The signs are all around us, but here are my top ten ways you know it's playoff time:
10. Your four-year-old is going around the house singing "Eye of the Tiger," and you know it's because she's heard you humming it to yourself.
9. Melodramatic commercials featuring grim-looking Ovechkin and exultant Crosby are on every channel, voiced-over by hyper-excited announcers who've never played the game but make predictions anyway.
8. Your weekend "Beers of the World Night" moves to Thursday.
7. Habs fans everywhere are feverishly calculating the stats from 1971, '86 and '93 and comparing them to this year's team because "you never know, anything can happen."
6. Conspiracy theories involving reffing and the NHL brass lurk under every puck, and none of them favour the Habs unless they're thought up by jealous leafs fans.
5. You find yourself taking heart from reading the comments of random strangers on the internet who say "Habs in five!" for no apparent reason.
4. The combined scents of the dusty residue left by melted snowbanks, freshly-turned earth and distant early barbeques smell like "hockey" to you.
3. You spend an hour stomping around the house because you can't find your "lucky" Patrick Roy t-shirt from 1989, and wondering why people are always into your really important stuff anyway?
2. Your spouse makes plans to be gone out on every second night until it's over.
And, the number-one way you know it's playoffs:
1. Your heartrate picks up when you think about the two teams standing for the national anthems before Game One. Your hands get a little sweaty imagining the puck drop. You walk with a spring in your step when you remember how it felt to win a playoff game before. And you can't stop smiling because, even if it's only four games, this is what hockey's all about.