Now, we embark on the most special of times in any NHL season.
Wednesday is the official start to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This is the time of year that even the most casual of fans tunes in for.
The first round usually provides the most interesting of matchups, and this year is no different.
In the East you have the No. 1 seed Canadiens facing off against their long-time rivals, the Boston Bruins. You also have the No. 4 seed New Jersey Devils going up against the fifth-seeded New York Rangers.
Both series should have a lot of emotion. Montreal dominated Boston this year so this series should not last long. Five games tops. However the Devils-Rangers matchup could easily go seven games.
In the other East matchups, you have (2) Pittsburgh vs. (7) Ottawa, and (3) Washington vs. (6) Philadelphia. Unfortunately, I don't think the Sens or Flyers have any chance to win their respective series.
Moving to the West, you have (1) Detroit vs. (8) Nashville. This could be a very close series. I don't know what it is about Nashville but they seem to always give the Wings fits.
Next up you have (2) San Jose vs. (7) Calgary. This could be the upset special of the first round. Calgary has one of the best defensive corps in the league along with some very strong offensive players and one of the best goaltenders in the world in Kipprusoff.
Mind you, you could say the same about the Sharks.
The 3-6 series has Minnesota matching up against Colorado. I don't know what to make of this one.
Both teams are somewhat enigmatic. Minnesota has all sorts of offensive talent, but play a low-scoring, defensive style. Meanwhile, the Avs have a lot of scoring, but their goaltending is hit and miss with the tandem of Theodore and Budaj, both known for inconsistency.
When Theodore is on, he can win series by himself, but, if he's not quite sharp, he will need a lot of help to win.
For my money the best series may be defending champion (4) Anaheim facing off with (5) Dallas. Both teams have ton of depth at forward and defense, as well as top-notch goaltending with former Conn Smythe winner, J. S. Giguere of the Ducks and Dallas' Marty Turco. This series is almost too close to call.
Montreal over Boston (5 games)
Pittsburgh over Ottawa (6 games)
Washington over Philadelphia (6 games)
New Jersey over New York Rangers (7 games)
Detroit over Nashville (7 games)
Calgary over San Jose (6 games)
Colorado over Minnesota (7 games)
Anaheim over Dallas (5 games)