Here we are again Wings fans, back on the outside looking in. Last season we all had a chance to try out some playoff-watching strategies, and maybe you’ve got yours down to a science, but some people may need a little help picking their playoff team. Have no fear, our team of experts is here to tell you everything you need to know about the Eastern Conference playoff teams...
“Our team isn’t dirty, they’re just passionate about their sport!” said Brad Marchand apologists all over the city.
Mike M. says: Let’s face it - the last time Bostonians were passionate about anything that didn’t involve Tom Brady, crates of tea were floating in the harbor. But, maybe there’s a few things to actually be excited about at TD Garden.... after not qualifying for the playoffs for the past 3 seasons (yeah, when you lose to the Sens in the first round, your playoff appearance gets voided), the youngsters have the Bruins humming. Pastrnak, Heinen, and McAvoy are showing that there’s a solid new generation of Bs following the likes of Chara, Marchand, and Bergeron, plus Olympian Ryan Donato has been showing he belongs with the big club since he was called up.
And if you don’t want to watch young, exciting talent like those named above, you can at least hop on the Boston bandwagon just to enjoy watching Mike Babcock fail with a team that isn’t the Red Wings.
Bold prediction: Brad Marchand does something so Brad Marchand-y in Game 1 that DOPS has no choice but to suspend him from the entire 1st round. They beat the Leafs anyway, but the team never really clicks and is ousted by Tampa in the 2nd round.
Fans all around the city, when pressed for comment on why the run collapsed, ask “Who’s Mah-shan? Brady gonna be able tah get him ovah dah shouldah in dah end zone?”
Columbus Blue Jackets
They’re from Columbus, Ohio, and we Michiganders are raised to hate Ohio, but we are also Americans, and Americans love underdog stories, and the Blue Jackets are definitely one of those.
Mike B. says: One of the joys of hockey is being able to shut my brain off and not think about the stuff that I dislike or annoys me every day, like Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella. See, when I’m watching them I don’t need to think about how he is a needlessly pompous and chauvinistic hard ass whose mentality should have died out of the league ten years ago, at least. So it’s easy to cheer for them!
They are not an underdog story in the same way that I cheer for Gonzaga every year in March Madness out of stubborn adherence to a joke I made ten years ago in college, but Columbus is one of those cool underdog stories that actually have a chance to shake up the status quo in the Metro, which has become pretty boring lately with Washington always losing to Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh always beating everybody. Plus, Cam Atkinson has been a solid player for years and can finally be rewarded, Dubois is an exciting young guy, and it’s okay to like Artemi Panarin now since he’s not a Blackhawk!
Bold prediction: Not one person in Canada will be cheering for the Blue Jackets at any point ever.
New Jersey Devils
There have been a lot of rumors that Taylor Hall is secretly a jerk, but who cares? He’s playing for the Devils. Their mascot is the epitome of what a jerk is supposed to be.
Mike B. says: Do you think Connor McDavid, Peter Chiarelli, and the Edmonton Oilers are annoying? I know I do! That is why the Devils are exciting. Three years into McDavid’s career, Taylor Hall is still making sure he has the biggest impact on the Oilers by playing for the Devils and NOT the Oilers. Also, Nico Hischier is an exciting and super-talented young player from Switzerland. Nico being successful can only be good for the game because he raises the profile of Swiss players, who are an exciting and rising force in the hockey world.
Oh, and Cory Schneider is finally getting his due for being a good goalie on a bad team all these years since he was traded from Vancouver. The Devils may not have a sexy narrative attached to them this year, but they have three great players who are easy to cheer for. There aren’t a lot of teams in the playoffs that even have that, so why not cheer for the Devils? Plus, there’s the nostalgia factor for all the 90’s kids here who grew up idolizing Brodeur.
Bold prediction: Devils get swept by the Lightning. Very un-Brodeur like.
It’s not just personal, it’s business.
Sara says: On the business side, if the Flyers make it to the Conference Finals, and Mrazek wins 6 playoff games, our 2018 pick from the Fyers becomes a 2nd rounder. On the personal side, the Penguins are The Worst™ and it would be beautiful to see them eliminated by the Flyers, who they hate even more than us. After the first round, you may want to jump to another bandwagon, but for now, the Flyers are our best friends.
Yes, even Valtteri Filppula.
And if you’re a Caps fan who has found their way to this post, you are also rooting for the Flyers and you know it.
Bold prediction: Flyers eliminate the Caps in the 2nd round and then lose the Conference Final, but Mrazek does not win 6 playoff games.
The back-to-back champs are ready to defend their titles, hoping to become the first team to win three Cups in a row since the New York Islanders in the early 80s.
Lauren says: Sidney Crosby is still good. Evgeni Malkin is still good. Marc-Andre Fleury is no longer in Pittsburgh (see: Vegas Golden Knights) to remind you of saves that were never made in games that were never played. Phil Kessel, while not Best Kessel, is still around and winning while Steve Simmons drowns in his own tears mixed with hot dog water. They even have Riley Sheahan!
But I’m going to be honest: if you cheer for this team, you’re a masochist. Or everyone you know is cheering against them and you feel like being a shit-stirrer. Either way, your self-preservation skills are likely low.
Godspeed, you crazy bastard.
Bold Prediction: The Penguins are swept out of the first round by a Petr Mrazek-backed Flyers team, but Bettman still gives them the Cup, setting a new record for the fewest playoff goals scored by a championship team.
Tampa Bay Lightning
“We have Steven Stamkos, and nobody hates him! We’re in a non-traditional market! We’re helmed by the great Steve Yzerman! None of our players are named Sidney Crosby! Please just love us!!!!”
Mike M. says: Ah, sunny Tampa Bay... an annual reminder of “playoffs are hard!” Fans of the Capitals can relate. Tampa is a good hockey team that doesn’t just want to get over the hump. They NEED to get over the hump. Wanna know why the ice down there sucks? It’s because their players drool all over it craving The Cup. The thought of it makes them salivate like Dr. Pavlov and his famous dogs. These guys were so devastated after losing to Pittsburgh two years ago, they didn’t even show up for the post season last year.
Steve Stamkos needs to win it all to validate himself as a player. Steve Yzerman needs it to validate himself as a GM. Steve The Fanboy needs it to convince all his serious hockey friends that 2004 wasn’t just a fluke. Help some nice guys get some much-needed validity. Be a pal, and cheer for the Tampa Bay Steves.
Bold Prediction: They struggle to click before running into the Capitals (the East’s version of the St. Louis Blues) in the conference finals. After Washington folds like an empty seat at LCA, Tampa cruises to a Cup victory over -insert undeserving West team here-. The Steves share a tender moment, all allowing a single tear to fall into the bowl of The Cup. Stamkos looks everyone in the eye and makes it weird.
Toronto Maple Leafs
This team is basically what us Red Wings fans hope our rebuild turns into.
Lauren says: Now before you start throwing tomatoes at me, which would be impressive through the internet anyway, remember that the Leafs were bad for a looooong, long time before they got themselves to this point. But with good drafting as of late and picking first overall (with the added bonus of being not-Edmonton) in 2016, they’ve set themselves up with a strong core of youth that even Detroit fans can envy and a better balance of veterans than the Wings brass allows.
Except you know, they still have Mike Babcock to bench them in favor of Roman Polak or whoever. Maybe you really miss the Death Stare or something.
Oh, and I guess Patrick Marleau is there and trying to win his first Cup. Those stories are always nice.
Bold Prediction: It Was 4-1.
This is our year, Ovi is finally going to get his Cup! We will raise a real bann-STOP LAUGHING.
Sara says: Is there a playoff team more frustrating than the Caps? Every time a D.C. team is in the playoffs, the metro closes too early but local churches are open 24/7 as fans pray for victory and then for death a few days later.
These regular season warriors are always a massive disappointment to the universe and anything less than the Cup is considered a complete failure. But, maybe you’re worried the year you write them off is the year they finally win it all and make you look like a fool. It’s hard to believe in a team that eviscerates souls year after year. Therefore, joining this bandwagon is a riskier choice than the numbers suggest.
It’s like my 8th grade science teacher always said: Sometimes you beat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you.
Bold prediction: Philipp Grubauer is the Caps primary playoff goalie and posts a GAA under 2.30.
So, who is your Eastern bandwagon? Tell us in the comments!
If you’re saving all your dreams for the West, stay tuned for our Very Serious Analysis of the Western Conference playoff teams.