With the Chicago Blackhawks eliminated from the postseason, there is one question on the minds of many fans: who should they root for as the NHL playoffs continue?
Fortunately for those fans, NBC Chicago is here to help.
There are several teams that we can eliminate right off the bat. The St. Louis Blues, being one of the Blackhawks’ biggest rivals, have got to be on that list. The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins also have to be on that list, as they have already tasted the glory of a championship.
We’ll also eliminate teams that are on the verge of being dumped from the playoffs, so that means that the Minnesota Wild and Boston Bruins, who are both down 3-1, have to be kicked out of the conversation.
That leaves us with eight of the remaining teams left in the postseason, so we’ll debate each of their merits.
The Canadiens are down three games to two at the moment to the Rangers, but they have some awesome players like Max Pacioretty and Carey Price that are worth rooting for. The real question is whether fans want to root for a team that is so heavily designed to bludgeon opponents, as those teams typically flame out in the postseason.
New York Rangers
The Rangers currently hold the lead over the Canadiens in their first round series, and they have quite a few players looking for their first Stanley Cup, including Henrik Lundqvist. They are also a high-event team, as they score a ton of goals but give up a ton of scoring chances in the process.
Erik Karlsson is one of the most exciting players on the planet, and Craig Anderson is a Chicago-native, but there is one thing working against this team: they are BORING. They play a trapping style under head coach Guy Boucher, and although it’s an effective strategy, it can sometimes grind games to a halt.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs are a team loaded to the brim with young and exciting talent, with players like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner helping make the team one of the darlings of the postseason. There aren’t a lot of reasons to root against them, other than perhaps the distaste of rooting for a head coach in Mike Babcock that has routinely kept Joel Quenneville from getting a shot as the boss of the Canadian Olympic team.
The Capitals have never hoisted a Stanley Cup, and the narrative surrounding Alex Ovechkin and his status as having never won a championship is one that would be awesome to see go away. On the other hand, the Capitals entered the postseason as one of the championship favorites, so jumping on their bandwagon may seem a bit too obvious for hardcore hockey fans.
The Ducks are unquestionably one of the toughest teams in the NHL, and they showed that with their systematic dismantling of the Calgary Flames in round one. Unfortunately for them, Corey Perry is about as unlikeable as you can get as a player, and their head coach Randy Carlyle has a history of doing some questionable things that get his team into trouble when the spotlight burns brightest.
The Predators may have swept the Blackhawks out of the postseason, but they have a few likeable players (including PK Subban) and are one of the more exciting teams to watch in the game. It’s hard to root for the team that eliminated your team from the postseason, but the Predators may be an exception because of those reasons.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks are the defending Western Conference champions, but there is still reason to root for them as they have guys like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau that are looking for their first championship. Unfortunately, they are down three games to two to the Edmonton Oilers, so picking them as a bandwagon team could come with some pitfalls.
Speaking of the Oilers, they have arguably the most exciting player in the game in Connor McDavid on their roster, and they are absolutely bent on proving to the rest of the NHL that they belong on the big stage. The one thing really holding them back? Their orange jerseys, which may be offensive to the eyes of some fans.
Want to just say forget it to the whole thing and just focus on Chicago sports? Then the Bulls could certainly use your support, and with exciting players like Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, and with the avalanche of storylines uncorked by the injury to Rajon Rondo, there will be plenty of reasons to pay attention.