Wednesday Morning – Let the Games Begin!
The second (and better) National Hockey League season begins tonight. We were talking the other day about how the final positions for the playoff ladder were still unsettled with only one regular season game left to play, and it proved to be exciting right up until Sunday night. In the Eastern Conference the 8th and final slot wasn't confirmed until the Carolina Hurricanes went flat and lost their game and their place in the playoffs. All they needed was one point, but they gave up 3 goals in the first period and never came close to coming back. That handed the first round entry to the New York Rangers.
The Western Conference was just as unsettled. The defending league champions Chicago Black Hawks had to win their last game to clinch a slot, but they lost to Detroit in an exciting nationally televised game. They still had a chance to sneak into the playoffs if Dallas were to lose their game later that evening and the Stars obliged by losing. The whole bottom tier of the Western Conference was so close that if Chicago had won that final game they would have finished in 5th place.
Well, the "if only's" and the "what if's" are done now, and the first round of the run for the Stanley Cup begins tonight and tomorrow. The quality of play and intensity get ramped up during the playoffs and the entertainment factor is huge. And every year there is at least on giant-killer who knocks off a highly-seeded team in the first round. Last year three of the top four seeds in the East were eliminated in the first round. So who do you think will be the goat this year? Here are the matchups for the opening round: Note for the casual observer, the top four seeds have the home-ice advantage in the first round and the series are best-of-seven contests.
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Chicago Black Hawks — Wednesday
(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (7) Los Angeles Kings — Thursday
(3) Detroit Red Wings vs. (6) Phoenix Coyotes — Wednesday
(4) Anaheim Ducks vs. (5) Nashville Predators — Wednesday
(1) Washington Capitals vs. (8) New York Rangers — Wedmesday
(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (7) Buffalo Sabres — Thursday
(3) Boston Bruins vs. (6) Montreal Canadiens — Thursday
(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning — Wednesday
For the purely entertainment value, let's hope that the Boston – Montreal games get good television coverage. An established and strong rivalry between those two teams guarantees a great series. Tonight's network game in the U. S. is the Capitals – Rangers game on Versus Network.
Now let's find our own entertainment and get our equipment checked out for today. I'm going to make sure there's plenty of coffee ready.
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