I can safely say that this is the most interested I’ve been in the NHL playoffs since the Thrashers left in 2011. I didn’t watch many games in the regular season, but something about the conference realignment and simplified playoff bracket has me excited.
Here’s who I’m cheering for in each series (not necessarily who I expect to win) and why.
Colorado vs Minnesota
The Avalanche. They’re a great story and Roy should be coach of the year. He won the Stanley Cup as a rookie player, won the Memorial Cup as a rookie coach, and could win another title as a rookie head coach. They’re an exciting team and I’d love to see them go deep. I grew up despising Roy but he’s one of the most interesting stories in the NHL right now, and I’m all about good stories.
St. Louis vs Chicago
I’ll take the Blackhawks because I have more connections to them. I’m still a Marian Hossa fan (he should have won the Selke at least once by now) and former Thrashers PR guy Rob Tillotson is with the Blackhawks, working with former Wolves PR guy Adam Rogowin.
Anaheim vs Dallas
As much as I’d like to see Kari Lehtonen go on a run (or go for a run, which he should have tried once in a while in Atlanta), I like everything about the Ducks except their coach. Plus I’ve known their web guy (Adam Brady) for years. Throw in the Selanne factor and they’re easy to pull for.
San Jose vs Los Angeles
I don’t like either team but I dislike the Kings more. I’ll take the Sharks in the first round and then happily root against them in the second. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- Joe Thornton is never going to win a Stanley Cup.
Boston vs Detroit
I grew up a Bruins fan and Patrice Bergeron is my favorite player. That being said, I really like what the Red Wings have been able to do this year with some of their young guys like Tatar and Nyquist. I’m pulling for the Bruins but wouldn’t mind seeing the Red Wings make some noise.
Tampa Bay vs Montreal
As a Bruins fan I can’t cheer for the Habs. Go Lightning. There aren’t a lot of Bens I feel like I can support in the NHL so Bishop is my guy (even if he won’t be in goal to start the series). I want to see Palat do well too. He’d be my runner-up for the Calder behind McKinnon.
Pittsburgh vs Columbus
This is an easy one. My cousin has been working for the Blue Jackets since 2007 (he’s now their amateur video scout, which means he gets paid to watch hockey all day, every day) and like me he has never experienced a playoff win (game or series). On top of that Dan Kamal is doing TV work in Columbus for Fox, and a former graphic designer for the Thrashers works for Columbus now. If I have a favorite team in the NHL now it might be Columbus. Dubinsky, Bobrovsky, Johansen- the team has heart and talent. I’d love to see them knock off the Penguins and make the Jets/Thrashers the only team left in the NHL without a series win in their franchise history.
New York vs Philadelphia
The Eastern Conference version of San Jose versus LA. I don’t like either team (how is Glen Sather still around?) but I dislike the Rangers less by virtue of them having PEI’s Brad Richards.