3 potential opening-round upsets in the NHL playoffs

Max Brennenstuhl, 8, gets a close look at the Stanley Cup in East Selkirk, Manitoba, on December 9,...

Max Brennenstuhl, 8, gets a close look at the Stanley Cup in East Selkirk, Manitoba, on December 9, 2012. (QMI Agency)

John Matisz, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:47 PM ET

The regular season is over, playoff matchups are set.

And when the puck drops at 7 p.m. in Tampa on Wednesday, the chaos begins.

If you're into underdog stories, last year's first round produced three upset gems: Rangers (6) over Washington (3), Ottawa (7) over Montreal (2), and Detroit (7) over Anaheim (2).

Although the NHL's new, bracket-style playoff format isn't particularly major-upset friendly, any hockey fan knows all bets are off in the spring. After all, just two years ago the owners of the last Western Conference playoff spot, the Los Angeles Kings, hoisted the Stanley Cup come June.

Since we can't go back in time and predict an L.A. over Vancouver upset in 2012 and look like pure geniuses, here's three potential opening-round upsets this time around:

WEST: Dallas (2nd wild card) over Anaheim (Conference champs)

Why there's upset potential: This series is a clash of two teams that boast big forwards and reliable goaltending. The difference is the Stars, who are in the post-season for the first time since 2008, have nothing to lose, while the Ducks are on a short leash as a predominately early-round casualty. Dallas impressively won the season series 2-1 without starter Kari Lehtonen making an appearance, but Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn will have to be on for this to have any legs.

Odds to win the Cup, according to Bodog.net: Anaheim (9/1), Dallas (50/1)

Series schedule: Game 1 (Wednesday at 10 p.m. in ANA), G2 (Friday at 10 in ANA ), G3 (Monday at 9:30 in DAL), G4 (Wed. at 8 in DAL), *G5 (Fri. at 10:30 in ANA), *G6 (Sunday at TBA in DAL), *G7 (Tuesday at TBA in ANA) *if necessary

EAST: Philadelphia (3rd in Metropolitan Division) over Rangers (2nd in Metro)

Why: Yes, the clubs were separated by only two points in the standings, but an upset's an upset and the Flyers can definitely pull this one off. Their forward depth should be a difference-maker, especially if they choose to employ their usual crash-and-bang style against the New York's defence corps. The Rangers scored just 219 goals in the regular season, second fewest among Eastern Conference playoff teams. Watch for a huge series from Claude Giroux, who has 29 points in 22 games since March 1.

Odds: Philly (20/1), Rangers (20/1)

Schedule: G1 (Thurs. at 7 in NY), G2 (Sun. at 12 in NY), G3 (Tues. at 8 in PHI), G4 (Fri. at 7 in PHI), *G5 (Sun. at 12 in NY), *G6 (Tues. at TBA in PHI), *G7 (Wed. at TBA in NY) *if necessary

WEST: Los Angeles (3rd in Pacific Division) over San Jose (2nd in Pacific)

Why: The Kings beat the Sharks in seven games last year and could very well do so again in this matchup featuring a perennial playoff choker and an against-all-odds recent champion. San Jose is bound to have trouble against a blueline featuring playoff warriors like Willie Mitchell, Robyn Regehr and Matt Greene. Oh, and Jennings Trophy winner Jonathan Quick is the last line of D. Anze Kopitar is the x-factor here, since his play at both ends of the ice is all-important to L.A.'s success.

Odds: L.A. (10/1), San Jose (9/1)

Schedule: G1 (Thurs. at 10:30 in SJ), G2 (Sun. at 10 in SJ), G3 (Tues. at 10 in LA), G4 (Thurs. at 10:30 in LA), *G5 (Sat. at TBA in SJ), *G6 (Mon. at TBA in LA), *G7 (Wed. at TBA in SJ) *if necessary


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