While the Stars are noticeably absent from this year's playoffapalooza, that doesn't mean you can't still watch the fun. You can root for Brenden Morrow and the Lightning, for instance; or how about Mike and James, Inc: the Nashville duo? Of course, Steve Ott is still doing his best over in Missouri as well, if that means anything to you.
But one team in the playoffs is perhaps closer to your heart than you might realize. Or, at least closer to the team that is close to your heart than you might realize. I am talking, of course, about the Winnipeg Jets. More precisely, Josh Bogorad is talking about the Winnipeg Jets:
As I watched the build-up to puck drop from 1,300 miles south, it brought memories from last year's Dallas Stars postseason back to the surface. When it was American Airlines Center that was abuzz thanks to a return to the playoffs after a lengthy absence.
There are no shortage of parallels between the two events. Both the Stars and the Jets had to fight tooth and nail down the stretch to earn the final Wild Card spot. Both series came against the Anaheim Ducks. Each year the Ducks had won their division and finished first in the West. Dallas and Winnipeg were both huge underdogs, but played well enough late in the season to make them a sleeper pick to give the Ducks a tough series. And as pointed out above, both series were 2-0 favoring Anaheim before the scenery shift from Southern California. Despite a couple of close games that could have gone either way, both years.
Still, the biggest similarity was the anticipation for what home playoff hockey would feel like once again. For Dallas, it wasn't the almost two-decade wait that Winnipeg endured. But for those who lived through the six years between Stars playoff games, it might as well have been. Like the Jets this year, the Stars clinched a playoff spot in the second to last game of the season, and had about one week to prepare for the playoff homecoming.
In the hours leading up to Game 3 last year, I remember thinking about the atmosphere I expected, and predicting what it would look, sound, and feel like. I had high expectations. Then I remember the scene as the Stars came out of the tunnel just before opening faceoff. I remember the sea of 19,000 white towels turning the AAC into a giant-sized snow-globe. Any lofty expectations for that night were met and quickly exceeded. It probably didn't hurt that it was all punctuated by a 3-0 Stars win to get back into the series.
I heartily recommend giving the piece a read, as always. Bogorad is a quality writer, and now is a time to be grateful for such folks putting metaphorical pen to theoretical paper. I think I have typed that exact same sentence before, which tells you just how much more grateful you should be that people like Bogorad are still writing about the Stars right now.
Even if you can't really get on board the Jets train--or plane, I guess?--you can't ignore the similarities here. Dallas may not have gone down 0-3 in the series last year, but they most certainly did experience quite a bit of 3rd period heartbreak, confined to only one period though it may have been. The Jets have found a way to stretch that final-frame agony into three solid games, and that, if nothing else, merits your attention. Your loyalty, of course, may rest wherever you choose. Until October, that is.
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What team are you rooting for this year? The Islanders are still the correct answer, but Tampa Bay might also be the correct answer. No wrong choice there. Brenden Morrow or Stars East, either way.
Nick Backstrom gave Washington an overtime win against the Islanders last night, evening the series at 2-2 as it heads back to Washington. [NHL]
Calgary continues its improbable run, taking a 3-1 series lead over Willie D. and Glen Gulutzan. And their players, I guess. [NHL]
The Red Wings took a 2-1 series lead last night after effectively neutralizing the potent Lightning offense all game long. Quite an accomplishment. [NHL]
Chicago and Nashville played a lot of overtime hockey last night, and I have a job. You figure it out. [NHL]
The Star Tribune has changed its tone on Steve Ott a bit after last night's game. Seems like Ott's grit and agitation and everything else he "brings to the game" is no longer all that admirable to Minnesota fans. [Star Tribune]
Playoff hockey's return to Winnipeg was loud, if ultimately painful to the heart as well, writes Sean McIndoe. [Grantland]
James Mirtle is here to tell you what has put the Jets down 3-0 to Anaheim. Hint: it's the big guy and the little guys. [Globe and Mail]
Some things are more important than hockey. The Senators took a day off to attend their late assistant coach Mark Reeds's funeral service. [ESPN]
Vancouver's Alex Burrows had a scary moment at practice when he came off the ice and had to be rushed to the hospital. Turns out he has a broken rib and will miss game five. [CBC]
Hey, speaking of Alex Burrows:
Wayne Gretzky says that Connor McDavid is the best player since, well, Wayne Gretzky? [Edmonton Journal]
Finally, here was a scary moment last night that ended up being all right. Orpik would return after moderate repairs.