The NHL's Stanley Cup playoff bracket looks a little different this season. Thanks to conference realignment and new divisions, the Stanley Cup will be deciding division champions in its first two rounds, before the conference and Cup finals. But the field is still made up of 16 teams and eight first round matchups, which were all officially finalized when the NHL regular season ended on April 13.
The biggest slot to be decided was the West's Central Division champion, which the St. Louis Blues looked set to be for weeks. But with their sixth straight loss to close the season, their 3-0 defeat to the Detroit Red Wings -- who face the much hotter Boston Bruins in their opening playoff series -- doomed the Blues to facing the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks as a second place Central team.
The Blues and Blackhawks make up one killer Central Division semifinal, while the surprise division champion Colorado Avalanche will presumably have it easier against the Minnesota Wild. Nevertheless, it is the Anaheim Ducks who lead the West, owning home ice until the Cup finals. As such, the Ducks host the Dallas Stars first and would then host either the San Jose Sharks or Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division finals.
Over in the East, the Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins have been locked in as Atlantic and Metropolitan Division champions for what seems like months now. It looks every bit like the Bruins and Penguins will have a rematch of last year's conference finals -- which wouldn't bode well for Pittsburgh after Boston swept it out of the last postseason.
The likes of the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Red Wings will try to derail another Bruins-Penguins Eastern finale. However, it looks like the Stanley Cup playoffs are more stacked on the Western side of the bracket, as six of their eight teams finished with 100 points or more. What's more, the West has the last two Cup champions in the Blackhawks and Kings -- and they each finished third in their divisions.
Although the NHL changed the format of the regular season and the first half of the postseason, the Stanley Cup playoffs are bound to be as wild and unforgettable as ever. The accompanying list breaks down the 16 teams who hope to raise the Cup two months from now.