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Bring. Me. Florida.

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I spent most of last week on the fence about how I wanted this weekend to go. With a back to back against Buffalo and Philly to end the year; take 3 points away and the Isles see Pittsburgh in the First Round, any less, and they’re off to Florida. Of course, following an overtime loss to Buffalo on Saturday[1 point gained], it all came down to Game 82 at the Barclays Center. A win meant Pittsburgh, a loss meant Florida, simple as that.

I won’t sit here and act like I wasn’t all about trying to get Pittsburgh at the beginning. The idea of facing a team currently without their 1st & 2nd string goalies [goaltending is kind of important come post-season hockey] and the chance at redemption for 2013 made that series all the more intriguing. But after having a billion and one Ranger fans chirping me about how the Isles were doing them a favor by winning [Spinzone 101], and the fact that beating Pittsburgh would most likely mean seeing Washington right after, I jumped on the #TankForFlorida wagon quicker than KFC did the Isles’.

Fast forward through a 5-2 loss to Philly, where we pretty much saw the Bridgeport Sound Tigers scrimmage a Giroux/Simmonds/Couts-less Philly, we have ourselves the biggest loss of the year, and a trip down to the Sunshine state for the First Round.

I was pretty adamant about how dumb it is to treat an Isles-Panthers matchup as a gimme for New York, as most fans were doing. To be frank, Florida pretty much has had the Isles number this entire year. Taking 2 out of their 3 games played, with the lone loss being chalked up to a miracle of a 3rd period, us Isles fans should have no reason to write this off as a guaranteed win.

In all reality, this is the perfect matchup for both teams. It’s been 20+ years since either have made it out of the first round, both are trying to solidify their mark as young contenders out of the east, and both play a similar style of hockey that will hopefully mean a great pace of play throughout the series. The storylines write themselves.

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Luongo obviously has the edge in net, despite if it’s Greiss or Jaro playing [that is, if Jaro is able to return from a groin injury in time] but the real matchup that has my attention is how Aleksander Barkov, making his playoff debut, will handle taking shifts across from John Tavares. JT has been on a tear this final week of the season, picking up 9 points in his final 4 games. He has clearly hit his stride at the absolute right time, and the hot streak carries over into the post-season, I would expect to see the hungriest Johnny T we’ve ever seen. That man was flat-out built to compete. No smiles, no laughs, no beaches, it’s ZeroDarkTavares, and no one wants to advance more than The Captain. No one.

Game 1 isn’t until Thursday, so take these few days to spend some time with your wife/girlfriend/kids, go outside,  and stock up on beer, cigarettes & all the unhealthy foods you can find. Playoff hockey is here, let’s eat.