So as you might have heard, the playoffs start this evening, with games in Chicago and St. Louis beginning at 8:00 ET. And as you also might (I mean, maybe just might) have heard, the Flyers will not be participating in these playoffs. It's only the second time in nearly the last two decades that this has been the case, so we're left stumbling a bit as far as who we should be rooting for and what the Flyers-related storylines in the postseason are.
But there are a few that we can talk about. While opening night tonight features three games that are all Western Conference teams, here are a few teams all the way across the playoff spectrum that we've got to keep an eye out for.
Los Angeles Kings: This is the most obvious one, what with half of their team being former Flyers and all, and it's also the one that probably incites the strongest reactions -- in either direction -- among Flyers fans nowadays. Do you still love Mike Richards and Jeff Carter? Enough to see them win a second Stanley Cup in two years since they were both traded out of Philadelphia? Some people are happy for them and want to see them win again, some probably didn't want to see them win one in the first place, some think that a second consecutive cup and the makings of a dynasty might be a little bit much. There's no one correct answer here, though we know the Kings have the capability to repeat.
Chicago Blackhawks: The 'Hawks are probably the only other team in the West that really has much in the way of narrative potential when it comes to the Flyers, for a couple reasons. There was that whole thing that happened in 2010 that we shouldn't talk about, there's the fact that they have two members of that 2010 Flyers team -- Dan Carcillo and Ray Emery, the latter of whom just teamed up with goalie partner Corey Crawford to win the Jennings Trophy -- and there's the part where their second-best forward should have been a Flyer, all before he went on to score some other goal one time that I cannot, for the life of me, remember. In particular, though, the Emery thing is of interest to me: he's received rave reviews for his performance this season, and if he ends up spelling Crawford for a game here and there and is successful...the Philly Goalie Narrative Train might be pulling out of the station yet again.
New York Islanders: Onto the Eastern Conference, where really we're just hoping that the Islanders can do to the Penguins what the Flyers did to them last year. Some of us probably have stronger feelings about the Islanders than others, but I think we can all agree that of the three Atlantic Division teams in the postseason right now they're the one that incites by far the least visceral reaction, right? Especially given that they're playing Pittsburgh in the first round? Who knows. Maybe they'll beat the Penguins in six and their Hart Trophy contender will outperform the Penguins' Hart Trophy contender and after the series ends their coach will describe said player as The Best Player In The World or something. That'd be weird.
Boston Bruins: Alright, so between the whole Jeremy Jacobs/lockout thing and the fact that they're, well, the Bruins, this is also a very bitter pill to have to swallow. But it'd be kinda fun to see Jaromir Jagr win another one before he rides off into the sunset or the Czech Republic or wherever, right? Especially if that maybe involves beating the Penguins along the way? I don't know, I'm probably reaching at this point.
Toronto Maple Leafs: I basically have no feelings about the Leafs, but the fact that James van Riemsdyk has more playoff experience than anyone on their roster is kind of hilarious. Though on that note we all know that if the Leafs go on a run we'll hear about JvR's accomplishments every five seconds, so be on the lookout for that.
There are probably some more storylines for Flyers fans to follow that I missed. Fortunately, it's the playoffs, and while it's really weird to not have the Flyers in them, there's a lot to get excited about anyways for hockey fans.
Feel free to throw your thoughts, predictions, desires, other narrative ideas, etc., in the comments, and use this as your discussion thread at 8 when the games start. Playoff hockey is among us. Enjoy.
P.S.: Blues over Bruins in six. Feel free to mock me when I'm wrong. Travis and the rest of the guys at SBNation put their full predictions here.