The NHL playoffs have moved into the Eastern and Western Conference finals as Bayside moves closer to the end of our tour. Just 10 shows left as we start to head home toward New York. Our bus satellite has been malfunctioning, so it is getting increasingly harder to watch as much playoff hockey as I would like. From what I have seen and from what I have read, all the games and series have had no shortage of excitement.
After the first round I really thought the Washington Capitals were ready for a long run, as did many. But I guess what the New York Rangers lacked in scoring against the Capitals in the first round, the Tampa Bay Lightning figured out in the second round, and it became an insurmountable deficit game after game for Washington.
Now the Lightning are facing a deep Boston Bruins team in the Eastern finals. I think with both teams smelling the Stanley Cup finals just three wins away after splitting the first two games, this series will be chock-full of more excitement and emotion.
I am not sure what the summer holds for the Philadelphia Flyers and Capitals. Both teams have so much talent but couldn't get all their gears going when it mattered. Between the Capitals and Flyers, a lot of world-class talent is sitting on the sidelines, and they have 82 more games to play next season just to get the chance to prove their worth once again.
At our show in Tampa Bay, I did get to chat with a few Lightning fans who skipped out on watching that night's Tampa-Washington game to come to our show. Could be a tough choice in many fans' lives, but I was happy to oblige and talk some hockey after our set. Even though the weather was mid-80s and sunny, there certainly was some excitement down in Florida for what the Lightning were achieving.
Out West, it seems as if the Vancouver Canucks really started to find themselves and hit their stride against the Nashville Predators in the second round. The Predators did put up an extremely hardworking front, and backed by stellar goaltender Pekka Rinne they stood a chance to steal some games -- and did. But Canucks center Ryan Kesler heated up in that series, and that proved to be too much to handle.
Vancouver and Nashville fans should be proud of the seasons that their respective teams put together, and Vancouver potentially has more to celebrate in the coming weeks. Also, center Manny Malhotra, who suffered a serious eye injury late in the season, practicing with the team Tuesday will only motivate his teammates even more. And in the off chance he cracks the lineup, there's one more two-way weapon for opponents to deal with.
We were up in Northern California a few days after the San Jose Sharks held off the Detroit Red Wings in their seven-game series. Another warm weather state in which I still saw a lot of NHL pride in the form of San Jose Sharks hats and T-shirts.
I had a feeling the Sharks were going to win the series, so I felt good after the first few games. I did not expect Detroit to make it a series, but I absolutely should have. There is too much experience in Detroit's locker room to just roll over in four or five games.
So with the Canucks, Sharks, Bruins and Lightning making up the final four teams remaining, the Stanley Cup finals possibilities look exciting. If they bring home the Cup out West, it will be that franchise's first Stanley Cup. In the East the Bruins could bring home the Cup for the first time in almost 40 years, while the Lightning could show that being a work in progress for three years was all worth it if they bring home their second Cup in eight years.
Each team is capable of winning the Cup, but we'll just have to see who gets to actually play for it in the finals.
My condolences and heartfelt sympathies to the family of New York Rangers forward Derek Boogaard, who passed away this week. He will be missed by his teammates and family and remembered as a tough guy with a big heart.