The NHL playoffs have arrived and after 82 regular season games, the remaining eight from each conference need just 16 more wins to claim the most coveted trophy in sports – the Stanley Cup.
What exactly makes the Stanley Cup so special?
It is arguably the most recognizable trophy in sports, for starters. It's also the only trophy to have every winner's name etched on the side of it. It can hold plenty of beer and champagne during celebrations and it has become a dream of every young hockey player to drink from it. But probably the coolest thing about the Stanley Cup is that every player of the winning team gets to keep the trophy for a day and do whatever they'd like with it. This has included everything from strip club visits to accidentally sinking it in Mario Lemieux's pool.
Guys will do anything to win the Cup and no superstition is too silly. Every player has their own routine and come playoff time, it becomes more than just a routine, it becomes a religion. Many also take up voodoo as a hobby.
One superstitious tradition that many players abide by is not shaving from the start of the playoffs until they're eliminated. Another is when the champions from each conference are awarded their respective trophies, the captain often will not touch it in the fear that it is bad luck and could cost his franchise the championship.
Every year there are legendary moments. This year could very well have it's fair share starting with the first round. This year's opening round has something for everyone, whether it is the classic showdown between the Bruins and Canadiens, two original six teams with a historic rivalry surrounding them or the rematch of the Red Wings and Coyotes, who could be playing for more than just the cup but rather a chance to keep their team in Phoenix.
Last year's reigning champs, the Blackhawks, managed to squeak into the playoffs on the last night of the season, thanks in part to a little help and now they square off against the Canucks, this year's President Trophy winner. This series could be the underdog story of the postseason as the Blackhawks are not nearly as bad as many think their eighth seed indicates. On the opposite end of the scale, the most evenly matched series could be the match up of the Ducks against the Predators. They had the same amount of points to end the season and it will be the Ducks stellar offense against the powerhouse that is the Predators defense.
If back and forth, high scoring affairs are what you fancy, then we suggest the Capitals and Rangers series. The Rangers have nothing to lose as the eighth seed and will need to keep pace with the Capitals' dynamic scoring if they hope to advance to the second round. Meanwhile, the Capitals are trying to avoid their third first round exit in the last four seasons.
There are plenty of storylines when April rolls around and the most interesting might be the Flyers ad their goaltending situation. The Flyers have had a history of problems in between the net but are hoping they can catch lightning in a bottle again this year but not from a familiar face but rather rookie Sergei Bobrovsky. Their defense, who is missing Chris Pronger will have to figure out a way to stop the young speedy Sabres, who just got back a healthy Ryan Miller in net.
So let that beard grow and root for your favorite team. It's going to be an exciting next two months and in the end only one team will have the privilege to skate around Lord Stanley's Cup.
Photo Courtesy of: AP Images