Time to chase the Stanley Cup

Ah, how timely - a warm weekend. A thermometer that's actually climbing, people on the golf course, shirt sleeves - they do exist.

So it must be time for the NHL playoffs.

At some point two months from now, a captain will skate over to Gary Bettman and grab that 34-pound piece of silver that is the reason for living, if you believe every single hockey player.

Having seen Chicago's Blackhawks erase a Stanley Cup drought that dated back nearly half a century, the first inclination is to survey the playoff field and see whose title, if achieved, would be the sweetest.

In this case, that's easy. Born in 1970, neither the Vancouver Canucks nor Buffalo Sabres have ever gone all the way, despite both going to the finals twice and having passionate fan bases that thirst for a drink from the prized silver.

Of course, the Canucks have a far better chance this time, having achieved the league's best record in the regular season. No team in the NHL is more complete, despite a fair amount of injuries. Yet Roberto Luongo and the Sedin twins have never proven that they can make a deep playoff run.

By contrast, the Sabres, after a horrible start, had to work hard for four months just to get into the show. No doubt, the sale of the team to Terry Pegula is a vast improvement from the absentee ownership of the past, and will pay off with a Cup - but likely not this year. That is, unless Ryan Miller returns and stops everything.

Then again, just sneaking into the playoffs did wonders for Montreal and Philadelphia a season ago, as the no. 7 and 8 seeds ended up playing in the East final. The Flyers, who won it, did no sneaking this time, staying on top of the conference for most of the season, while the Habs had to sweat it out again.

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