The Stanley Cup Playoffs are finally here in their glory

The pucks will begin to drop on Wednesday at some select National Hockey League locations, and they’ll have a different bounce.

Hello again, Stanley – as in Stanley Cup Playoff time.

It’s the best. The hits will be harder, the saves more dramatic, and those made-for-TV shootouts a thing of the past. Sudden death overtime is sudden but they can go deep into the night. Don’t touch that remote, you might miss the OT game-winner.

Everybody in the sport gets amped up for this.

“Best time of the year,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said during his pre-playoff press conference on Monday. “Just have to go put your best foot forward.”

Sweeney’s Bruins are going to match up against the Toronto Maple Leafs once again in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals beginning at the TD Garden on Thursday. It’s a shame these playoffs are missing some traditional teams, especially Claude Julien’s Hated Habs of Montreal. No Rangers, Flyers, Red Wings, Devils in the East. No Blackhawks, Canucks, Kings in the West. Not the greatest for a league that needs more of its traditional teams to be good.

Instead,Tampa obviously had a superb regular season with 62 wins, and many are already looking ahead to a Bruins-Lightning second round while moaning about the playoff format. Hey, some years it works, some years it doesn’t. The Lightning lost to the eventual Cup champion Washington Capitals in last year’s conference finals after getting past the B’s, so they’ll be motivated.

“It’s the best time of year to play hockey,” said Bruin David Krejci, whose resurgence this year was a big factor in Boston being an elite team. “Two teams are going to go at it. They’ve got some good offensive players, even their defensemen are good. It’ll be tough.

“We’re meeting them again in the first round. Just take it game-by-game.”

The Bruins outscored the leaves 12-4 in the first two games in last year’s series to take control. Toronto’s Austin Matthews vows his team won’t let that happen again, according to internet reports.

While calling it a “challenge”, he said “But I think everyone in the locker room’s hungry. We want to go in and be ready from the very first game and definitely send a message early.”

And don’t forget last year the Leafs didn’t have this year’s third leading NHL goal scorer in John Tavares (he was an Islander then). Of course the goaltending is always going to be a key, and the Bruins will likely count again on Tuukka Rask. The B’s won the third most games in the league and seem to be firing on all cylinders.

“It was a very, very good regular season,” Raaskk said. “It’ll be the ultimate test going into the playoffs.”

That’s the big thing about playoff hockey, it’s all about the matchups. Playing the same team every other night is a lot different than the regular season going from team to team.

The Bruins already got a reported jolt when there was unofficial word on Monday that regular defenseman Kevan Miller would miss the entire postseason due to a broken kneecap.

Yeah, injuries are always part of the deal, right? Here’s a look at what we think may happen:


First Round – Bruins over Leafs in seven, Lightning over Columbus in five, Caps over Carolina in six, and Pittsburgh over the Islanders in seven. No real surprises except how tough the Islanders will be vs. the Pens.

Second round – Tampa over B’s in six; Penguins get revenge over the Caps in seven. Boston’s very good, Tampa is better. We think.

Conference Finals – Tampa over Pittsburgh in six. Lightning strike again.


First Round – This one is really boring. Nashville over Dallas in five, Winnipeg over St. Louis in six, Calgary sweeps Colorado, San Jose over Las Vegas in seven. The latter is the best series that should have multiple overtime games.

Second round – Flames over Sharks in five, Jets over Predators in six.

Conference finals – Jets over Flames in seven. Good grief, an all Canada Western Conference finals, should have an award if you can name four players in the series.

CUP FINALS: Winnipeg over Tampa in six. A team named the Jets actually wins a championship.

Enjoy the playoffs, Puckheads.

Tom King may be reached at 594-1251,