Last season's 48-game schedule meant that there was no inter-conference play, which was really unfortunate. I, for one, really enjoy getting the chance to see how the Leafs fare against so many different combinations of skills and systems, and although it's not as though Nashville and Toronto have some great rivalry, it's still cool to see the two teams play.
"But give me a Leafs-Habs game over this any day of the week! There is so much less at stake when the Leafs face a Western Conference opponent!" Ah, but therein lies the joy. First, it's nice not to have to worry about a 'loser point' going to a bunch of crumbums in, say, Ottawa. Second, without games that don't add to a longstanding rivalry, it's difficult to fully appreciate the games against more familiar foes.
"But what's a rivalry, anyway? To the players, it's just another game." Maybe, but I doubt it. If you ever played hockey in high school, you felt greater pressure to perform when you were up against a school with which yours had some sort of traditional rivalry. Even if you know exactly 0 of the other team's players, you know that your friends and neighbors are excited, and you don't want to let them down. Moreover (particularly if you're from Canada), you understand that the outcome of a Leafs game can lead to some serious inter-office ribbing if things go poorly. Growing up within a French community as a kid, my life in the 90's was like The Hockey Sweater in reverse.
So maybe the Preds aren't our greatest foes. It'd sure be great to pick up two points, especially when the Habs just lost to the Flames (lol) and the Sens went down in OT to the Kings.
Here are some links:
New post from a new blog called Bernier Stops That.
With Steve Dangle - so there's lots of Leafs-related matter.
Cam Charron with a bit on replacement players.