(I just posted two entries back-to-back so make sure you catch both of them before you move on.)
Part two of the Western Conference playoff primer! (Part one can be found here.)
5. DALLAS STARS
Like many people in Buffalo I have a natural reaction to spit three times at the mere mention of the Dallas Stars. Which is why I was surprised to find myself really rooting them in the playoffs last year. I stayed up until all hours of the night watching the endless overtimes with Vancouver and even though I had originally tuned into to see if Roberto Luongo would win his first playoff series, my heart ended up behind Marty Turco. It also helps that a few of the bloggers I've gotten to know the best over the season are Dallas bloggers (see Untypical Girls and Penalty Killing) and I feel like I know the players on their team pretty well, especially Philippe Boucher and Sergei Zubov. Also, I still really like Stuuuuuu Barnes. So I like the Stars. I will, under the right circumstances, cheer for the Stars. Right now I'd even call them my favorite team on the WC side.
6. COLORADO AVALANCHE
I know a ton of people who hate the Colorado Avalanche. I have no strong feelings either way on the Avs. I only know a handful of players on the team and I have no strong feelings either way on them either. Going into the playoffs, they're a blank slate for me. We'll have to see what happens.
7. CALGARY FLAMES
One of the Western guys I most wish we saw more often in Buffalo is Jarome Iginla. He's talented, he's tough, and he has one of the most amazing smiles in pro sports. I have no doubt that he spearheaded both the stick-tapping and the handshakes during what may have been Trevor Linden's final game a couple nights ago and both were great moments. I just like him. I also love their logo. I know some of the other guys on the team but I don't have a firm opinion on any of them except for Rhett Warrener who I also like. (Note to Buffalo: If the Flames end up winning up the Cup, no complaining that we gave up Warrener for nothing. One, you people are killing me. Two, we gave him up for Chris Drury.) So at this point, I'm totally willing to cheer for the Flames.
8. NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Of all the Sabres who have moved on in the past couple of years, J.P. Dumont is one of two who I would not mind at all winning a Stanley Cup (Jay McKee is the other). Why? I don't know. I think the mass hysteria would be smaller than if Chris Drury or Daniel Briere win and it would be easier to block out because anyone who's complaining about the team walking away from Dumont is talking with serious hindsight. I remember a lot of "It's too bad we couldn't keep him but that's a lot of money" but very little "The Sabres should be shot for not keeping him!" Plus I just like ol' Jean-Pierre. Unfortunately, I hate his teammates. Holy moses, what a collection of jackasses the Predators are. We don't play them that much so I kind of forget about them and start thinking of them as a spunky little southern team (I have a bit of a soft spot for those non-traditional market teams) and then five minutes into a game with them I remember. I remember that I HATE THEM. So I'm sorry, J.P. I'm so glad that you sound happy in Nashville and I hope that as long as the Preds are in the playoffs you're racking up points but I cannot in good conscience cheer for a Nashville Cup victory.
So that's how I feel about the Western Conference. Here are my official picks. Keep in mind that considering how often I see these teams play, I may as well be drawing names out of a hat. I considered not doing this at all but I figured it would be fun for you guys to be able to point and laugh later when I get every single series wrong.
DETROIT vs. NASHVILLE - Detroit in 6
SAN JOSE vs. CALGARY - Calgary in 6
MINNESOTA vs. COLORADO - Minnesota in 5
ANAHEIM vs. DALLAS - Dallas in 7