I'd complain about the Leafs not being here but, eh, I'm used to it. Right now, we have round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs to occupy us, around 4 games a night for the next two weeks, this is fantastic stuff. Tonight we have 4 games, two east, two west. Let's jump right into it.
Ottawa Senators at Montreal Canadiens
7:00P - CBC, NHLNet-US, TVA
SBN: Silver Seven Sens / Eyes on the Prize
Season Series: Ottawa won 3-1-0 - 14GF 9GA
Ex-Leafs: Clarke MacArthur (OTT)
Quick numbers (via Hockey-Reference.com)
This one could easily be nicknamed the "Meteor Series" since it's the one most of you will be cheering for a meteor to strike the arena. The Canadiens sailed along at the top of the Atlantic division for most of the season, riding high on the goal tending of Carey Price all year. Ottawa was a bubble/lottery team for most of the season when both of their NHL regulars were injured and they were forced to call up their AHL goalie, a desperate move since he had an 0.898 save% and 3.51 GAA. He shocked people by posting a 20-1-2 record and 1.79 GAA / 0.941 SV%. You never want to face a hot goalie and a streaking team heading into the playoffs and the Canadiens have to face that in their opening round. Whether the Senators win the round or not, Sens fans have enjoyed the ride to get here and the rest is gravy.
New York Islanders at Washington Capitals
7:00P - USA, TVA2, Sportsnet, MSG+, CSN-DC
SBN: Lighthouse Hockey / Japers Rink
Season Series: Isles win 2-1-0-1 - 11GF 13GA
Ex-Leafs: Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolay Kulemin (NYI)
The New York Islanders are my feel good story of the playoffs. Leaving their home for the past 43 years and moving to a new town, new arena, (but the same island) what would be better than closing the old barn by parading the cup around the ice one last time? Then kick off your first game (let's not pretend like exhibition games count at all) in your new home by raising the fifth Stanley Cup banner to the rafters. Brings a tear to my eye. The Capitals, however won't let this happen easily. Having a top line dominated by one of the best players in today's game is a pretty big plus, Braden Holtby has been playing very well for the Caps, and Nicklas Backstrom skating as the top Centre will make this a pretty good series to watch.
Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators
8:30P - NBCSN, TVA3, Sportsnet360, CSN-CH, FS-TN
SBN: Second City Hockey / On the Forecheck
Season Series - Chicago wins 3-1-0 - 12GF 9GA
Ex-Leafs: Cody Franson & Mike Santorelli (NSH)
As a Leafs fan this is an easy series to root for. A Chicago sweep of Nashville gets the Preds out of the playoffs fast and helps to secure our second first round pick as best as it could be. The Blackhawks will have Patrick Kane back for round one, adding him to Johnathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Brad Richards, Brandon Saad who can run around and tire out Shea Weber, making their only obstacle Pekka Rinne, who returned after missing most of 13/14 and never looked like he missed a game let alone a season. another hopefully good series to watch, but again, only for 4 games.
Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks
10:00P - CBC, TVA, USA
SBN: Matchsticks & Gasoline / Nucks Misconduct
Season Series - Vancouver wins 2-2-0 - 9GF 8GA
Ex-Leafs: Matt Stajan, Mason Raymond, & Joe Colborne (CGY)
Finally tonight, we have Calgary vs Vancouver. The Flames are an up and coming young team who few thought would make the playoffs and are this years "Fuck you and your fancy stats" team. Securing a playoff spot when losing Captain and best defenseman Mark Giordano was especially impressive. The Canucks however are the team that's heading in the opposite direction. Getting older, past the prime, with that winning window closing on them. Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack sharing the starting role over the season, the Sedins still leading the team in scoring, but not by as much will come into play in this series. this series being paired with the Sens/Habs series on CBC will be a boone to Rogers ratings.
Flames and Sens fans are both the most excited in these playoffs, because their teams are doing what many said couldn't be done. What if these teams met in the finals? Can the Habs ride hot goal tending to cover up questionable coaching for another 2 months? Will the Islanders play out the fairy tale end to this season? Can the Blackhawks hold off their central rival? Let's find out, it's hockey night tonight.