The NHL season ends this Sunday (April 13), putting the final touches on what has been a woeful year for most clubs from the Great White North.
Only one Canadian team, the Montreal Canadiens, has qualified for a playoff spot in a year that has seen the Vancouver Canucks fall from grace, and the Toronto Maple Leafs fail to reach the postseason just a year after being eliminated by the Boston Bruins in seven games.
With the playoff schedule soon to be decided, we took a look at some matchups we would love to see.
Pittsburgh Penguins—Philadelphia Flyers
Sparks fly whenever these teams meet. In 2012, they stepped up a rivalry that saw Sidney Crosby indulge his deepest, darkest, pest-like tendencies, while on the back end, goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Ilya Bryzgalov engaged in a duel for the basement, posting goals against averages of 4.63 and 3.46, respectively. The Flyers missed the playoffs last year, but with them back in the hunt for the cup, we can expect some old-time hockey.
Boston Bruins—Montreal Canadiens
It won't happen in the first round, but the Beantown Bullies and the Habs have a longstanding rivalry that goes back to the 1950s and it flares up again any time these teams meet. The Bruins dominated the league this year, coming in second for goals scored and second-to-last in goals allowed, so the red, white and blue would have their hands full. Then again, they acquired prolific scorer Thomas Vanek at the trade deadline and have seen excellent production out of Max Pacioretty, so maybe they stand a chance. We can at least expect them to get into the second round.
San Jose—Los Angeles
Who wins in a battle between Silicon Valley and the City of Angels? The Sharks have been a consistently successful team in the playoffs, reaching the conference finals in two out of the last four postseasons. But despite some laudable performances they have never reached the Stanley Cup Final. To get there, they may have to overcome the Kings, the 2012 champions who boast a deep offense with Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik, who they acquired from the Blue Jackets at the trade deadline. The Kings enter the playoffs below San Jose but they also come having let in fewer goals, so expect that to be a stat that matters when the games take on increasing importance.
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