I’m a little late for an NHL playoff preview blog, considering the playoffs have already started, but… Might as well take a crack at it anyway.
This is a tough time of year for any Leaf fan. For one, because it’s significantly less fun to watch Dion Phaneuf trying to sink puts as opposed to burying players with open-ice hits.
… Even when he’s taking out teammates…
No shift change for you!
But another big reason it’s tough to be a Leafs fan in the springtime is not knowing who to cheer for.
I mean, in the grand scheme of things, I’m not too picky on who wins the cup this year, as long as it’s not Boston.
Yes, I’m still bitter about last year.
In past years, I would cheer for whatever Canadian teams happen to be left in the playoffs, but that doesn’t seem like a good option this year either, since the only Canadian team to make it to the post-season is the Montreal Canadiens. Despite the fact that the Habs have been playing well, I’m bound to tradition and therefore cannot support a rival.
I did, however, come across this handy flowchart which can help you pick a team based on how you feel about certain things.
Click on the chart to get to a full-size version.
If you want to find out which team the rest of the continent is supporting, you needn’t look further than this handy map:
Trying to find a team in the East to support is a bit difficult, for me at least. I obviously can’t support the Bruins or Canadiens. Add on top of that that I’m not too fussy on the Flyers, Rangers or Penguins, and there’s only a couple choices left. Though the Leafs are ultimately to blame for their late-season crash and burn, it was the Tampa Bay Lightning that officially eliminated their shot at a playoff spot. For that reason alone, I don’t necessarily want to support them. That being said, It would be cool to see Martin St. Louis win another Stanley Cup.
So who does that leave? The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings.
It would be awesome to see a Cinderella story unfold, should Columbus go deep… But I wouldn’t count on it. The Pittsburgh Penguins are a tough group, with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin leading the way. Even still, the Jackets managed a win last night in game 2. Matt Calvert notched his first and second career NHL Playoff goals, including the double-overtime winner to even the series at 1 game a piece.
The win was the first playoff victory in the 14-year history of the Blue Jackets. It could set the stage for more, with the series shifting back to Columbus now for games 3 and 4. The Penguins are too good a team to go down without a fight though, so it might be a pretty intense series.
As for the Detroit Red Wings, I’ve always kinda liked them. I wouldn’t necessarily credit them with being one of my favourite teams, but I’ve never had any reason to dislike them. Like the flowchart above says, they’re a historic franchise with excellent coaching, solid young player development, and consistently sane management. They’ve also made the playoffs for 23rd straight year. I’ll overlook the fact that they displaced the Leafs to get there this year.
They’re also taking on the Boston Bruins in the first round, which means they NEED to win. Wouldn’t it be fun to watch the Presidents’ Trophy winning team make an early exit from the post-season?
As it stands right now, the Red Wings have a 1-0 series lead, taking a 1-0 victory in a Game 1 that was not without its tense moments…
We’ll see what happens in Game 2, which goes at 3 this afternoon.
EDIT: Boston pulled even with a 4-1 win in Game 2.
Now to the Western Conference.
I’ll admit, I’m not really sure who to support in the West. Given that none of the Canadian teams in the west made it to the post-season, I’m kind of indifferent. I don’t watch enough of the Western teams play to have really developed a like or dislike for most of them.
If the Phoenix Coyotes had made the playoffs, I could see me throwing my support behind them. Why? Probably just because I kinda like Paul Bissonnette.
I like his style of play when he does actually make it onto the ice. I enjoy reading his tweets. I like that he did a taco bell commercial from the penalty box…
And I also like that he’s from Welland, where I spent 3 years going to college.
However, the Coyotes didn’t win enough of their 82 games to see any more this season. So who to support?
If you’re looking for underdogs, the Minnesota Wild would be the team to get behind. However, the Wild are already trailing the Colorado Avalanche 2-0 in their first round series. I actually used to cheer for the Avs back in the day when they were winning Stanley Cups. I’m a huge fan of Joe Sakic, and I’m not sure he had a better assist throughout his entire career than when he passed the Cup to Ray Bourque.
Skip to 1:35 for the goods.
Elsewhere in the west, you’ve got the conference-winning Anaheim Ducks taking on the Dallas Stars, and so far leading the series 2-0. I’m pretty indifferent about both teams, though the Ducks have a local connection in Peterborough-born winger Corey Perry.
However, part of me wants to support the Stars too, since I still remember their Cup win in 1999. Being a Leafs fan growing up in the Niagara region, I was surrounded by Buffalo Sabres fans, and not much feels better than seeing the Sabres lose, especially considering they had eliminated the Leafs on their way to the Stanley Cup Final.
Elsewhere, there’s the Battle of California, with the high-powered Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks facing off against each other. I’d love to see the Sharks go places. I liked them as a kid, probably because of their logo…
But I would also love to see Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau get their hands on the Cup, as they’ve been an important part of a consistently hard-working Sharks team that has had trouble making it past the second round. They’ve made it to the Conference Finals 3 times, but never advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals.
On the other hand, however, the Los Angeles Kings have Drew Doughty, who was HUGE for Canada in the Olympics, scoring 4 goals in his 6 games.
This one’s a bit of a toss-up. San Jose had a better regular season, and currently have a 1-0 series lead. The Kings, however, have experienced more playoff success in recently, winning the Cup 2 years ago.
It seems that I’m most interested in the Chicago Blackhawks – St. Louis Blues series so far this playoff. In years past, I’ve thrown my support behind the ‘Hawks. This could just be because I really didn’t want to see the Flyers or Bruins lifting the cup. They’ve been a successful team, winning 2 Cups in the past 4 years.
Even still, I find myself cheering for the Blues while watching these games. I’m not sure why, but I think I have a couple ideas as to why. One reason could be the fact that St. Louis is the oldest team in the NHL to have never won a Stanley Cup. Another could be defenceman Alex Pietrangelo who played for the Niagara IceDogs during my time in Niagara for college. Also, I love overtime games, and so far both games have gone into extra time.
Former Leaf Alex Steen was the hero in Game 1, scoring in the third overtime to end things.
Not to mention how the Blues managed to tie Game 2 up with 6.4 seconds left in the third and then win it in overtime… So far things are looking good.
So I guess I’ll pull for the Blues. Why not?
Also, on a side note… I had a bet on this NHL season. I’ve made a couple bets now with Frasier, and was fortunate enough to win the first one… When he bet $20 that the Ottawa Senators would finish with more points than the Leafs, I couldn’t resist. Things were looking pretty good for me before the Leafs’ final 15 games of the season. Anyway, I owe Frasier $20, and haven’t heard from him. If you know him, tell him to get in touch with me so I can give it to him!