Diehard Yorkton hockey fans should be cheering for the Pittsburgh Penguins out of the Eastern Conference and the Los Angeles Kings out of the Western Conference in this year's National Hockey League playoffs.
Both clubs have connections to Yorkton with former Yorkton Mallers Chris Kunitz and Tanner Glass suiting up for the Penguins and Yorkton minor hockey alumni Jarret Stoll playing for the Kings.
The first-place Penguins are odds on favourites to come out of the East after loading up at the trade deadline. They added star winger Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames, veteran leader Brenden Morrow from the Dallas Stars, and shutdown defenceman Douglas Murray from the San Jose Sharks to their already stacked squad.
Their first-round opponent is the John Tavares-led New York Islanders, who finished the year in eighth spot.
Kunitz is heading into the playoffs with a hot stick after a career year in terms of points per game. The Regina native notched 22 goals and 52 points in 48 games, finishing seventh in the league in points.
Pittsburgh's team captain Sidney Crosby is one of the few who isn't surprised by Kunitz's scoring success in his 33-year-old season.
"I think it's not a surprise," Crosby told ESPN.com Wednesday. "He's found maybe more of a scoring touch than he's had in the past, but I think he's doing a lot of the same things and it's just nice he's getting results and getting recognized. Because he does a lot of things out there that leads to success."
Back when Kunitz was suiting up for the Melville Millionaires in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, he never could have imagined playing in the NHL, let alone being a star in the league.
"Definitely a late bloomer," the two-time Stanley Cup winner told ESPN.com Wednesday. "I didn't even think myself that the NHL was something that could be realistic until I signed out of college. I played Tier 2 junior, nobody very often gets drafted out of the SJHL."
Glass, meanwhile, has made his mark in Pittsburgh as an energy player after signing with the Penguins in the offseason. The Regina native racked up 62 penalty minutes and added two points in 48 games.
The Kings are looking to strike lightning twice in back-to-back years after hoisting the Stanley Cup last June. This, obviously, won't be easy as only the Penguins and Detroit Redwings have pulled it off in the last 22 years.
The Los Angeles finished higher in the standings this year than last. They ended up in fifth spot with a 27-16-5 record, outperforming last season's eighth-place regular-season finish.
The Kings are up against the fourth-place St. Louis Blues in the first round.
No different from any other of his seasons in The Show, Stoll has been Mr. Dependable this year in Los Angeles. He has played strong defensive hockey – winning draws, blocking shots, cutting down angles, and back checking vigorously. The Melville native also chipped in offensively, potting seven goals and 18 points in 48 games.
If the Kings can repeat and Stoll brings the Cup back to Yorkton, it seems that will be the first time in history a small town in Saskatchewan will have a Stanley Cup parade in back-to-back years.