Ahhh, the playoffs. I would be easy for Flames fans to forget what springtime hockey is like, were it not for the Canucks keeping our hatred and desire to watch alive and the great number of people who will surely be cheering for Jarome Iginla and the Penguins in this year's run.
But no matter how much you warm up to a team during those two months in the early summer, no matter how much you want to see Iggy or Robyn Regehr or Jay Bouwmeester hoist that cup, it will never be quite the same as seeing your own team achieve the same feat. And we all the know the Flames are practically light years away from doing so.
So for the time being, here's a short preview of tonight's action:
Despite the fact that the Kings failed to secure home ice advantage in this series, they seem to be considered the favourite to win this one by most. I think this will be a real tough series because both teams are pretty evenly matched offensively and defensively, but I think the Kings advance here, they just have more potential firepower to get the job done offensively. Plus, I have three Kings in my playoff pool.
Players to watch: Former Flames Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold and Adam Cracknell, ex-Oiler whipping boy Dustin Penner, Anze Kopitar, Blues rookie Vladimir Tarasenko (who is a healthy scratch tonight as T.J. Oshie returns to the lineup).
I have a hard time seeing this series going any longer than four or five games, especially if Niklas Backstrom is injured (CBC cameras showed him limping off the ice during warmups), but Josh Harding getting the start in the playoffs for the Wild will be an inspirational story after he was diagnosed with MS last fall. Jason Pominville will not play tonight as he is still recovering from a concussion. The Blackhawks scored 33 more goals than the Wild in the regular season and allowed 25 less.
Players to watch: Josh Harding, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, pretty much everyone on the Blackhawks.
The Red Wings are not what they used to be, but they're certainly not dead yet. The Anaheim Ducks are a prime example of a team that rode the percentages in a shortened season and finished much higher than they likely would have in an 82-game season. Both teams have some difference makers in the lineup and the Ducks have the required forward depth for a potential playoff run. I think I like their chances better in net, too.
Players to watch: Former Flames Matt Lombardi and Toni Lydman, Danny DeKeyser, Teemu Selanne, Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit's kid line of Damien Brunner, Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist.
Go Kings and Blackhawks!