Chasing Lord Stanley Some, most notably my Canadian neighbors to the north, as well as some obnoxious folks in Chicago and New York, have noticed the obvious. More than the question of sun and rain, the days now answer to the ghost of Lord Frederick Stanley of Preston, Earl of Derby, Sixth Governor General of Canada. Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image! La Coupe Stanley: The chase is on. The NHL Playoffs are in their full heat. In the West: #1 Vancouver vs #8 Chicago — VAN leads series 3-0 #2 San Jose vs #7 Los Angeles — Series tied 1-1 #3 Detroit vs #6 Phoenix — DET leads series 2-0 #4 Anaheim vs #5 Nashville — NSH leads series 2-1 And the East: #1 Washington vs #8 New York — WSH leads series 2-1 #2 Philadelphia vs #7 Buffalo — PHI leads series 2-1 #3 Boston vs #6 Montreal — MTL leads series 2-1 #4 Pittsburgh vs #5 Tampa Bay — PIT leads 2-1 Quite obviously, I'm following the Canucks; first up is much-needed vengeance, though a series sweep against the Blackhawks seems too much to ask. Still, we can only hope, drink, and cheer: Go 'Nucks! Detroit and Phoenix are underway in Arizona. I'm back and forth on Detroit. To the one, I rather like them as a team; what, being named after a shoe, and all. But, to the other, like the Yankees in baseball, or the Cowboys of American football, it's really easy to like the 'Wings. I mean, sure, I'll take Detroit over Phoenix because it's Phoenix, but there are few times I'll root against the Wings, and I'm aware that's really easy to do. But that's how sports and Americans get along in many cases. To run down the list of favorites in the brackets: • Vancouver Cancuks — Local team, inasmuch as the Seattle area has one. Our neighbors come down for M's and Seahawks games. We sometimes go up for 'Nucks games. Besides, the Chicago Blackhawks are a very easy team to loathe. They're from Chicago. They're called the Blackhawks. They have an awesome theme song penned and recorded by Ministry for when they score a goal. It's really easy to hate the 'Hawks. And when they have a habit of wrecking your local team's playoff runs? Say ... no ... more. • San Jose Sharks — Local team by proxy; my brother added hockey to his sports appreciation repertoire while at school, with the nearest team being the San Jose Sharks. Additionally, it's really easy to root against any sports team from the Los Angeles area. • Detroit Red Wings — see above. Although I should note that any city that waits to ban the hurling of whole octopi onto the ice after a goal until the practice becomes hazardous for the personnel who have to lug the damn things back out deserves some measure of respect for hanging onto the tradition as long as they possibly could. • Anaheim Ducks — Okay, so I know what I said about teams from Los Angeles, and it's not so much that I have anything against a musical Mecca like Nashville. I just haven't gotten used to the idea of the Nashville Predators. • Washington Capitals — I could probably care less, but that might require some effort. However, they are playing against the New York Rangers, which wins them some default support. • Buffalo Sabres — When I started watching hockey for my own personal enjoyment back in the '90s, I somehow found myself cheering for the Sabres. For some reason, I think I also remember a Sabres-Habs game of some consequence that coincided with the Scotts Mills Quake in Oregon, 1993. Long story. Sentimental attachment. Oh, right, and I despise the Flyers. Period. No room for compromise. • Boston Bruins/Montreal Canadiens — No, really, pick one. Best Bruins moment? An old ESPN advert for the NHL playoffs. I think it was Cam Neely in the spot. The bit went something like, "Is it true that in the playoffs you'd check your own mother against the boards?" And Neely shrugged and looked sheepish: "I wouldn't throw my elbow," he replied. Seriously, though, for me it's a personal grudge against the Habs and a deference to a tradition either local or familial that despises any professional sports team from Boston. That is, I could probably cheer the Bruins against the Habs, except that the Bruins are from Boston. I did mention, didn't I, something about Americans and sports? • Pittsburgh Penguins/Tampa Bay Lightning — Again, pick one. I suppose I could go with the Pens, since I haven't anything specific against them. It's just easy to disdain a team with such a glorious history. But that's not really worth the investment, right? I mean, the flip-side is that the Lightning are a Florida team, and the last headline I ever want to see would say something like, "America's Wang Shocks Sports Fans". (The best would have been "All Hail Šatan!" but that never happened.) I have been alternately fuming and cringing for the last eleven months. Of course, I have this nasty habit of not paying attention to details, so I did, in fact, have a pleasant moment when I got the bracket. Canucks win the President's Trophy, and they get #8 Chicago in the first round. For the fans, it's fair to say losing the playoff series hurts more, nearly a year later, than Sami Salo's busted nut. And, yes, something about phantom pains goes here. Busted nuts and broken hearts aside, though, it's playoff time. And not just any playoff time: It's hockey playoff time! ('Wings up 1-0, 18:03 1st; Salei, assist for Helm, Kronwall) ('Wings up 2-0, 17:19 1st; Miller, assist for Kronwall) Damn, that was fast. And fine. Okay, forget this. I can't think right now. It's freakin' NHL Playoffs, baby!