As the weather in our fine city finally begins to warm up, it's appropriate to turn our thoughts to yet another major league sport in which we have no representation: the National Hockey League. While the NHL's playoff coverage seems to fall short of even the Winter Classic, it's no doubt the most exciting time for any fan of the game. And, despite our desert climate resulting in balmy temperatures that have touched the 90s during the last few days and the absence of a truly local team to root for, even Burquenos can cheer during hockey's post-season.
Unfortunately, our seems-to-be-practically-local team the Denver Avalanche did not make the postseason this year. However, our next closest consolation team did, and the Phoenix Coyotes beat the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. The Coyotes will next meet up with fellow Western Conference victors the Nashville Predators, who took out the Detroit Red Wings in the gentleman's sweep of five games. On the other side of the Western bracket sit the Los Angeles Kings and the St. Louis Blues, both of whom dismissed their competition in five games as well. The Kings' victory over the Vancouver Canucks was particularly dramatic – if only for the fact that the Canucks were the top seed in the West. All three other winners in the West have been the better seed.
In the Eastern Conference, things are a bit more complicated. ThePhiladelphia Flyers are the only team to make it out of the first round so far, and they did so in a violence-filled series with the Pittsburgh Penguins – in-state rivals, recent winners of the Stanley Cup, and, the higher seed. The bad blood between the two Pennsylvania teams has been well-documented, and the Flyers seemed extremely pleased to grab a measure of respect back after the Pens took home the Cup in 2009.
Meanwhile, all the other series in the East are still being played. The New Jersey Devils held on Tuesday night, to force the Florida Panthers to try to close the deal on Thursday. The New York Rangers, on the other hand, are in the midst of a furious dog fight that few saw coming. As the top-seeded team in the East, their ascendance over the Ottowa Senators was supposed to be a preliminary battle. However, the two teams have traded games over the past two weeks and on Thursday, they'll settle things in New York.
Last and not least, our defending champions the Boston Bruins will play a Game 7 against perennial choke artists the Washington Capitals. While not the presumed-cakewalk of a 1-8 matchup, Boston's 2 seed should have given them plenty of advantage over the Caps, but after finding themselves down 2-3, they stormed back in overtime against Washington, setting up the greatest of sports showdowns.
With three game 7s in the next two days, it'd be foolish to let the opportunity to see some great hockey slip away.