[Disclaimer: This post uses generalizations about what Red Wings fans like as though you all think like I do. I realize your mileage may vary and you may hate things I like. Fortunately this is why we have a comments section and a Fanposts section!]
Wednesday night in hockey was a big surprise to me and by now it really shouldn’t have been. This whole season was full of surprises and the playoffs have been no different. I’m on record as having been convinced that the Vegas Golden Knights would be quickly exposed as a fluke and that the Tampa Bay Lightning would come away with the Prince of Wales Trophy after they took a 3-2 series lead against a collapsing Washington team.
Fortunately, the universe righted itself and the two teams from each conference I was rooting for more ended up winning their series and will now meet in the Stanley Cup Final starting on Monday.
With this matchup set, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say we’re at a point where this might be the toughest rooting decision in the final since... I dunno, the 2012 meh-fest that was the Kings/Devils? Maybe Carolina/Edmonton in 2006? It’s definitely been a while since it was so easy for me to find happiness no matter which way this series goes.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of rooting for each team:
Why the Capitals Winning Would be Great
If your fandom timeline matches up with mine (read: if you’re as old as I am), then you probably have a special affinity for things like Russians, Swedes, defeating tired narratives about Russians & Swedes, and aging captains who have been offensively dynamic and unable to win the cup which has led them to earn an unfair reputation as the reason his team is incapable of winning it. If that’s the case, then are the Capitals the team for you or what?
I don’t love Alex Ovechkin like I loved Sergei Fedorov, Slava Kozlov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Igor Larionov, and Slava Fetisov. I definitely don’t love him like I loved Steve Yzerman. Similarly, Nicklas Backstrom doesn’t rate as highly on my list of beloved players as the cavalcade of Swedes topped by Nick Lidstrom that the Red Wings have enjoyed, but I do appreciate that at their core, this Capitals team shares a bit of DNA with what those Red Wings teams from the 90s started in the NHL (along with liking the idea that the Red Wings team of the 90s once swept the Capitals out of the Final). The fact that there’s still a narrative that Russians/Europeans are too soft to win North America’s hockey holy grail always rubs me wrong and seeing Ovechkin lift the cup would be really gratifying.
Aside from that, the other strong contender from the Caps in my heart is Barry Trotz. I ALWAYS hated playing against his Nashville squads and respected him as a coach. I felt his time in Nashville was spent earning an unfair reputation as a guy who wasn’t capable of putting it all together, despite those past Nashville teams being limited by more economic factors than coaching factors.
The final (and most-petty) reason here is that over time, I’ve grown a kind of frenemy relationship with Caps fans over our mutual dislike for the Penguins in this era. The Caps have never hurt us. Our playoff history against them is marvelous and I’ll always have that, but knowing Washington winning would bug Pens fans plays in here.
Why the Capitals Winning Would be Awful
I’ll be straight, while I appreciate the shared disdain for the Penguins we have going on, I don’t really like Caps fans. I get why they are like they are - a mess of exposed nerves simultaneously waiting for Lucy to pull the football away at any moment and whining about how little respect their team gets - but I’m not one of them so I don’t have to treat it like the family member I complain about, but will pop you in the nose for making fun of.
Aside from that, the biggest sin of Caps fans out there is their continued droning support in defense of Tom Wilson’s antics. I can’t stand that guy or the fawning Pierre McGuire narrative that follows around giving him undue credit for things. The guy is Luke Witkowski with better hands in terms of how much lazy commentators love to credit him with magically forcing his better teammates to score and in terms of taking runs at players in a way I’d like for the NHL to do away with.
Finally, while it looks like he’s learned his lesson and has gotten more low-key lately, if Washington wins the Cup, then I’m pretty sure Ted Leonsis is going to try to find a way to take a skate with it immediately out of Ovechkin’s hands. That guy bugs me.
Why Vegas Winning Would be Great
If you’re like me and get gratification in seeing narratives shoved back in people’s faces, then the team everybody laughed at immediately out of their own expansion draft who hired a coach who was once left to get a cab away from a road arena after being fired is a great story to pick up on (even if some of that laughing was my own). The Vegas story is fun and refreshing. It’s like the John Scott All-Star game storyline without the aftertaste of knowing you just lionized a career goon.
For likable players, Vegas took Tomas Nosek off Detroit in the draft and he has been good enough to be an NHL regular, but not lights-out enough to make me bitter about the Red Wings losing him. I still love Tomas Tatar as well and seeing him lift the cup this June would bring a proud tear to the eye of this Tatar-jersey-owning Red Wings fan. Even pettier, seeing the unhappiness from every other fanbase who saw their team lose a key player in Vegas’ success keeps me going. I’m especially enjoying how much more I like Marc-Andre Fleury now that he’s in different shades of black-and-gold.
Finally, as a Red Wings fan, we’ll always have that our team handed this cinderella squad their first ever loss as a franchise.
Why Vegas Winning Would be Awful
James Neal once intentionally stuck out his leg to knee a downed opponent in the head and he plays for Vegas. Ryan Reaves is a lot like Tom Wilson with dirty plays. Seeing either of them win is definitely less-than-ideal for me.
Aside from individual player dislike, there definitely would be some bitterness at how quickly an expansion team was able to build up and win the entire thing while my own team struggles with even calling what they’re doing a rebuild. While Vegas doesn’t have a longstanding fanbase to annoy me, them winning a cup would create that immediately, not to mention the general annoyance with all the people who will rush to cash in on the social media funniness of calling themselves a life-long Vegas Golden Knights fan.
Hell is other people and hockey hell is watching other people kill something cute by overloading the bandwagon. The Golden Knights winning it all would embody that in a way I haven’t seen since the inexplicable Teemu Selanne lovefest finally went the hell away after Spongebob Richard Hammond’s retirement.
Finally, if you really want to dig into the weeds, Vegas winning the Cup further devalues the return we got for Tomas Tatar in the trade that got us the Golden Knight’s first-round pick this year. That one spot could be crucial.
All-in-all, I think I’m rooting for the Caps more than for Vegas because of the Ovi/Backstrom/Trotz/draft pick thing, but either way I’m looking forward to watching this series knowing I shouldn’t have to wretch when it’s all over regardless. Who are you pulling for and why?
Who are you rooting for in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final?
This poll is closed
Vegas Golden Knights