It's been a long four years. I have less hair and less money but the same love for my St. Louis Blues.
The Bluenotes are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2005. The franchise that once owned the longest postseason streak of the four major sports (26 consecutive years) is back where it should be.
If the hockey gods continue being kind, Nashville missing the playoffs will lead to that franchise moving to Kansas City. The folks of Nashville know country music but they don't know hockey. Please, give us this franchise. We've got a new arena (Sprint Center) and plenty of open dates.
There, that's my way of easing into my annual playoff predictions:
No. 1 seed San Jose vs. No. 8 Anaheim: Don't know if the team with the league's best record can finish the deal but winning the Cup, but they take care of the Ducks here in five.
No. 2 Detroit vs. No. 7 Columbus: Jackets just happy to be here in the franchise's first playoff appearance. Detroit in five.
No. 3 Vancouver vs. No. 6 St. Louis: Blues were one of the best teams in the league down the stretch. They got a huge break by finishing sixth on the last day of the season. A matchup against No. 1 San Jose or No. 2 Detroit would have been a killer. Blues carry over regular-season momentum. St. Louis in six.
No. 4 Chicago vs. No. 5 Calgary: Hawks are too young to make a run. Calgary is the most anonymous NHL team, but is good enough to reach the Cup finals. Calgary in six.
Western Conference semis
No. 1 San Jose vs. No. 6 St. Louis: Blues hit their emotional wall. San Jose has too much of everything. Sharks in six.
No. 2 Detroit vs. No. 5 Calgary: Wings goaltending inconsistencies show up. Flames in seven.
Western Conference finals
No. 1 San Jose vs. No. 5 Calgary: These teams have a colorful playoff history. This will be the fourth meeting since 1995. San Jose leads 2-1. Just a hunch but Mikka Kiprusoff steals this one for the Flames. Calgary in seven.
No. 1 seed Boston vs. No. 8 Montreal: A bitter rivalry is renewed. Habs slumped badly in the second half. Boston should have no problem winning in five.
No. 2 Washington vs. No. 7 New York Rangers: Caps are Eastern Conference's team of destiny with all that scoring. Caps in five.
No. 3 New Jersey vs. No. 6 Carolina: Devils can't turn on the switch after a late-season slump. The Canes have that Cup look about them again. Carolina in seven.
No. 4 Pittsburgh vs. No. 5 Philadelphia: Ever see "Gladiator"? This isn't a loser-leave-the-state series. This is a loser dies series. Slight edge to Flyers if they can corral the big two (Crosby and Malkin). Philly in six.
Eastern Conference semis
No. 1 Boston vs. No. 6 Carolina: In what might be the best series of the playoffs, the hits and goals just keep on coming. It's run-and-gun for six games with Boston winning a bitter battle.
No. 2 Washington vs. No. 5 Philadelphia: Philly stopped the No. 2 and No. 3 best players in the NHL in the first round. It can't stop No. 1 (Ovechkin). Washington's scoring balance is too much. Caps in seven.
Eastern Conference finals
No. 1 Boston vs. No. 2 Washington: I picked an upset in the West. Might as well stay consistent. Caps outscore the Bruins in a highly entertaining series to get to their second Cup final. Washington in seven.
Stanley Cup finals
Washington vs. Calgary: Not exactly a ratings winner for the networks, but who cares? Ovechkin vs. Iginla. Green vs. Phaneuf. The teams met only once during the season but the hate will build up quickly. On the 20th anniversary of last Cup, the Flames grind it out in six.