Here are five things to know as we head into Tuesday’s post-season action:
BATTLE OF FLORIDA
The two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning and the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers are meeting in the playoffs for the second consecutive season, with Game 1 starting Tuesday on Florida’s home ice. The NHL started awarding the Presidents’ Trophy in 1986 to the club with the best regular-season record, and this marks the ninth time that the winner of that trophy has faced the reigning Cup champion in the playoffs. Of the previous eight instances, it’s a split – four wins for the Cup champs, four wins for the Presidents’ Trophy holders.
BAD BLOOD IN DENVER
The Western Conference series between St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche also gets underway Tuesday in Denver. This was the first matchup of the second round to get locked in after Colorado swept Nashville and St. Louis beat Minnesota in six. It also could be the feistiest, especially in the aftermath of Avalanche centre Nazem Kadri concussing Blues defenceman Justin Faulk with an illegal check to the head in the series last year that prompted an eight-game suspension.
LEAFS CLEAN OUT LOCKERS
The Toronto Maple Leafs will be cleaning out their lockers at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday. The Leafs, who were bounced from the playoffs on Saturday after dropping a 2-1 Game 7 decision to Tampa Bay, are expected to face some tough questions as they meet the media before an- other extended summer break. Toronto, which won a franchise-record 54 games and posted the league’s fourth-best record during the regular sea- son, hasn’t reached the second round since 2004 and is now 0-9 in elimination games over the last five post-seasons.
BATTLE OF THE MAYORS
The Battle of Alberta, which gets underway Wednesday with Game 1 at the Saddledome, is back with a friendly wager between the city leaders of Calgary and Edmonton. Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek says every council member in the losing city will wear the winning team’s jerseys at the first meeting after the series finishes. She or Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi will then take it a step further by painting their face in the winning team’s colours. The losing council will also donate to children’s cancer research in recognition of Ben Stelter, an Edmonton boy who has brain cancer and has become known as a good-luck charm for the Oilers.
A CITY DIVIDED
NHL allegiances are traditionally split in Red Deer, which sits at the halfway point of the 300-kilometre drive along Hwy. 2 between Calgary and Edmonton. But Mayor Ken Johnston says the city of around 100,000 people will benefit no matter which Alberta-based team comes out on top in the Pacific Division final. “Really, every city from Fort McMurray in the north to Lethbridge in the south is going to benefit from the series, the bars, the restaurants, the hospitality industry, the ability for people to come together and socialize and it couldn’t come at a better time from that perspective,” he said. “People are just so eager to get out and be in person.” For the record, Johnston is throwing his support in the Battle of Alberta behind the Flames.