The time really has flown by hasn't it?
Last year it seemed as if I was emotionally prepared for the playoffs in January. Each game leading up to April was nothing but a stepping stone-- the days sort of bled into one long dance with the devil, where I would pretend to be focused on the game at hand but inevitably stray into dreams of Patrick Marleau lifting the Stanley Cup above his head as the HP Pavilion crowd roared above him. Losses and wins came and went, the silky symphony of hope humming it's tune for nearly two months.
This year, it's been different. The losses have cut more, the wins have tasted more sweet. The ups and downs have been like a wave from the sea, carrying me along this ride. I think that's a good thing really-- staying in the moment is probably the best route to take. It keeps you grounded, even when you are at the mercy of something out of your control.
Last night was the first night when it really hit me. The playoffs are in one week. Seven days from now we will be picking up our emotional battle axes and going toe to toe with an opposing fanbase, and probably duking it out with demons inside of our own souls. I knew this day would come cognitively-- a calendar is a calendar, it really has no intentions of lying to you. I flipped it to April and understood what that meant.
But my heart? My heart was surprised by the force it was hit with at 10:47 PM. This is the real deal right now. There's no time left to try and brace yourself, mentally prepare for something you can't possibly prepare for. In one week we will all lose our goddamn minds. We will become animals, addicts, looking for meaning in the utter chaos of random chance and emotional variance.
It's the best feeling in the world.
I sat down with all intentions of breaking down the post-Olympic numbers in some thought out article with serious analysis-- and I have some bullet points after the jump-- but right now, go with your gut in the poll. Whoever San Jose ends up drawing doesn't really matter. Of course it does. It most definitely does. But what if it doesn't? The desired result is four wins no matter who is staring down Joe Thornton at center ice, no matter who Douglas Murray is pasting across the boards. Score more goals than the other guys. Simple.
It's really the best feeling in the world.
What we have here is similar to a study from earlier this season-- all I'm doing is re-ranking San Jose's potential first round opponents according to winning percentage since the Olympics. Let's take a look:
|RK ||Team ||W ||L ||GSO ||GF/G ||GA/G ||SF/G ||SA/G ||PP% ||PK%
- Oh Detroit. How I would love for San Jose to slay that beast in the first round. But I am scared of you. You have handled San Jose well this year, and have been historically dominant at Joe Louis Arena for nearly the entire Sharks history (with all due respect to Jamie Baker's heroics). Franzen, Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Cleary, Holmstrom, Rafalski... the list goes on and on. I need to avoid you like the plague.
- Ah yes, Nashville. So glad of you to join us once again this season. The whipping boy of postseason's past. But you've kind of grown up now haven't you? Shea Weber is now a man, able to stand up next to a mountain and chop it down with the edge of his hand. There's something about you that I don't quite trust, despite all of the success I have had against you in the past. The blueline is really good, and the forward group you have amassed is underrated. Barry Trotz is one of the most unheralded coaches of recent memory despite getting everything out of his rag tag outfit. I would wearily accept your challenge.
- Calgary. So nice to meet you again. This year you've fallen on hard times, and Jarome Iginla is not quite the shining beacon of success and dominance he used to be. Rene Bourque has helped to fill that spot admirably though, and there's always that sexiness of a potential Flames matchup filled with low scoring games and physical play along the boards. To say nothing of the blueline. I know you guys have underperformed all season, but behind a resurgence from Miikka Kiprusoff, I still have faith in you. I know what Regehr and Bouwmeester are capable of, especially if HTML stays together and Sutter decides to hard match all series. Do you get it done? No, I don't think your forward group is up to it. But can I really ever count you out? I would wearily accept your challenge.
- The earthquake in Southern California following the Kings making the playoffs... well, I'm just not so sure how to feel about that. Some may see it as a bad omen, but I think it's a sign that it may have upset the balance of nature. These things just aren't supposed to happen. The sky is blue, the grass is green, the Kings are still supposed to be rebuilding. Hell, I had you penciled in since the third game of the year, but seeing an "x" next to your name on the Conference standings looks more like a map for buried treasure than a confirmed postseason spot. I have some awful feelings about hockey karma coming into play here, along with the prospect of facing another California team in the first round, and yet... I would accept your challenge.
- Colorado. There's some history here. Granted we can't rely on Teemu Selanne to miss a wraparound goal to break our hearts, but your quick forward group has proved it would be able to. Matt Duchene is an angel from on high, and I'd probably have to write a post apologizing for hating his guts for two weeks in the event we were blessed with a matchup. And yet, something tells me this is a good one for San Jose. You have been slipping since the Olympic Break, Craig Anderson is running out of gas. The first period last night gave me hope, and the second period took that away. Was that by your design, or was it a product of San Jose's own demons? I tend to side with the latter. I would happily accept your challenge.
With the Chicago Blackhawks looking like they may have figured it out finally, a two seed is still a distinct possibility-- if both San Jose and Chicago win out, the Blackhawks pick up the top seed in the West due to tiebreaker. Right now, the first seed is partially out of San Jose's control.
That puts a matchup with Detroit right back into the spotlight, because Los Angeles is only a point out from sixth with a game in hand. Frightening really.
Outside of the Red Wings, San Jose should beat whoever they play in the first round on paper. It's getting them to execute right now that is the issue, and I couldn't tell you if that translates into the postseason this year. You couldn't tell you that. The trends aren't promising, but until game one, I guess we'll never know.
Give me Colorado and I'll be happy.