In March, Kyle Wellwood ruffled a few feathers by noting his current NHL team, the San Jose Sharks, just might be better equipped to handle a long playoff run than his former squad, the Vancouver Canucks.
Wellwood ventured: "I just feel Vancouver has a few more lessons to learn and I'm glad I'm in San Jose. I just feel [the Sharks]are more mature because they've lost a few more times. They're not so scared of losing. I think come playoff time this team is going to be better."
Now, a month into the postseason, the Canucks and Sharks, the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in the Western Conference, will go head-to-head, in a battle that will in equal parts measure their respective talents and psyches.
Little did Wellwood know both clubs would need to survive a pair of epic collapses to get to this stage - squandering 3-0 series leads to the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, respectively, before pulling out victories in the deciding games.
Wellwood's tone was far-more conciliatory in the postgame celebration after San Jose's win last Thursday, which set up the third-round meeting with the Canucks, beginning Sunday.
"From watching them, they have a better identity with their team," Wellwood said. "Last year, the players were sort of more like me, where they hang on to pucks and play a little slower and were a little more patient. This year, they all skate real well. They look strong."
As for the sort of reception he might expect as a visitor, Wellwood said he was looking forward to the challenge.
"It's nice to play in Canada. The fans are phenomenal," he said. "I think they're going to be the loudest building - except for San Jose. They're great fans. They know hockey. Their team plays a very fast game, so … we're going to have to find a way to use the size we have on our team to counter their work ethic and speed."