Who you should root for in the Stanley Cup playoffs
Okay, so I could break down each of the Stanley Cup playoff series, and tell you which team has the better goaltending or which power play is good. I can talk about coaching and match-ups and all that junk. But if you're a hockey diehard, you already know that stuff. (Sidney Crosby is really good, Zdeno Chara is really big and Chris Chelios is really old. So there you go.)
No, this playoff preview won't tell you who will win, but which team you should be rooting for. Of course, if you grew up in, say, Philly and think a cheesesteak is the staple of any good breakfast, I don't expect you too root against the Flyers. But if you're sitting down to watch a game and really don't care who wins, here's a little help.
Montreal vs. Boston
There are few places on earth where something means as much to a town as hockey means to the people of Montreal. It's like football in Western Pennsylvania or basketball in Indiana. It's everything. So cheer for the Habs. They really do have the best, most passionate fans in the league and there's no place more electric in the NHL than the Molson Centre in the postseason. They have the coolest uniforms in sports. And the league is always way more fun and interesting when the Canadiens are good. Besides, the Bruins are watching-paint-dry boring. Plus, aren't we all sick of Boston after the Red Sox and Patriots? Anyway, they have the Celtics to cheer for this spring.
Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa
You should like the Penguins because they were once great, sunk to the bottom of the league and rebuilt through the draft and player development instead of just re-loading with free agents. Then again, let's be honest: they were flat-out lucky to end up with Sidney Crosby. But here's the thing: Crosby is a good kid who works hard and deserves to have good things happen to him. Ottawa had its chance. The Sens should be working on Cup No. 2 or 3 by now and instead, they still don't have one. So step aside and let someone who isn't going to waste their chance have a crack at it.
Washington vs. Philadelphia
Both have rags-to-riches stories worth cheering for. The Caps went from last in the conference this season to a No. 3 seed. Philly had a franchise-low 56 points last year and have re-tooled the right way. So who should you root for? Think of this: everytime Washington's Alex Ovechkin plays, there's a chance to see something we've never seen before. So the more times he plays, the more incredible memories we might collect. So root for Washington. Besides, the Flyers are still a little too dirty to like and Derian Hatcher plays like a thug.
New Jersey vs. NY Rangers
Anytime the Devils win, it's bad for the NHL. It only confirms that playing that plodding, boring, neutral-zone trap, try to win every game 2-1 can actually work and then you have 30 teams trying to win that way. Then it's not hockey; it's soccer. Devils goalie Martin Brodeur might be the nicest guy in the league, but he has already won his Cups, so let's get the Devils out of here. And I love Jaromir Jagr, whom I think gets bad rap for being a dog. No way you score almost 1,600 points playing like a dog. It would be great to see Jagr go out on top, and stick to all those no-nothing numbskulls he who say, "Jagr only plays when he wants to play.'' Plus, the better the Rangers do, the better it is for the health of the NHL.
Detroit vs. Nashville
Nashville should get some kind of trophy for just making the playoffs, considering all the players it lost from last season and all the injuries it had this season. An upset of the Wings would be one of the biggest in league history and it might be worth hoping for just for the historic angle. But then the Preds would get bombed in the next round and then it wouldn't be worth it. It's easy to not like the Red Wings because they're just so good, but their consistency should be admired, not hated. And there's this: Red Wings fans are better (in both quality and quantity) than Predators fans. So, go with the Wings.
San Jose vs. Calgary
Calgary coach Mike Keenan can be a real jerk, but jerks are interesting, no? We like crazy. And you gotta love Calgary's Jarome Iginla, who is as nice off the ice as he is good on the ice. The Sharks have paid their postseason dues, but they've lost too many times in the playoffs to teams they should've beaten. That's annoying. I actually think the Sharks have a chance to win it all if they remove their hands from their throats for a change. But I'm rooting for Calgary.
Minnesota vs. Colorado
True, the Wild is the West's version of the Devils, playing that boring defensive style. But the big difference is the Wild has Marian Gaborik, whom I think could be pound-for-pound the best player in the NHL. Jacques Lemaire is the NHL's best coach and, I speak from experience, a heck of a nice guy. The fans are incredible. Every home game -- including exhibition games -- has been sold out. Sports Illustrated called it the new Hockey Town. Avs fans, meantime, are fair-weathered. Go Wild people.
Dallas vs. Anaheim
This is easy. The Stars have Brad Richards and we all like Brad Richards, right? The Ducks have Chris Pronger and we all hate Chris Pronger, right? Yes, we hate him. And the reason is he is too good of a player to consistently dish out the cheap shots he dishes out. Anaheim won its Cup last season, so time for someone new.