So as you may have heard by now (it's come up from time to time), the Caps have missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
After such a long stretch of "success", having the season come to an end in early April is a tough adjustment for all of us. Usually we get at least one round (but no more than two) of Caps' hockey before having to decide how to fill our hockeyless hours. Not this year, though. No, this year the Caps made sure to make a much more graceful, albeit earlier, exit from the season by failing to even make the postseason... saving us all a bit of heartache and a lot of money along the way, sure, but leaving us with tons of time to kill and a bit of excess rooting energy left over.
But there's still hockey to be played, and meaningful hockey at that. And if you like that sort of thing, and aren't quite ready to shift over to baseball full time, you may be looking for a bandwagon or two on which to hop - so which team is worthy of your flash-in-the-pan fandom? To help you narrow it down, we've put together a handy little primer (
blatantly stolen from inspired by our pals over at In Lou We Trust) of why you should - and shouldn't - root for each of this year's postseason participants.
THE WESTERN CONFERENCE
- The Avs are kind of like the Caps in their Boudreau heyday - they score a lot of goals and have a stellar power play, but maybe not so much with the defense. Might be nice to see a team that "doesn't play the right way" move on.
- Gabriel Landeskog might actually be a Scandinavian god, and it's never a good idea to go against the gods... unless you really like pushing boulders up mountains or having your liver pecked at by birds for all eternity.
- In one of his first regular season games as an NHL coach, Patrick Roy literally broke the arena trying to get to opposing coach Bruce Boudreau. Just think, that level of crazy under the white-hot playoff spotlight? *grabs popcorn*
No Avs No
- The charges were dropped, but it's a little hard to look past the fact that Semyon Varlamov has an arrest record and a mug shot for allegedly kicking the crap out of his girlfriend. For some of us, at least.
- Pepsi is just gross.
- Speaking of just gross... oh hello there, Max Talbot, member of the Colorado Avalanche!
- Ilya Bryzgalov is so not going to let Patrick Roy out-crazy him in this series, you can just feel it.
- The ongoing story of Josh Harding and his battle with multiple sclerosis is an amazing one - and while he's had some setbacks this season, he's been skating with the team of late, which is pretty exciting. Just the chance that he could come back this year is reason enough to hope they go on a bit of a run.
Admit it, you sort of like Zenon Konopka because he has a beloved and very spoiled pet bunny named Hoppy. #hoppylife4ever[Edit: Yes, Zenon Konopka has packed up his bunny and moved to Buffalo... which is very much not a playoff team. So the Wild don't have that going for them anymore.]
No Wild No
- Two years ago, Minnesota owner Craig Leipold complained that his team wasn't making money in part because of skyrocketing player salaries... and then turned around and spent $196 million to bring hometown boys Ryan Suter and Zach Parise into the fold. Guess he found some spare change in his couch or something.
- It doesn't matter how many 12-step programs he's passed or how many times he's found Jesus - Matt Cooke is still Matt Cooke, and will always be Matt Cooke, and that ain't changing just because he's swapped one ugly sweater for another.
- If Harding's not able to make it back into the lineup, that basically means the Wild are going with a goaltending tandem of crazy Bryzgalov and Darcy Kuemper. They've been good so far, but...that just doesn't seem sustainable.
- Their Stanley Cup drought actually extends beyond that of the Caps, which therefore makes it okay for them to win a Cup before the Caps. Probably.
- David Backes saves puppies at home and abroad. And who doesn't love puppies?
- Now that he's been released from the purgatory that is Buffalo, it might be nice to see Ryan Miller have some success behind a legitimately good team (or at least one that was legitimately good until the last few weeks of the season...ahem).
No Blues No
- They share a city with the Cardinals, which means Pete Kozma is probably rooting for the Blues... and man, screw THAT guy.
- The Blues might have the highest pests-per-square inch ratio in the League, between Backes and Steve Ott and Maxim Lapierre and Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves and Steve Ott and T.J. Oshie and Steve Ott. And did we mention Steve Ott?
- Patrick Sharp is a very handsome man.
- The ‘Hawks won a Cup in 2010 after spending tons of dough, but then had to sell off pieces due to salary cap restraints... and then somehow took that cheaper, more streamlined version of their team and won another Cup three years later (while making an arena full of Massholes go from joyful giddiness to tears in 17 seconds). That's just damn impressive.
- If the ‘Hawks win again, maybe we'll get to see the Kaner Shuffle Version 2.0...
No Hawks No
- Chicago's won twice in the last four years, and look to be contenders again this year, while the Caps have only been to the Finals once in the last four decades and have missed the postseason altogether this year. Embrace the bitter jealousy, my friends.
- When they snapped their long Cup drought in 2010, they were the lovable, championship-starved franchise with lovable, long-suffering fans. Throw in a second Cup and they just become kind of unbearable, don't they? Think Red Sox circa 2004 compared to Red Sox post-2007.
- No more Chelsea Dagger. Please. No more.
- After everything he did for this Caps team, most of us probably have a bit of a soft spot in our hearts for Bruce Boudreau. He's a guy who is hard to root against, and it's been sort of fun seeing him have so much success with the Ducks.
- That would also go for former Cap Mathieu Perreault, who is having success of his own under the California sun. Miss u, Matty P.
- They have Teemu Selanne. And Saku Koivu. Fabulous Finns abound in Anaheim, and for at least one of them this could be the last go-round... could be. I won't believe it until it actually happens.
No Ducks No
- Yes, there's a bit of a soft spot for Bruce. But we also all have a bitter dark side. You know the one. It's the side that won't let us be happy for him because dammit, if he couldn't be successful here, he shouldn't be successful anywhere!
- For every classy Finn on the Ducks... there's a Corey Perry.
- It just doesn't seem right that a team named after a Disney movie (albeit a pretty great one) should win more than one Cup. Take a lesson from your namesake, Ducks - sequels almost always suck. Quack quack.
- The Stars have been kind of a scrappy underdog all year long, with the best one-two goal-scoring punch no one's paying attention to in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and they play a fun style of hockey that's easy to like.
- Win it for Rich Peverley, boys!
- They snapped a lengthy playoff drought this season, making it to the postseason for the first time since 2008 - that's always worth rooting for.
No Stars No
- Tim Thomas rears his ugly head once again, because he seriously won't go away. Ever. Couldn't just stay in your bunker, could you, Timmy?
- It might actually be against the law for Washingtonians to root for a team from Dallas. I'm pretty sure.
- Perhaps the best, most consistent team to never make it to the Stanley Cup Final over the last decade or so, the Sharks have had that choking dog moniker for almost as long as the Caps (although granted, they've had a bit more postseason success overall) - time for them to finally win one.
- If Brent Burns gets a serious playoff beard going, he might actually turn into a wookie, and that alone is worth tuning in for.
- We've heard what Joe Thornton would do if he scored four goals in a regular season game. Just imagine what Joe Thornton would do to celebrate four goals in the playoffs! ...although that might be a reason to root against them, as well. Your choice.
No Sharks No
- Putting Tyler Kennedy's ginormous nostrils on HD televisions for an extended period of time might throw off the earth's gravitational force. Science.
- You don't really get to own that choking dog label until it extends 30-40 years, Sharks. You've got a few more decades of suffering to go before you truly reach our level.
- Jonathan Quick is a pretty phenomenal goalie, and his adorable daughter was one of the highlights of the Kings' Cup run in 2012.
- To borrow from ILWT, let's be honest - seeing Mike Richards and Jeff Carter troll the entire city of Philadelphia (and their media contingent) is downright hilarious.
No Kings No
- In a conference that plays a very up-tempo game overall, the Kings stand out as the complete opposite of that. They'll lull you to sleep before you even climb aboard their bandwagon.
- The dudebro quotient on this team is just a tad bit too high...
- ...and thanks to guys like
Daniel CarcilloJeff Carter, so is the asshole quotient.
THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
- That Patrice Bergeron guy is pretty good, I guess. If you like that really talented, "will play hockey with one lung" kind of thing.
- Eight words: Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla.
No Bruins No
- It's just really, really hard to take anyone seriously when they insist on being called "Dougie". Give them a cookie and send them out to the playground, sure, but take them seriously? Nope.
- Brad Marchand winning another Cup would be like a bunch of puppies getting kicked. And as we've already established, everyone likes puppies. And no one likes Marchand.
- Two words: Jeremy. Jacobs.
- The sheer number of injuries the Wings have had throughout their lineup this season - including some pretty significant ones to guys like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk - makes the fact that they're even in the playoffs a fairly impressive feat. Mike Babcock might have actual magical powers.
- Gustav Nyquist is really, really fun to watch. Because what the Red Wings have always lacked is entertaining Swedish players, right?
No Wings No
- Yeah, just keep rubbing that long postseason run in our faces, Wings. We get it, six years is not nearly as impressive as 23.
- But seriously, Mike Babcock might have actual magical powers. That doesn't scare you??
- Marc-Andre Fleury + playoffs = instant comedy.
- ...I got nothing.
No Pens No
- They're the Penguins.
- Seriously...they're the PENGUINS.
- They're the gosh darn mother-fudging Penguins and it's enough already.
- Because everyone loves ‘Lumbus. Playing the Penguins makes them all the more lovable.
- We all know that Sidney Crosby can be taken off his game if you get under his skin, and Brandon Dubinsky might be the best Crosby-baiter in the game. So watching the two of them go head-to-head in a playoff series should be a treat for the soul.
- Sergei Bobrovsky is inherently likable...and not because his success is ongoing salt in the wound for the Flyers and their fans. Well, not JUST because of that.
No Jackets No
- It's been a few years since his comments about the Caps (and lord knows they don't play the same "wrong" way anymore, although I'm not sure it's the "right" way, either)...but RJ Umberger can still go take a flying leap.
- Firing off a cannon indoors just seems like a bad idea.
- It's almost a little easier to root for them now that Martin St. Louis is gone, isn't it? Love that guy...but hate that guy.
- After missing the Olympics (and most of the regular season) with a broken leg, Steven Stamkos has just one big stage left on which to perform this year. He already picked up where he left off in the regular season - time to see what he can do in just his second postseason appearance ever.
- The Bolts have a lot of young, relatively-unknown players on their roster who should be fun to watch in the playoffs.
No Bolts No
- A team that has flourished with (and at times relied heavily on) the first consistent goaltending they've had in years now looks a little weak in net, with Ben Bishop out for an unknown length of time. Ruh roh.
- St. Louis is gone. Vincent Lecavalier is gone. And yet the wounds from that embarrassing playoff sweep a few years ago linger on...
- Actually all of the wounds linger on. For a division that at times lacked the heat and hatred of prior configurations, the Southeast Division did foster a fair amount of bitterness toward the Lightning. Bad enough that they've already won a Cup; let's see that postseason run cut short.
- Max Pacioretty is the best almost-40 goal-scorer that no one's paying attention to, and his line - with Thomas Vanek and David Desharnais - will be one to watch in the playoffs.
- Other cities can claim to be Hockeytown or Hockey Mecca or America's Hockey Capital or whatever other self-proclaimed nonsense title they want to give themselves...there's just no place on earth like Montreal during hockey season. Montreal during the playoffs? Another level altogether. Y'know, when they're not rioting and stuff.
- The Gallys (Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk) are hilarious and magical. They're also pretty good at hockey, so here's hoping Galchenyuk gets off the crutches and back on the ice soon.
No Habs No
- Yes, Montreal is a pretty special place during the playoffs - but the playoffs also bring out the cocky, slightly entitled side of Canadiens' fans that has been bred in them thanks to all those Cups. How many? Ask them, they'll be sure to tell you.
- Another postseason of having to hear about how clutch Daniel Briere is during said postseason... joy. The Magical Spearing Midget rides again.
- Alain Vigneault got a bit of a raw deal when the Canucks let him go, and the fact that the Rangers rebounded from a shaky start to look like true contenders while the Canucks went on to miss the playoffs is kind of a nice "screw you" to his old team. Which is always fun.
- At some point, Henrik Lundqvist's talent is finally going to be enough to carry his team to the next level... right?
No Rangers No
- They traded away Ryan Callahan in order to get Martin St. Louis, downgrading their likability factor (and their team's average height) by a wide margin.
- Having to hear "let's go RANJUHS" for any extended period of time... dear god. The ears bleed at the mere thought of it.
- Playoff matchups breed far more hatred than any sort of divisional alignment, and if seeing the Rangers year after year after year in the postseason hasn't made you hate them by now, I don't know what to tell you.
Go Flyers Go
- They're... the lesser evil of the two Pennsylvania teams? Slightly?
- Scott Hartnell is generally the most unlikable guy on the ice, but off it, he's a pretty funny dude. So there's that.
No Flyers No
- If they were any other team, the fact that they were able to rebound from the worst start in franchise history to a playoff spot would be a lovely story that makes you want to root them on. But... it's the Flyers, so let's be honest, that first part of the season was way more fun to watch.
- Ray Emery can go to hell, and he can take Zac Rinaldo with him.
- They're the FLYERS. Come on.
Whichever team you end up choosing, be sure to check out our fabulous SB Nation pals around the network for playoff insight and fun. And remember, trash-talk is fine... being a jerk is not. So play nice.