The Stanley Cup Playoffs are here. Unfortunately, the Montreal Canadiens will not have a chance to add a 25th Cup to their loaded trophy cabinet, so that leaves 16 other teams to pick from, each with their own pros and cons when it comes to supporting them. So, consider this your Bitter Bandwagoner’s Fan Guide to picking a team to support in the 2019 post-season.
Let’s start out in the Western Conference, where being aggressively mediocre for most of the year still resulted in a handful of teams grabbing a playoff berth. And no, I’m not at all mad online.
The Pros: The Flames were the leaders in the Western Conference with 107 points, six points clear of their closest competition in the Pacific Division. That’s boring though, and while points are nice, you fine folks want cold, hard facts and I’ve got plenty.
Do you love Brendan Gallagher?
Good, crank the pest factor up to 12 and add a more physical edge and you have Matthew Tkachuk, who in such a short career has Drew Doughty so wound up I expect his head to pop off like a Jack-in-the-Box. There’s the underappreciated glory of Mikael Backlund, who always seems to be a quietly great player for the Flames. Obviously there’s Johnny Hockey, who proves that small players can be superstars in the NHL, and I could gush for days over their defensive group led by should-be-Norris-winner Mark Giordano.
The Cons: Mike Smith is their starting goalie, and he’s what happens when you let a wacky waving inflatable tubeman play in net. You could send all the mean things I say about him directly to him, but they’d more than likely end up in the mesh behind him.
The Pros: GET JOE THORNTON A CUP YOU SODDING HEATHENS.
Sorry, I love Jumbo, and rooting for him to win a Stanley Cup finally is always at the top of my playoff list. Tomas Hertl is a joy as well, and what happens when the spirit of a sugar-high 11-year-old merges with an insanely talented hockey player. Brent Burns is most certainly a member of the Wyatt Family, so I can’t ever speak ill of him, and Erik Karlsson deserves all the joy in the world after escaping the post-apocalyptic hellhole that is the Ottawa Senators.
The Cons: You know all the mean things I said about Mike Smith? Just swap in Martin Jones’s name in there and it’s a similar story, so if you’re picking the Sharks do not hold your breath for things to go well between the pipes.
The Pros: Crowd chants, Frosty Goals, flying catfish, and hot chicken. What’s not to love about Smashville? Viktor Arvidsson is fun, as is Filip Forsberg who was hilariously traded for Martin Erat (lol Capitals).
There’s some guy named P.K., too, if you’re still into that.
The Cons: The trade still stings for many, so it’s not easy to jump on the Predators’ bandwagon, and that’s understandable.
Also country music is terrible. Sorry not sorry.
The Pros: Stacked forward corps from top to bottom; Laine, Wheeler, Ehlers, Little, Connor, Roslovic, etc., etc. They have the talent to pile up goals in a hurry, and they did during last year’s run to the Western Conference Final.
Dustin Byfuglien running smaller people will also never not be funny.
The Cons: Holy god, outside of Jacob Trouba and Big Buff, the defensive group is a tire fire on top of a landfill of diapers. Also, something Paul Maurice did took a crowbar to the knees of his team and they’re primed for a first-round upset against the St. Louis Blues.
St. Louis Blues
The Pros: Somehow the Blues are a playoff team after being dead last in the NHL midway through the season. That’s reason enough to cheer for them; a really fun underdog playing their best hockey at the right time.
Today I introduced my coworkers to the St Louis secret of ordering bagels bread sliced. It was a hit! pic.twitter.com/XNGbljtpYz— Alek Krautmann (@AlekKrautmann) March 26, 2019
THIS IS A WAR ON BREAKFAST ST. LOUIS AND I WILL FIGHT YOU OVER THIS.
The Pros: The owner once called their best two players “f***ing horsesh*t” and honestly the better they play the funnier that quote gets. Also: Alexander Radulov celebrations in the playoffs.
The Cons: I have a personal vendetta against Ben Bishop, but maybe that’s just because he was a Tampa Bay guy for so long.
The Pros: Max Pacioretty has found a fun home opposite old enemy Mark Stone, and they’re a treat to watch. The whole pomp and circumstance of Vegas games is great, and quite frankly keep it going as long as possible.
The Cons: NO MORE WINNING...Suffer like the rest of us for once, and maybe Marc-Andre Fleury will turn into a pumpkin again or something.
The Pros: Nathan MacKinnon is insane, just watch him all of the time.
Plus, the better they do, the funnier it is that they have the Senators’ fourth overall pick.
The Cons: I mean, Altitude broadcasts are unbearable at the best of times I suppose, and I still haven’t forgiven them for being part of Le Trade.
Let’s head to the Eastern Conference, where I am, again, super not mad about the Canadiens not making the playoffs.
The Pros: They’re the best team in the league, talented in all three zones, and deep at every conceivable position. Nikita Kucheov is a wizard, doing things with a puck that mere mortals cannot, and Steven Stamkos, after all the injury setbacks, continues to impress.
The Cons: Jon Cooper chewing gum is an image that makes me physically angry, and I hope he runs out of all the good flavours quickly. Also, rooting for a division rival?
The Pros: Nahhhhh (Doesn’t apply to David Pastrnak.) (Or Patrice Bergeron.) (And it’s hard to say that to Jaroslav Halak’s face as well.)
The Cons: They’re the Bruins. Come on now, cheering for them means you have to shower like four times more than usual.
The Pros: More Cups, and more drunken shenanigans from Alex Ovechkin? Sign me all the way up for that nonsense again. Plus, Lars Eller being a two-time champ potentially warms my heart a bit.
The Cons: Do you really want to cheer for Tom Wilson? Didn’t think so.
The Pros: Winning more games in the playoffs than the Maple Leafs after the whole John Tavares saga is a schadenfreude buffet for anyone sick of hearing about the John Tavares saga. Robin Lehner overcoming the demons of mental illness is also a truly incredible story, and one worth cheering for.
The Cons: Win or lose, you’re still going to get force fed the John Tavares saga.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Pros: Not a damn chance
The Cons: If they win you’ll never hear the end of it. If they lose you’ll never hear the end of how bad the playoff format is.
The Pros: Sidney Crosby is a robot designed to only be good at hockey, and Phil Kessel overcoming the smear campaign from Toronto media is always a treat.
The Cons: Jack Johnson and Erik Gudbranson might be on the ice together at one point, and I assume the world will collapse on itself due to the magnitude of suck that entails.
The Pros: Three words: PLAYOFF STORM SURGE
Also they’re a young possession heavy team, led by Sebastian Aho, Dougie Hamilton and a whole host of other young stars. Plus, they make Don Cherry mad, so that’s worth like 50 million internet points.
The Cons: I’ll never forgive Justin Williams for gouging Saku Koivu’s eye and you shouldn’t either.
The Pros: They went for it, trading every asset they had to make the playoffs. And they did. Just barely, but they did. Them succeeding might encourage more teams to go for it at the deadline, too.
Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are two of the best young defenders in the league. Let them show off what they’ve got.
The Cons: Torts once told the whole world one of his players pooped their pants, and that’s just gross.
Also, do you really want to cheer for the team that edged you out of the post-season? Actually, maybe that would make it easier to accept.
There you have it folks, your totally legit, super professional guide to bandwagoning this years Stanley Cup Playoffs!