Isn't it absolutely brilliant to have a post-season?
Rather than sitting back and watch other teams fight it out, this year the Flames are in the main event, and I don't know about you, but I'm very excited.
Now, while we all have to stay grounded and remember this is year two of a rebuild, and we should not expect a Cup out of this team just yet, the cards the Flames have been dealt give them a reasonable hand for the first round. No disrespect to the Vancouver Canucks, but there is every reason to believe the Flames can advance to round two. Here are five of them.
The line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler has been on fire for the past two months, if not longer, with a combined total of 79 points when the three have played together. There's been little stopping them in recent times, and it will take an elite level performance by the Canucks to do just that. It's almost a certainty that if the Flames are to advance, they'll need their first line to come out on fire.
2. Heart and Grit
Don't worry, I'm not going to mention Kris Russell's shot blocks and Lance Bouma's hit tally again, but the commitment they show is evident throughout the entire team. Where would the Flames be without Josh Jooris' tenacity, or the intensity of Matt Stajan's play, or the way Mikael Backlund brings it every shift? I'll admit to not having watched a lot of the Canucks this year, but I've never got the impression that they'd be up for as much of a battle as this Flames side will be, and has been all year.
3. Hiller > Miller
Granted, Jonas Hiller does have lapses every now and again, but when he stands on his head and is at the top of his game, there aren't many who can touch him. Ryan Miller, on the other hand, I've never been convinced by. I know there aren't any genuinely bad goaltenders in the NHL, but I think when both are at their best, Hiller is better. He will need to have his good Hiller head on and perform at his peak for all (potentially) seven games, but he is capable, and I feel confident he will outperform Miller.
The same can be said about the back-ups. Eddie Lack is good, but better than Karri Ramo? He might have the experience edge on Joni Ortio but does he have his raw talent?
4. Defying The Odds
All year, we've been told that the Flames won't make the playoffs. Their luck will run out soon. They don't have the experience. They're down a captain. They can't keep going. You know what? They did keep going. They beat the defending Stanley Cup champions out of a playoff spot. They did it without their captain. All very impressive, but why stop now? Who is to say that they can't keep rolling? Do you want to tell them that they're not going to do something? Go ahead, they'll prove you wrong.
This year, I go into the Flames playoff campaign with hope, but not expectation. For me, there is no pressure on the Flames to go and win the Cup this year. The majority of fans I have seen on Twitter have just been happy to be invited to the prom - they're not concerned about going home Prom King or Queen. There's no demand that the Flames go out and sweep everybody on their way to glory - just that they give a fair account of themselves.
The same cannot necessarily be said for the Canucks. There is always an expectation for their side to do well. They demand success - naturally, you want your team to do well. That, though, means that the pressure is all on Vancouver. They have to deliver, and will be expected to deliver, by both fans and the press. So, what happens if they lose? Let's face it, there aren't going to be any riots on the Red Mile if the Flames get eliminated, are there?