We did this before the last round, and we should do it again. Because you can't really watch hockey as a passive observer. The sports creates to much energy and passion, and no matter how little you care about the teams, by the 3rd period of Game 2 you'll be aching to stab someone from Vanc....well, we'll get to that.
Western Conference: Vancouver v. San Jose
Well this is easy, isn't it? While we all really enjoyed last spring's sweep of San Jose and had a good laugh at their continued playoff failures, they've never generated a lot of hate for Hawks fans. Too far away, not enough encounters, not enough of a threat. The Hawks and Sharks have only contested that one series, and the Sharks didn't win a game. So there's not much of a rivalry. Plus, San Jose already has our appreciation for taking out Detroit two years in a row. They're filled with guys who are easy to root for in Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Dan Boyle, and Patrick Marleau (whatever Jeremy Roenick might think). Oh sure, Speed Racer Dany Heatley is still here, but no hockey team comes unarmed of a villain. And because of the non-hostile way that Antti Niemi left town, I have no problem seeing him do well, especially when you consider the level of Corey Crawford's play should keep anyone with any sort of brain activity from claiming the Hawks' failures are due to goaltending. As I said in the last round, Sharks fans have dealt with their share of heartache, have been very loyal fans for 20 years now, and quite frankly deserve their time in the sun. And they don't throw garbage on the ice.
Vancouver? Well they're just the bane of existence.
Eastern Conference: Boston v. Tampa Bay
Harder call this one. Obviously Hawks fans aren't too concerned with what goes on in the East. There's the Original 6 brethren thing with the Bruins. A more traditional fanbase, but it's a Boston fanbase so who likes that? Still, the B's are the one Boston team that hasn't won recently, and that either gets you behind them or makes it even worse. On the one side, they have a team that Hawks fans would love, big and nasty. On the other, they're not all that entertaining. But a Boston/San Jose Final would ooze with storylines, the biggest being Joe Thornton squaring off against the team he captained and then was shipped off by for all the marbles. You can't help but be intrigued.
Tampa? They're boring, they're GM-ed by the definitive Red Wing of our generation, they knocked out Dave Bolland which crippled the Hawks, they cheated on a shootout that cost us a point we could have used, they just won a Cup seven years ago, so there's no suffering to get behind here. Lots of talent, but used in a way that provides a lot of zzz's. Screw these guys.