2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Dream First-Round Matchups
It's so close you can taste it.
The playoffs are mere weeks away, and the race for the playoffs is as close as it has ever been in both Conferences. Teams jockeying for position on a nightly basis, desperately trying to capture two more points, while hoping the teams around them suffer a not so fortunate outcome.
It is at this time every year that we start to look at who each team could potentially face in the first round, as teams seed themselves accordingly for the next two weeks before we will know the actual matchups.
For now we can all dream about the potential series' that could await us come April.
Series that we have seen in the past, and know it would turn into an all out battle, with players, coaches, and cities all who don't like each other. Whether there have been many matchups between the two teams, or only a few, there are those series every year that you cannot help but hope for.
The is a series you know you just cannot miss.
Here are the best potential first-round series this year.
Excuse me while I dream out loud.
Vancouver Canucks vs. Chicago Blackhawks
I know the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks have no real storied history, or classic playoff series against each other, but judging by the events that took place in their last game, this has got to be a matchup worth seeing!
On March 29 in Chicago the Canucks won 4-0, but that was not the story after the game. In the third period a series of massive brawls on the ice broke out. There were six 10-minute misconduct penalties handed out in the 3rd, and overall in that one period, there were 18 penalties handed out. 22 in total for the game.
Vancouver forward Alex Burrows was even accused of pulling the hair of Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith during one of the scrums; and that is something the players won't forget.
In the fight between Kevin Bieksa and Ben Eager (after Eager ran over Roberto Luongo) the two players hardly had any equipment left on once it was over; an old school hockey fight.
The refs found themselves in the middle of two players more than once, and multiple players were thrown out for trying to get out of the grasp of the officials and attempting to continue a fight. The Canucks' Shane O'Brien was ejected for throwing punches over the back of an official as he was being held.
The game not only had fights, but Martin Havlat was awarded a penalty shot, Luongo got his seventh shutout of the season, and there were plenty of highlight-reel goals to satisfy.
After the game the teams engaged in a war of words commenting on the things each team had done throughout the game, clearly unhappy.
And that was all just in one game, imagine a whole series?
The way it stands now, these two have a very good chance of meeting in the first round, with only who gets home-ice to be decided at this point.
Two teams with a score to settle before the series even begins; what more could you possibly ask for?
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
It has been called the Pennsylvania Cold War.
The teams first met on Oct. 19, 1967, and since then there has been more blood shed and teeth lost (just ask Sidney Crosby) than you could ever imagine.
There is no brotherly love when these rivals meet up at any point in the season, but especially come playoff time. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers do not like each other one bit, as was proven in last season's Eastern Conference Finals.
The two teams met in the 2008 Playoffs with the winner getting a spot in the Finals. The series was exactly what you would expect between these two teams, and there was certainly no love lost. Pittsburgh won in convincing fashion taking the series 4-1, but it was not an easy series on them physically.
These two teams have had some of the most memorable games against each other with some of the best players to ever lace them up on the ice.
May 4, 2000 will always been known to the fans as "The Game"; as in the playoff game that took four overtime periods before Keith Primeau scored to tie the series 2-2.
More recently, on Nov. 16, 2005 in Philly, Sidney Crosby had been swarmed all game by the Flyers defense, and eventually was hit so hard by Darian Hatcher that it knocked three of his teeth out. The fans booed Crosby non-stop, but their hatred for him really began when he later scored the overtime winner on a breakaway in what lead to one of his most memorable celebrations: hands in the air, big smile, missing teeth.
You just know that if these two teams were to meet up again in the first round, not only would we witness some of the best players in the league going up against each other, but you could bet your two front teeth that there would be blood left on the ice after it was done.
This is one war we don't want to see the end of.
New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils
Sean Avery vs. Martin Brodeur.
Yeah, that is all you need to say to get excited about this potential first-round, cross-river show down.
The last thing we remember of Sean Avery in a New York Rangers uniform is him skating past New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur after their playoff series last season, avoiding each other during the handshake.
After the game Avery referred to his counterpart as "fatso", clearly showing that these two do not like each other.
And you know as soon as game one starts if they are to meet up in round one, Avery is heading right for the front of the net yet again. Heck, last year the NHL had to implement a new rule because of these two.
And it seems like both these guys have come back to their respective teams just in time for a little post-season drama.
This is a series we have to see.
Already rivals because of the closeness of the two cities, these teams need little to pump them up for game against each other. But with the Devils trying to keep Avery away from their goaltender, and the Rangers trying to get under the skin of Brodeur, it can only lead to a few on-ice explosions.
Nothing wrong with that.
With both teams playing some of their best hockey of the season right now, it could be not only a very physical clash, but a long emotional series as well.
This matchup is entirely possible in the first round, but one we will not know about until the final game, because of the tightness of the teams around them. The Devils lead the season series 3-2 coming into their March 30th game.
If you wanted a good storyline for a playoff series, this one is about as good as it gets.
Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames
The Battle of Alberta.
The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames have not faced each other in a playoff series since 1990-1991, when the Oilers beat the Flames in seven games.
The chances of it happening in the first round this year are slim, with Calgary sitting in third, and Edmonton five points out of sixth place with half a dozen games to go, but it could still happen.
These two heated rivals have played four games this year, each winning two, and will battle one another in a home-and-home series for the final two games of the season.
Not only would those two final games be a warm-up to their series, but it would send two already hockey-mad cities into an all out frenzy with anticipation.
The "C'of Red" in one rink, Oiler Nation in the other; it could only lead to a great series with an incredible atmosphere in both cities for the duration of the first round.
A first round Battle of Alberta would not only supply every fan with a good old fashioned Canadian matchup, but it would light a fire under both cities, and possibly propelling the winner of the series on a deep playoff run.
Or, they would come out of the matchup so beaten up and tired that their next opponent would run them over without much of a fight.
But at least the first round will have been one wild ride, Western Canadian style.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.
The story that everyone wanted to happen, finally did this season as the two both physically and verbally battled it out after a game last month, clearly stating to everyone that they do not like each other.
If they were sick of one another after one game, we can only imagine the fun they could have with each other during a whole series. Both trying to out-do the other, while keeping an eye out for any shot possible at their fellow superstar.
And there is so much more to these teams than just those two. You could argue that four of the top ten offensive players in the league would take part in the series (Crosby, Malkin, Semin, Ovechkin), and with each team playing a goaltender more than willing to allow their fair share of goals, it could be a rather high scoring event.
The Washington Capitals won the season series 3-1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins this year, but you know last years Eastern Conference Champions would not be an easy team to beat come playoff time.
The teams have little history together in the playoffs, but with the talent that each team has, and the hatred they seem to have for each other, this looks to be only the beginning of a long rivalry between the two teams.
We can only hope that chapter one includes a first round matchup this year.
Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens
You knew this was coming.
Two teams that have faced each so many times since the Original Six days, the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins are one of the NHL's longest, and most heated rivals. Having met for 31 playoff matchups since 1928, the two teams and their fans have certainly gotten to know each other.
They even went on a streak of nine straight years meeting in the playoffs from 1984-1992.
No matter what is at stake, when these two teams do battle, it is always intense, and always an all-out war.
Since the 2001-2002 season, the two have met three times in the playoffs (2002, 2004, 2008), Montreal winning all three series'. This has lead to many believing that no matter how the two teams are playing throughout the season; the Bruins simply cannot beat the Habs in the playoffs.
The Bruins hope to quiet these critics this season if they meet up once again, as they sit first in the East. In the five games the teams have played each other this year; Boston has a 4-0-1 record, with their final game to take place on April 9th.
There have been so many classic moments between the two teams in the past three playoff matchups, with controversy at the center of it all.
As a fan of the game this in one series that you just cannot miss. As it stands right now, the two teams would meet in the first round.
Let’s hope it stays that way, because there isn't even a question about how good this series would be.