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Stanley Cup Playoffs Rooting Guide: How to Love/Hate the Conference Finalists

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Hockey is still happening, and my favorite team isn't playing, and that really sucks. However, the final two rounds of the NHL playoffs often contain some of the most thrilling hockey of the entire year, and I want to find a way to enjoy it. Every year that the Wings don't make it this far, I normally try to find a team I like and a team I hate, and this makes the final two rounds way more fun. It's hard to find a super likeable team out of this bunch, so I'm going to attempt to look at each of these 4 teams and make an honest case for both love and hate. Keep in mind that when it comes to love and hate of a team you watch 3-4 times a year, ignorance is not necessarily a bad thing. For just a couple weeks, you get to be that semi-obnoxious sports fan if you want because, let's be honest, it's fun. So let's take a stab at this. Just so we're on the same page, this analysis will be completely and utterly superficial, as well as hopelessly biased. If that really makes you irrationally angry, the Anaheim Ducks will probably offer you a contract this offseason.

Anaheim Ducks

Why Love: This is really, really hard for reasons that shouldn't have to be explained, but I'm going to suggest you could always root for Bruce Boudreau. Bruce Boudreau has coached a slew of very good teams in Washington and Anaheim, but he just hasn't been able to snag a Cup. A lot of silly people hold this over his head to say he "can't win the big one," which is dumb. Okay, that's the best I can do.

Why Hate: MUCH MORE FUN. If you could put Ryan Kesler on any roster in the league, on how many of them would he ONLY be the 3rd most hateable player? It's pretty much just Anaheim, right? Even in Boston he'd easily be second and could give Lucic a run for his money for first. Getzlaf and Perry already made this team easy to hate, so Kesler joining the Ducks was basically the wet dream of horrible people everywhere. This alone is a good enough reason, but let's not forget that this fanbase is probably the weakest of the California teams, and that's really saying something.

Chicago Blackhawks

Why Love: Um... Well, they play a high-skill, attractive, and mostly goon-free brand of hockey that is really reminiscent of the recent Wings glory days. I'm always biased towards wanting skill to succeed over goonery, and Chicago is basically Exhibit A for that in today's NHL.

Why Hate: First off, on a Red Wings blog, I shouldn't need to give you reasons to hate the Blackhawks. There's a ton of obvious ones, but I'll pick on one that's more likely to resonate with your buddies that aren't Wings fans - we're all sick of them winning. Besides, there are clowns out there that would like to elevate their recent run of success over the Wings 97-02 run, and so the sooner they bounce out and descend into cap hell, the better.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Why Love: Genuinely fun young team to watch, and Stamkos is both exciting and mostly inoffensive. I still love Steve Yzerman, so there's that too. The drama from their series with the Wings was well-documented (ticket sale and interference complaints), but it wasn't really THAT bad compared to other playoff series. I just didn't come away from that series with as much ill will as usual. Certainly nothing like the Boston nonsense.

Why Hate: Oh come on, they got swept last year and then barely squeaked by a Wings team everyone predicted would miss the playoffs, and suddenly everyone is lapping them up? Give me a break. Stamkos is gonna up and leave next year as a UFA, and it's gonna be hilarious. The bandwagon surrounding them is just obnoxious, and wow would it ever be fun to watch it all burst into flames.

New York Rangers

Why Love: Quick game: name 2 players on this roster you hate in less than 5 seconds and 3 in less than 10 seconds. I can easily do that for each of the other teams on this list, but I have a much harder time with the Rangers. They're also coached by a smart, likeable dude. This isn't exactly a glowing list of reasons, but I just can't get over how inoffensive this team is compared to the other three. That counts for something.

Why Hate: It pretty much boils down to the fact that they're from New York. Let's just say it - it's obnoxious when a huge market wins. LA winning some Cups lately was almost certainly good for the sport's growth, but it was also kind of annoying as a fan, and New York would be similar. It's the same reason I like to root against the biggest Canadian teams - it would be too annoying to deal with Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver winning.

Let's hear more reasons in the comments - plenty of love and even more hate to go around!