Who to Root For: A Blackhawks Fan's Guide to the Playoffs | NBC Chicago
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Who to Root For: A Blackhawks Fan's Guide to the Playoffs

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    With their 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Monday night, the Chicago Blackhawks have been eliminated from the postseason, and now fans are left without hockey in May and June for the first time in recent memory.

    For some fans, that will be a welcome respite, as they can fully turn their attention to the red-hot Cubs and White Sox, but for others, there will surely be a hollow feeling as teams continue to vie for the Stanley Cup championship that eluded the Blackhawks this season.

    For those fans, the question becomes this: who should they root for?

    With that in mind, we’ll discuss each of the nine teams remaining in the postseason, explaining why they would be a good fit for the bandwagon jumper or why they would bring nothing but misery to fans foolhardy enough to choose them.

    Anaheim Ducks

    The Good:

    One of the NHL’s most interesting comeback stories this season, the Ducks began the season in hilariously awful fashion before bouncing back and winning the Pacific Division championship.

    The Bad:

    Players like Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler have well-earned reputations as jerks on the ice, and rooting for them is prone to leave a bad taste in the mouths of Hawks fans after the 2015 Conference Final. Also, the Ducks could potentially be eliminated on Wednesday as they battle the Predators in Game 7 of their first round series.

    Dallas Stars

    The Good:

    The Stars have plenty of players that Blackhawks fans will recognize, as Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, and Antti Niemi all have donned the green sweater. The Stars also play an incredible up-tempo style of hockey, which is perfect for fans looking for entertainment during the postseason.

    The Bad:

    The Stars are a flawed team with questionable goaltending and a defense that isn’t all that great. They’re certainly one of the better teams left, but there are still doubts about whether Lindy Ruff can lead this team to the promised land.

    Nashville Predators

    The Good:

    Speaking of teams that have had good redemption stories, the Predators have overcome some serious obstacles to get back to this point. Pekka Rinne is playing some of the best hockey of his career, and star players like Shea Weber and Fillip Forsberg turn heads every time they are on the ice.

    The Bad:

    The Predators are one game away from elimination as they prepare to face the Ducks on Wednesday night. Add in the gaudy yellow shirts that fans wear at Bridgestone Arena, and the fact that Predators’ officials have routinely tried to make it difficult for Blackhawks fans to enter their arena, and it’s a recipe for making a bandwagoner feel uncomfortable.

    New York Islanders

    The Good:

    If you want a plucky underdog story, this is likely your team to root for. The Islanders advanced past the first round for the first time since 1993, beating the Florida Panthers to advance. They did so without their starting goaltender and basically did it with one player, John Tavares, leading the way.

    Add in former Blackhawks star Nick Leddy, and this team certainly has some good qualities going for it.

    The Bad:

    Looking at the other remaining teams in the East, it’s hard to imagine the Islanders getting all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. The Capitals and Penguins are both elite teams, and the Lightning have been to the Final before and are looking to get there again even as they deal with injuries. Rooting for the Islanders could be a very tough experience if a fan is really wanting to find the right mix of fun and winning potential.

    Pittsburgh Penguins

    The Good:

    In addition to having two of the best players on the planet in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins also have plenty of other exciting players. Phil Kessel is a great example, as the winger has celebrated his escape from Toronto by becoming one of the league’s most dynamic wingers. Kris Letang, a serious Norris candidate, is also playing some incredible hockey, and goaltender Matt Murray has emerged as a feel-good story after Marc-Andre Fleury went down with an injury.

    The Bad:

    Aside from questionable coaching moves, there isn’t a lot to hate about this Penguins team. About the only mean thing a Blackhawks fan could say about this group is that they’ll never forgive Pittsburgh for sweeping the Hawks in the 1992 Stanley Cup Final, and perhaps that’s enough of a reason to avoid them.

    San Jose Sharks

    The Good:

    There probably isn’t a team in hockey that was more of a surprise winner in Round One than the Sharks. Many thought that the Los Angeles Kings were a favorite to come out of the West, but the Sharks beat them in five games and avenged the 3-0 comeback that the Kings executed against them in 2014.

    Add to that the mix of veteran talents like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau and the dynamic exploits of guys like Joe Pavelski (one of the most underrated players in hockey) and Brent Burns, and this team has the tools and skill to excite fans in the postseason.

    The Bad:

    Chicago fans are used to their teams ripping their hearts out, and the Sharks have a bad history of doing that to their fans. The team has never won a Stanley Cup, and although it would be an awesome story to see them do it this year, there are still plenty of demons remaining to be exorcised.

    St. Louis Blues

    The Good:

    If you’re one of those fans that roots for the team that eliminated your team from the playoffs, then St. Louis is good. Vladimir Tarasenko is also fun to watch.

    The Bad:

    Pretty much everything else. It’s hard for a fan to stomach the idea of rooting for a rival, and especially one that just eliminated your team.

    Tampa Bay Lightning

    The Good:

    The Lightning are stacked with talented players, with guys like Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, and Tyler Johnson all making big names for themselves with their incredible play. One of the most complete teams left in the postseason, the Bolts are playing well even without Steven Stamkos in the mix, which is a remarkable feat.

    The Bad:

    There really isn’t a great reason to root against the Lightning. About the only quibble is that they’re probably the third-most likely team to advance to the Cup Final from the East, trailing Washington and Pittsburgh by a narrow margin.

    Washington Capitals

    The Good:

    Having one of the most exciting players in hockey is always a good start, but the Capitals are more than just an Alex Ovechkin show. Players like Braden Holtby are thrilling to watch, and other star players like Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson both are incredible athletes.

    The Bad:

    Much like the Blues and Sharks, the Capitals have a habit of faltering in the playoffs. They’re in for a tough test against the Penguins in round two, so be prepared to pop some Tums or Pepto while watching them. 

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