Every year around the middle of April, millions of NHL hockey fans sit transfixed before the television cheering their favorite teams towards the ultimate goal of every NHL hockey player and fan alike: the Stanley Cup.
For the fan who cheers on a playoff contender, it is often a period of time filled with emotions like joy and sorrow, love and hate, and sometimes just plain old anger.
The fans of non-playoff teams, however, only experience one emotion, and it's usually not what you might think.
One would think that a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, for example, would be full of sorrow and frustration, but that generally isn't the case. No, we're a hearty bunch, us Leafs fans.
We cheer for someone else.
Every year boasts its share of surprises; there's almost always a Cinderella story, a team that just makes it in and makes it past the first round to everyone's surprise, until finally, almost inevitably, it falls to a better team.
While this isn't always the case, it usually happens.
There are, of course, other surprises.
For example, once powerhouses in the Western Conference, it appears as though the Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks may not be even be invited to the dance, let alone be crowned Prom King.
The Detroit Red Wings have gotten hot of late, but one injury to a suddenly old-looking roster could mean the end of a team that is barely in the eighth and final spot now.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the potential playoff matchups that we could see given the current standings.
The Caps and Bruins next lock horns on April 5 in what could be a preview of an Eastern Conference first round matchup.
So far this season, the Caps have beaten the Bruins in both games this season by a combined score of 8-2.
Jose Theodore has been in net for both Capitals victories, and Thomas has looked a little star-struck facing Alex Ovechkin.
The Phil Kessel-less Bruins have had trouble finding the twine already this year, and if Marc Savard's recent injury is of the more serious variety, things could be over rather quickly for the Bruins in the playoffs.
Despite the fact that the Detroit Red Wings are barely hanging on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, they are a team to be feared as the playoffs approach.
If the playoffs started today, the Red Wings would face the second best team in the NHL, the San Jose Sharks.
Although the Detroit Red Wings may seem little long in the tooth, the fact is with an average age of 30.5, the team isn't really that old as a whole. It seems as though they have gotten most of their injury bugs out of the way, and they own the season series against the Sharks three games to one.
San Jose, for its part, hasn't made it past the first round of the playoffs since 2006. This series will almost definitely come down to a goaltending duel.
This series could easily go seven games, and I expect a younger, faster San Jose Shark team to prevail.
The Montreal Canadiens could face defending the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round.
This isn't good news for Habs fans and has the makings of a very short and embarrassing series for Montreal.
The Montreal Canadiens have had an up and down year, to say the least, full of player issues, a new GM, and five coaching changes in the last four years as well. It's a wonder they don't have Dr. Phil on some kind of retainer.
The polar opposite of the Habs are the Penguins.
Pittsburgh owns the season series with Montreal three games to one.
Since arriving on the scene, Dan Bylsma, for the most part, has the Penguins playing just plain good hockey, and GM Ray Shero has proven very adept in his role as well.
This series will be over in five games, and the Canadiens will be left scratching their collective heads in the offseason wondering just where it all went wrong.
The Canucks have absolutely owned the Avs this season, winning four out of five so far by a total score of 22-11.
Both teams are relatively young, and both have something to prove.
While the Avs didn't make it to the postseason last year, the Canucks did, only to be knocked out in the second round by a younger and faster Chicago Blackhawk team.
This would be a very fast-paced and entertaining series that would likely go seven games with at least one or two overtimes mixed in.
In the end, though, I would have to give the edge to Roberto Luongo and the Sedins this time.
At the end of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there will be four teams still in the hunt for the biggest prize in professional hockey.
The picture in their collective minds will look a lot like the one above. They'll be able to see it, almost smell it, but not touch it...not yet.
Almost every year come playoff time, there is a surprise contender, but just making it to the dance doesn't always mean you deserve to wear the crown.
If I were to pick a surprise team from each conference this year, I would have to go with Buffalo in the East and Phoenix in the West
With that said, the Pittsburgh Penguins are likely to repeat this year. They are just too good and too deep not to make that prediction.
As for who they will face, the San Jose Sharks seem to have finally turned that elusive corner.
One could almost literally see the character building within that roster all year, and as much as I think the Penguins may be the closest I've seen in a very long time to being on the cusp of a dynasty, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see them killed off in a Shark attack.
By the way, I will be live and large with my friend Louis Pisano at 6 pm EST this coming Saturday before the Leafs vs. Edmonton Game! The show is called Get the Puck Out!
It's a live web cast, and you can call in to let me know what you think! Go to
http://www.morencysports.com/live/ and have a look!