2012 Stanley Cup Playoff previews: First-round viewing guide

What they all play for via wikipedia commons

The Stanley Cup Playoffs start tomorrow night, with eight first-round, best-of-seven series. Playoff season is (usually) my favorite season of the year. The intensity, the rivalries, the media falling all over themselves to mythologize someone--anyone, really. In addition, some very good, even great hockey gets played. I try not to miss any of the good stuff, especially further on in the second and third rounds. And when you don't really have a dog in the fight, so to speak, it's a little easier to appreciate the funny, the nasty, and the amazing,

But it can be overwhelming to try to catch all the games the first two weeks. And bingeing on hockey tends to be bad for your health, family, and employment situation. It's important to pace yourself in this early going. I advise choosing one or two series at most in the first round. That's four to six games a week, after all. The rest you can catch via highlights.

To help you decide what to do with all that free time you have now that the Lightning's season is over, here's a handy viewing guide with tips on choosing a series to invest your time in.

Western Conference

Vancouver Canucks v. Los Angeles Kings:

  • Ever wondered how many times the press can work in the phrase "goalie duel" during a best of seven series? Now's your chance to find out. The Kings, who ought to have been great but weren't, have relied on Jonathan Quick all season and he's been up to the challenge so far. Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, if they played in any other market, would be considered a very good tandem with a combined .926 save percentage and 2.25 GAA. Yet the handwringing in British Columbia is audible from across the continent. On the plus side, East Coasters, all the games will start after 10:00 PM. (What do you mean that's not a plus?)
  • Series schedule: (all times Eastern)

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

St. Louis Blues v San Jose Sharks

  • I searched high and low and scoured every corner of the internet (okay, I read a couple of previews) in search of a compelling storyline heading into this series. I really couldn't find one. Don't get me wrong, there are storylines--the play of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, Ken Hitchcock's behind-the-bench performance, the fact that the Sharks really should have dominated the Western Conference this season, Brent Burns' robotic sex pants. Those stories just aren't compelling enough to get me to watch seven games of this.... Well, maybe the sex pants thing. I considered the fact you could use this as an excuse to read Megalodon's fantastic game previews at SBNation's Battle of California, but then I realized that I read them all the time and never actually watch Sharks games. St. Louis's defense is going to shut down San Jose's sporadic offense, and put everyone to sleep.
  • Series schedule
THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2012 7:30 P.M. SAN JOSE AT ST. LOUIS CNBC, TSN
SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2012 7:30 P.M. SAN JOSE AT ST. LOUIS CNBC, TSN
MONDAY, APRIL 16, 2012 10 P.M. ST. LOUIS AT SAN JOSE NBC SPORTS NETWORK, TSN
THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 2012 10:30 P.M. ST. LOUIS AT SAN JOSE NBC SPORTS NETWORK, TSN
*SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 2012 7:30 P.M. SAN JOSE AT ST. LOUIS CNBC, TSN
*MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2012 TBD ST. LOUIS AT SAN JOSE TBD
*WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2012 TBD SAN JOSE AT ST. LOUIS TBD

Phoenix Coyotes vs Chicago Blackhawks

  • It will be interesting to watch the broadcast crew ignore the empty arena in Glendale while every other commentator in the known universe talks about nothing but the empty arena in Glendale. The games are also on after pretty much every game you're interested in is done, but before you actually fall asleep. And, as a Lightning fan, you can watch Mike Smith either perform fantastically or completely blow up, and adjust your sense of regret accordingly. The media's going to focus on the fact that the Coyotes' three leading scorers average about 103 years of age while the Blackhawks only have 6 guys over age 30 on the team.
  • Series schedule
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

Nashville Predators vs Detroit Red Wings

  • I call this one the Battle of the Seafood. Watch to see whether anyone succeeds in getting a catfish onto the ice at Joe Louis Arena. It's a foregone conclusion that there will be at least one octopus tossed in Nashville. Let's just hope that the geniuses who do this use lots and lots of plastic wrap before stuffing those things in their pants to get through security. This is going to be a hard-fought series pitting the veteran but wily Red Wings against the young and enthusiastic Predators and it really could go either way. Both teams have great arena atmosphere and the teams know each other very well. Both teams will need to be perfect to win and it will be exhausting. Also, whether Nashville wins or loses, if it gets to a Game 7, Music City will destroy itself from the inside. That's always fun.
  • Series schedule
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

Eastern Conference

New York Rangers vs Ottawa Senators

  • Before these last few weeks, I would have said that the Rangers were essentially getting a bye no matter who ended up in eighth place. But they haven't done so hot since I jumped on the "Hank makes pie" bandwagon, and doubt has to be creeping in. As Lightning fans, I know you're watching mostly because of John Tortorella and Brad Richards, and possibly because Hank makes pie (and also stops a few pucks every once in a while), but keep an eye on that Erik Karlsson kid from Ottawa. I hear he's pretty good at the hockey. Has nice hair, too. There will be a lot of talk during this series about Karlsson possibly winning the Norris trophy for best defenseman this year. He shouldn't, but there'll be a lot of talk about it.
  • Series schedule
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


Boston Bruins vs Washington Capitals

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


Florida Panthers vs New Jersey Devils

  • Our in-state rivals are carrying the Florida hockey banner for the first time in far too long. It's really exciting for the fans at Litter Box Cats, and I like those guys enough to want them to do well. I just don't really, in my heart of hearts, think they will. They'll hit hard (seriously, Erik Gudbranson scares me) and they'll hang on by their fingernails, but I don't think this team actually has all the pieces yet. Meanwhile, the Devils are going to try to bore the Panthers to death. Other than to support Panther fans, the only reason I could come up with to watch is to try to catch one of Jerred Smithson's facial expressions. Not enough to keep me tuned in, I'm afraid.
  • Series Schedule
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

    Pittsburgh Penguins vx Philadelphia Flyers

    • The only series where actual murder on the ice is a real possibility. Honestly, unless you're a fan of one of these teams, there's no real need to tune into the games live. Every hit, penalty, scrum, goal, and chirp will be immediately and thoroughly dissected on every available media format. Just keep checking Twitter and you won't miss anything, interesting or not.
    • Series schedule
    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

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