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Ranking Stanley Cup Playoffs 2014: Which first-round series is must-see?

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy
Flyers
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PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 09: A fan of the Philadelphia Flyers displays an inflatable Stanley Cup prior to the start of Game Six of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Wachovia Center on June 9, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

The 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs are set, the schedule is done and now comes the hard part: Rearranging your life around the opening round series.

Fret not, puckheads: There is a way to figure out which battles are worthy of your time and which ones are merely appetizers to a better main course in Round 2.

Your friends at Puck Daddy now provide you with a handy ranking of the eight first-round series, based on the following factors: Star Power, Secondary Plotlines, Hate, Controversy, Arena Atmosphere, Game 7 Probability and the potential for awesome playoff facial masterpieces, a.k.a. Beard-o-sity.

Each category gets a number grade from 1-to-10, with 10 being the highest grade.

So which playoff series ranked highest in our very scientific poll?

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8. Anaheim Ducks at Dallas Stars

Star Power - 7
Secondary Plotlines - 7
Hate Factor - 2
Controversy Quotient - 3
Arena Atmosphere - 7
Game 7 Probability - 3
Beard-o-sity - 4

FINAL SCORE: 33

This series is carried by the Ducks’ star power (apologies to Tyler Seguin) and secondary plot lines: Can Bruce Boudreau avoid another playoff flop? Who plays in goal? And the end of the Ducks’ run is the end of Teemu’s NHL career … *sob*. But other than that and the presence of Stephane Robidas, this is a 1-vs-8 series featuring two teams that’ll have to develop hate in the moment.

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7. Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild

Star Power - 7
Secondary Plotlines - 3
Hate Factor - 5
Controversy Quotient - 5
Arena Atmosphere - 8
Game 7 Probability - 6
Beard-o-sity - 4

FINAL SCORE: 38

There are plenty of names to pay attention to in this series, including the head coach of the Avalanche, whose very presence nets this series a ‘5’ in Controversy. Otherwise, the hockey world waits to see what comes crashing back down to earth first: The Wild’s goaltending or the entirety of the Avalanche. The Beard-o-sity here struggles from a lack of roughage from Parise and Suter, and the fact the average age of the Avalanche is around 16.

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6. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Star Power - 6
Secondary Plotlines - 7
Hate Factor - 4
Controversy Quotient - 3
Arena Atmosphere - 10
Game 7 Probability - 5
Beard-o-sity - 4

FINAL SCORE: 39

This series is an intriguing one, given what’s at stake for both franchises. You have Columbus, in their second playoff appearance, expecting an invading army of Penguins fans at home and with a chance to put their team on the map with a win. You have the Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury and Dan Bylsma looking for postseason redemption, and the best player in the world looking for another Cup. The Beard-o-sity could be higher; alas, there are many unknown follicles on the Jackets, although whatever the hell Sid grows is always worth an extra point.

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5. Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Star Power - 6
Secondary Plotlines - 3
Hate Factor - 2
Controversy Quotient - 5
Arena Atmosphere - 9
Game 7 Probability - 9
Beard-o-sity - 8

FINAL SCORE: 42

The Game 7 probability lives and dies on the health of Ben Bishop, but let’s assume he’s a go. What are we left with? Two evenly matched teams, outside of the Habs’ PK advantage (the special teams, not the star defenseman) and Tampa’s advantage 5-on-5. Not exactly scintillating. That said, two rocking arenas, Steven Stamkos and some better than average Beard-o-sity thanks to the existence of Radko Gudas.

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4. Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings

Star Power - 7
Secondary Plotlines - 5
Hate Factor - 3
Controversy Quotient - 6
Arena Atmosphere - 10
Game 7 Probability - 7
Beard-o-sity - 7

FINAL SCORE: 45

This meeting between Original Sixers would score higher on plotlines and hate if these franchises had a little more recent history with each other. As it stands, the Controversy Quotient remains high because (a) it’s the Bruins and (b) Niklas Kronwall could potentially send Brad Marchand into orbit at some point. But from atmosphere to star players to beard potential – especially if Zetterberg returns – this is a must-see series.

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3. New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Star Power - 7
Secondary Plotlines - 6
Hate Factor - 10
Controversy Quotient - 8
Arena Atmosphere - 9
Game 7 Probability - 8
Beard-o-sity - 7

FINAL SCORE: 55

This is the kind of series the NHL envisioned when it went back to quasi-divisional playoffs: Two ancient rivals meeting in the first round to beat the ever-loving crap out of each other in an intense, brutal series. Everyone hates each other, there’s plenty of room for stupid undisciplined plays and the indignant responses to them from the opponent. Good, dirty, unwholesome fun.

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2. St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Star Power - 7
Secondary Plotlines - 4
Hate Factor - 10
Controversy Quotient - 10
Arena Atmosphere - 10
Game 7 Probability - 8
Beard-o-sity - 7

FINAL SCORE: 56

The Blues’ late season tumble gives us one of the better matchups of the postseason on paper, as these division rivals will meet in what one expects to be a physical, contentious series. Plenty of intrigue on the Blues’ side with their injuries and Ryan Miller, whose mission to solidify the crease was derailed in the last few weeks. Really any series with the Blackhawks is going to be full of drama and on-the-borderline play; having David Backes, Steve Ott and Max Lapierre on the other side of the ice means something’s going down …

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1. San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Star Power - 9
Secondary Plotlines - 7
Hate Factor - 10
Controversy Quotient - 9
Arena Atmosphere - 9
Game 7 Probability - 10
Beard-o-sity - 7

FINAL SCORE: 61

Well, this should be fun. The San Jose Sharks look like a Cup contender. The Los Angeles Kings are one of the best-built playoff teams in the NHL. And oh, the drama: Drew Doughty vs. the Sharks’ best offensive talent; San Jose’s goaltending headache; the return of super rookie Tomas Hertl; Jonathan Quick, looking to ease Olympic pain with another Cup; and Dustin Brown probably hitting someone to cause a brawl. Factor in some great face foliage from both teams, and this is going to be like televised crack.

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