It only feels like tomorrow night's game between the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins is the 2008-09 season opener.
Hopefully, the Red Wings and Penguins make the delay worth it.
Here's saying they will.
Last year's Stanley Cup final was a dud with Ottawa bowing out in five games to the Anaheim Ducks, but the previous few were memorable. (To remind everyone, 2006 ended with Carolina dispatching Edmonton in seven games, 2004 saw the Sea of Red awash with a sea of tears when the Flames lost to Tampa in seven tilts, and the 2003 final also went the distance -- New Jersey over Anaheim.)
This year's meeting won't need to go to seven games to be better than all those. As long as the Red Wings and Penguins have a close-scoring, adrenaline-fuelled battle that goes six games, hockey fans should be in for a doozy of a time.
Seeing as the clubs are one-two in average goals per game in these playoffs -- Pittsburgh has scored 51 goals in 14 games and Detroit has netted 55 in 16 clashes -- we should see enough tallies to keep the best-of-seven affair greatly entertaining.
And that's even taking into account they both have surrendered an average of fewer than two goals against to get to this point.
But let's be real, does anyone believe Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury and/or Detroit's Chris Osgood will stone the most prolific opposition either has seen in these playoffs?
These two teams have the skill, determination and game plans to make this series exciting.
Oh yeah, here's the prediction: Red Wings in six games.
With the clock ticking on the deadline to sign 2006 draft choices, it's hard to believe the Flames only intend to sign goalie Leland Irving and forward John Armstrong from that crew. Calgary has a couple of more years to ink NCAA college players Aaron Marvin and Jordan Fulton, but it would be a bad sign if Hugo Carpentier, Juuso Puustinen, Devin Didiomete and Per Jonsson are all not good enough to bother inking or unwilling to sign. By the way, Irving and Armstrong do look like very good prospects with legitimate chances to be regular NHLers ... As enticing as it is to think 2007 first-rounder Mikael Backlund is good enough to play in Calgary this year, the reality is he probably needs to stay home one more year and face men in the top division -- not to mention skate in one more world junior tournament -- before moving across the pond.
I'd love to think the NHL and the new Russian hockey league can somehow co-exist without absurd bidding wars for players, but you know full well eventually there will be legitimate stars -- and we're not talking about players in their waning years like Chris Simon or malcontents like Alexei Yashin -- who will take the money and run over there.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Having covered the Hitmen their first five seasons, I was a big fan of Brad Stuart's abilities. That said, given my choice as an NHL GM when Stuart and Karl Alzner were coming out of junior, I'd choose Alzner. Don't be surprised to see the defenceman who this week signed with the Washington Capitals on an Olympic or World Cup team down the road ... Hard to believe Nicklas Lidstrom will be the first European captain to win the Stanley Cup if the Wings topple the Penguins. Either way, the winner will make history with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby more than two months shy of celebrating his 21st birthday.