A few years back when the NHL lost their entire season to a lockout, I learned a valuable lesson. I didn't notice that hockey was missing from my life, and I didn't need to follow it anymore. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who thought that. Such a few number of people seemed to care that the NHL went to the one network you go to when you fall off the face of the earth, the Versus Network.
I don't know if you've watched a game on the Versus Network, I can't get it. Apparently not too many people can, and those that can, don't watch it. That is why the Versus Network was in danger of folding up shop in the middle of the playoffs. But the NHL is a tough cookie, and it carries on. Therefore, it becomes necessary that you might need to know something during this NHL playoff season. Oh, if you didn't know, the NHL playoff season is right now.
So here it is, your handy guide to the NHL Playoffs.
(1) Buffalo Sabres vs. (8) NY Islanders
The Buffalo Sabres won the President's Trophy (Best record in the league), though it doesn't really specify which President the trophy originally belonged to. The NHL has a Commissioner. And the United States doesn't follow hockey, and I'm not sure Canada has a President, so not really sure if the trophy is significant or not. The Sabres are led by Daniel Briere, Thomas Vanek, and Chris Drury. Chris Drury is the only one that sounds familiar to me (Thank you, NHL 1998) But obviously, they all must be fantastic. They do have an American goalie, which through this process, I learned is very rare. Ryan Miller has had a great season, and in hockey, the goalie will win you games. At least that's what Barry Melrose is telling me every morning on Sportscenter. Really, I'm just starring at his mullet.
Who you should be cheering for: Michael Funk, he brings the funk and the noise.
The Islanders are just excited to be in the playoffs as the Untouchables of the New York hockey scene. Does New York have a hockey scene anymore? They're led by Jason Blake and Mike Sillinger, but every team has to watch out for Chris Simon. If you don't, he'll hit you across the face with his hockey stick. In the pipes for the Islanders is Rick DiPietro, who recently signed a 10 year deal for more money then any hockey player should make. Didn't we learn anything from the lockout?
Who you should be cheering for: Miroslav Satan, it's actually pronounced (Sah-tan)
(2) New Jersey Devils vs. (7) Tampa Bay Lightning
The New Jersey Devils seem to always be good. Apparently not playing for two years doesn't change anything. Back in the day when I was a Flyers fan I hated these guys. Now, I suppose I can still root against them. They're led by Patrick Elias and Scott Gomez, but as it has been for the last 10 years, they're led by Martin Broeduer in goal. He's good. He stops the puck.
Who you should be cheering for: Jaime Lagenbrunner, built Ford tough, wait is he Canadian?
The Tampa Bay Lightning winning the Stanley Cup might have actually been what killed hockey. I mean it is Tampa Bay. People move to Tampa Bay to stop being cold. Hockey, you might have expanded a little too much. The Lightning are led by Vincent Lecavilier and Martin St. Louis, your perfect hockey names. Just makes you want to crack open a LeBatt Blue. Their goalie is Johan Holmqvist. I told you we'd be done with the Americans very shortly.
Who you should be cheering for: Nikita Alexeev, it reminds me of LeFemme Nikita, remember that show? She was hot. At least I think so, I was 10.
(3) Atlanta Thrashers vs. (6) NY Rangers
Another one of those classic hockey towns, the Atlanta Thrashers. They're led by Marian Hossa and Slava Kozlov. I can totally see them partying it up with Luda. They're in Luda's next single, he just is trying to figure out what rhymes with Kozlov. In net, the Thrashers have Kari Lehtonen. If the NHL had been such an international game in the 60s, Senator McCarthy would've had a field day.
Who you should be cheering for: Garnet Exelby, I don't' have a joke, but I like his name
If you're the NHL does it even matter if you have a major market in the playoffs? Just to be safe they better rig it so they get to the Stanley Cup Finals. Though with Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka scoring goals and Henrik Lundqvist in net, they might have a chance. That last sentence made it sound like they really had a chance, but really who knows. Jagr has got to be like 42 right? I mean the league didn't happen for a year and everyone got old.
Who you should be cheering for: Thomas Pock, because it sounds like puck. That's what they play with in hockey, a puck.
(4) Ottawa Senators vs. (5) Pittsburgh Penguins
In a battle of two actual hockey towns, Ottawa is led by, what has to be a feel good story, Dany Heatley. After being in a near death car crash as a passenger with his best friend and teammate, he has found a new home in Atlanta, and who knew, he's really good. But then again, if you were in a near death car crash and survived, I hope God would make you really really good too. Daniel Alfredson is also really good, but his story doesn't make you feel good. Ray Emery is their goalie. Never heard of him.
Who you should be cheering for: Danny Bois, "OH DANNY BOIS!!!"
Good news, the Penguins didn't get moved to Kansas City. If Pittsburgh can't keep a team, how can the NHL really survive? I mean they rigged the draft so they could get Sidney Crosby "The Next Greztky" and Evgeni Malkin "The Next "Insert Good Russian Here"". And as soon as those two are old enough to drink, Pittsburgh will be a force. Especially with Marc-Andre Fleury in goal. Okay, they may need a goalie.
Who you should be cheering for: Nils Ekman
So there is your Eastern Conference preview. Just in case, ya know, you find yourself trapped in a bar, in Canada with a guy with a mullet on one side of you and a mountie on the other side. That way, you can sit back relax, and knock back a few LaBatts. Just in case you find yourself in Western Canada, check back in a few days for your guide to the Western Conference.