By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — By now, you may be in the “acceptance” phase of the Boston Bruins’ second straight implosion. The bodies are still warm, autopsies still being performed. The sight of both the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers still playing is as repulsive as it gets for fans of the Black & Gold.
But while it can be tough to stomach Wednesday night’s kickoff of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs knowing the Bruins aren’t in it, that doesn’t mean you should avoid it entirely. As arguably the most exciting product in sports, playoff hockey is practically must-see from the jump, and this year’s first round is no exception.
Here’s how the first-round schedule shakes out, and where you can catch the games. As sickening as it is for Bruins fans to have to sit through another summer without their team making a playoff run, some of these series are simply too good to pass up.
All times are in eastern standard time (EST).
St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks: 9:30 p.m., NBC SportsNet/SportsNet 360/TVA Sports
The central division’s second and third seeds finished with the third- and fifth-best records in the NHL, respectively. And, while the Blues have bowed out in the first round for three straight seasons, on paper they are still built for playoff success. They are stout on defense and in goal and captain David Backes plays a heavy game that is tailored for springtime hockey.
The Blues go up against the league’s modern dynasty in the Blackhawks, who led by Jonathan Toews and Art Ross Trophy winner Patrick Kane can cement their legacy as not just the best team of their generation but one of the league’s great all-time runs. As easily the strongest overall matchup of the first round, Blues-Hawks is certain to deliver on the annual promise of Stanley Cup hockey.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings: 7 p.m., NBC SportsNet/CBC/TVA Sports
This is where you may need to reach for the Pepto Bismol. Tuukka Rask should have plenty left over for you.
The Red Wings essentially backed into the playoffs, losing their final two games but getting plenty of help from the Bruins to sneak into the Atlantic division’s third seed, so watching them play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is sure to make Bruins fans feel a bit queasy. The Lightning, however, will be without superstar center Steven Stamkos, who will miss at least the next three-to-four weeks following surgery to repair a blood clot in his arm. He could return in the second round at the earliest, if the Bolts make it that far. This series is closer than it looks on paper.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers: 8 p.m., USA Network/Sportsnet/TVA Sports
New York and Pittsburgh fans may get a bit flustered at first as they frantically flip through the NBC networks in search of the please-tell-me-it-didn’t-get-blacked-out showdown between the Pens and Rangers. But NBCUniversal also owns the USA Network, which it will apparently commandeer as long as there is enough playoff hockey to go around.
This would be good to watch for Bruins fans hoping for some schadenfreude with a potential Penguins meltdown, perhaps while fantasizing how the Rangers’ Keith Yandle might look in Black & Gold.
Check out NHL.com for the full first round schedule.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.