Monday, April 13, 2015

Let The Real Hockey Begin!

Finally, yet another slog of a regular season is done. The LA Kings and Boston Bruins are out of the playoffs. What more can Canucks fans ask for?

OK, let's get started. We have another season the likes of which we haven't seen since six "new" teams made the playoffs back in 2010. Seven teams this season made it in after not being in the playoffs last year (or in the Calgary Flames' case for six years...or for fans in Winnipeg since 1996 their team has not been thrashed in the playoffs!).

Anyway, it might be sexy to jump on the Alfred E. Hamburglar bandwagon and pick the Sens. Or ride the "it never worked" White-Out in Winnipeg and think the Jets are going deep.

Well, you're fighting history. Sure playoff experience is useful, but who knew that since 2010 of 23 teams that made the playoffs that had missed at least the year previous, only three actually managed to make it past the first round.

The 2011 Tampa Bay Rolosons got all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals riding that Guy Boucher 1-3-1 defensive system. They lucked out in rd. 1 that season as their opponent, the Pittsburgh Penguins, had a certain Sidney Crosby out with a concussion courtesy of Victor Hedman of the 'Ning with an assist to David Steckel in the Winter Classic. And, oh yeah, Evgeni Malkin tore his ACL and MCL that season.

Then in rd. 2 the 'Ning swept the perennial choker Washington Capitals and pushed the Bruins to seven in the Conference Finals which included that very bizarre Game 7 1-0 win by the B's with all of no penalties called in the game.

One other team to break this odd trend was the 2012 New Jersey Devils. In the first rd. they played the Florida Panthers (who were also newcomers to the playoffs so some "rookie" team was going to finally win a round anyway). The Devils then beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4 games to 1 in a series where the team that scored first lost every game. The Cloven Helmeted Ones then beat the New York Rangers and made it all the way to the Final where in Martin Brodeur's "Final" swansong lost to the LA KIngs in a battle of the two most boring teams in the NHL.

Oh, yeah, and the perennially mediocre St. Louis Blues managed to win their first rd. series vs. the Western Conference version of the Caps, the San Jose Sharks, and then got swept by the El Lay Sutters.

So, buyer beware of going with the Sens, Preds or Jets. For at least two 1st rd. series you can take your pick as the Flames vs. Canucks and Caps vs. Islanders series have all four teams returning to the playoffs after being on the outside last season.

Which brings us back to the good news for Canucks' fans. Just like the 2012 Devils rode that matchup against a Florida team that had not made the playoffs the previous ten seasons, the Canucks are facing a Flames' team that, as stated before, had missed the playoffs for six straight seasons. They're also playing a team without their best defenceman in injured Mark Giordano so are the Sedin stars aligned for a rebound from 2011 disappointment for a 2015 deep playoff run?

Or, if you're a cup half-empty person, the last time the Flames broke a long missing the playoffs drought (seven seasons of no Red Mile at the time) was back in 2004. Now what happened back then? I seemed to have erased that from my Martin Gelinas memory bank.

Ah, the Alex Auld years