long, and drawn out, but there's not a single series that doesn't prove to be exciting in some way, shape, or form.

Schedules from NHL.com:

SERIES A TIME (ET) #1 VS. #8 NETWORKS
THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2012 7 P.M. OTTAWA AT NY RANGERS NHL NETWORK, CBC
SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2012 7 P.M. OTTAWA AT NY RANGERS NBC SPORTS NETWORK, CBC
MONDAY, APRIL 16, 2012 7:30 P.M. NY RANGERS AT OTTAWA CBC, CNBC
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2012 7:30 P.M. NY RANGERS AT OTTAWA CBC, CNBC
*SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 2012 7 P.M. OTTAWA AT NY RANGERS NBC SPORTS NETWORK, CBC
*MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2012 TBD NY RANGERS AT OTTAWA TBD
*THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2012 TBD OTTAWA AT NY RANGERS TBD

Make no mistake about this one, this series has the potential to go down to the wire. Sure, you have Henrik Lundqvist, but you also have to remember that the Rangers were 1-2-1 in the regular season schedule and were outscored 13-8. Write Ottawa off at your own risk.

SERIES B TIME (ET) #2 VS. #7 NETWORKS
THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2012 7:30 P.M. WASHINGTON AT BOSTON NBC SPORTS NETWORK, CBC
SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2012 3 P.M. WASHINGTON AT BOSTON NBC, CBC
MONDAY, APRIL 16, 2012 7:30 P.M. BOSTON AT WASHINGTON NBC SPORTS NETWORK, CBC
THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 2012 7:30 P.M. BOSTON AT WASHINGTON NBC SPORTS NETWORK, CBC
*SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 2012 3 P.M. WASHINGTON AT BOSTON NBC, CBC
*SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2012 TBD BOSTON AT WASHINGTON TBD
*WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2012 TBD WASHINGTON AT BOSTON TBD

There was some worry that the Washington Capitals weren't even going to make the playoffs this season; their 7th overall finish is both unfamiliar territory and a bit of a relief for their fans. The Bruins have had hiccups through the season, but they're still the defending Stanley Cup Champions. That means they have something to fight for. Also, Braden Holtby is probably Washington's starter, so draw your own conclusions

SERIES C TIME (ET) #3 VS. #6 NETWORKS
FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 2012 7 P.M. NEW JERSEY AT FLORIDA NHL NETWORK, TSN
SUNDAY, APRIL 15, 2012 7:30 P.M. NEW JERSEY AT FLORIDA NBC SPORTS NETWORK, TSN
TUESDAY, APRIL 17, 2012 7 P.M. FLORIDA AT NEW JERSEY NHL NETWORK, TSN
THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 2012 7 P.M. FLORIDA AT NEW JERSEY NHL NETWORK, TSN
*SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 2012 6:30 P.M. NEW JERSEY AT FLORIDA NHL NETWORK, TSN
*TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2012 TBD FLORIDA AT NEW JERSEY TBD
*THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2012 TBD NEW JERSEY AT FLORIDA TBD

The Florida Panthers are not only back in the playoffs for the first time since 2000, they've won their first Southeast Division banner in the process. Unfortunately, winning the Southeast Division isn't exactly tough work, and the Panthers made it harder than they needed to. Their -24 goal differential is atrocious (the only other playoff team in either conference to have a negative goal differential is Washington at a -8) and their 94 points wouldn't've made the playoffs in the Western Conference.

SERIES D TIME (ET) #4 VS. #5 NETWORKS
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11, 2012 7:30 P.M. PHILADELPHIA AT PITTSBURGH NBC SPORTS NETWORK, TSN
FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 2012 7:30 P.M. PHILADELPHIA AT PITTSBURGH NBC SPORTS NETWORK, TSN
SUNDAY, APRIL 15, 2012 3 P.M. PITTSBURGH AT PHILADELPHIA NBC, TSN
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2012 7:30 P.M. PITTSBURGH AT PHILADELPHIA NBC SPORTS NETWORK, TSN
*FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2012 7:30 P.M. PHILADELPHIA AT PITTSBURGH NBC SPORTS NETWORK, TSN
*SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2012 TBD PITTSBURGH AT PHILADELPHIA TBD
*TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2012 TBD PHILADELPHIA AT PITTSBURGH TBD

This Keystone State matchup is probably the most anticipated and most hatred-filled matchup in either conference. Evgeny Malkin. Claude Giroux. Sidney Crosby. Scott Hartnell. Kris Letang. Jaromir Jagr. You want star power? You want teams that really, really, REALLY hate each other in every possible way? Well, here you go. Playoff perfection.

SERIES E TIME (ET) #1 VS. #8 NETWORKS
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11, 2012 10:30 P.M. LOS ANGELES AT VANCOUVER CBC, NBC SPORTS NETWORK
FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 2012 10 P.M. LOS ANGELES AT VANCOUVER CBC, NBC SPORTS NETWORK
SUNDAY, APRIL 15, 2012 10:30 P.M. VANCOUVER AT LOS ANGELES NBC SPORTS NETWORK, CBC
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2012 10 P.M. VANCOUVER AT LOS ANGELES NBC SPORTS NETWORK, CBC
*SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2012 TBD LOS ANGELES AT VANCOUVER TBD
*TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2012 TBD VANCOUVER AT LOS ANGELES TBD
*THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2012 TBD LOS ANGELES AT VANCOUVER TBD

If you like goaltending, this is the series for you. Roberto Luongo's solid, and Jonathan Quick's the league leader in shutouts at 10. Also, the Kings have lost more games 1-0 than any team in the NHL, so if you're all about scoring you might want to flip on a different series.

SERIES G TIME (ET) #3 VS. #6 NETWORKS
THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2012 10 P.M. CHICAGO AT PHOENIX NBC SPORTS NETWORK, TSN
SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2012 10 P.M. CHICAGO AT PHOENIX NBC SPORTS NETWORK, TSN
TUESDAY, APRIL 17, 2012 9 P.M. PHOENIX AT CHICAGO CNBC, TSN
THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 2012 8 P.M. PHOENIX AT CHICAGO CNBC, TSN
*SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 2012 10 P.M. CHICAGO AT PHOENIX NBC SPORTS NETWORK, TSN
*MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2012 TBD PHOENIX AT CHICAGO TBD
*WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2012 TBD CHICAGO AT PHOENIX TBD

So what if the Chicago Blackhawks have more points than the Phoenix Coyotes? They managed to go through a stretch where it looked like they could drop out of playoff contention, and a decent chunk of these problems can be attributed to a slightly uneven goaltending duo. Phoenix has Mike Smith, who has allowed two goals over his last five games. I would consider that an edge.

SERIES H TIME (ET) #4 VS. #5 NETWORKS
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11, 2012 8 P.M. DETROIT AT NASHVILLE CNBC, CBC
FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 2012 7:30 P.M. DETROIT AT NASHVILLE CNBC, CBC
SUNDAY, APRIL 15, 2012 NOON NASHVILLE AT DETROIT NBC, CBC
TUESDAY, APRIL 17, 2012 7:30 P.M. NASHVILLE AT DETROIT NBC SPORTS NETWORK, CBC
*FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2012 8 P.M. DETROIT AT NASHVILLE CNBC, CBC
*SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2012 TBD NASHVILLE AT DETROIT TBD
*TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2012 TBD DETROIT AT NASHVILLE TBD

For the first time since the Bush administration (the first one), the Red Wings don't have home ice advantage. That might not help them, as despite the fact that they've defeated the Predators every time they've played them in the playoffs, they've had soem rough games against them at the loud Bridgestone Arena. Home ice advantage could very well help the Preds immensely.

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