Who Should Lightning Fans Root For In The Playoffs – Eastern Conference

The Stanley Cup: Who Should You Root For? (cr: mastermaq@flickr)

The hockey season ended a couple of weeks ago for Lightning fans. The only reason to watch the games left on the schedule was to see if Steven Stamkos could hit the 60-goal mark (which he did). Now that the regular season is over, they are left with a dearth of choices when it comes to watching more hockey. They could pop in the commemorative DVD of the Lightning’s Stanley Cup in 2004 and relive past glory. They can follow the Lightning’s AHL affiliate in Norfolk as the Admirals roll into the playoffs in the midst of a historic 25-game winning streak. Or they can find a new team to adopt during the NHL post-season.

Choosing a team at the end of the season can be difficult, especially if they haven’t had a chance to watch any team other than the Lightning during the season. So what follows is a quick primer on the remaining playoff teams and a few choice reasons to follow them. The teams are ranked 8 through 1 in terms of being tolerable for the casual Lightning fan.

*Note – the “Ex-Lightning Players” list contains players that played at least one game for the team this season, they are not necessarily on the post-season roster.

8. Florida Panthers
Ex-Lightning Players: Sean Bergenheim

Playoff History Vs. Lightning: The teams have never met in the postseason.

Reasons to Root For Them: There is never a reason for a Lightning fan to root for the Stinkin’ Panthers.

7. Philadelphia Flyers


Ex-Lightning Players: Matt Carle, Andrej Meszaros, Pavel Kubina, Matt Walker

Playoff History Vs. Lightning: The teams have met twice in the playoffs with each team winning once. The Flyers beat the Lightning in the 1996

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (the first playoff appearance for the Bolts). Tampa Bay outlasted Philadelphia in an engaging seven game Eastern Conference Finals in 2004 (the year Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup).

Reason to Root For Them: A case could be made that it would be nice to see some of the former Lightning players get a shot at the Cup, but much like the Panthers, there is little reason to root for them.

After all, they are the team that ignited a brief firestorm earlier in the season when they refused to attack Coach Boucher’s 1-3-1 defensive scheme. Refusing to skate against a system that yielded a NHL-worst 281 goals this season should be reason enough to cheer against a team.

 

6. Boston Bruins

Ex-Lightning Players: None. Unless you count Tim Thomas who spent part of the 1999 training camp with the Lightning before playing that season with their affiliate in Detroit. Goaltenders who “beat” Thomas out for a spot in the Lightning organization that year – Dan Cloutier, a crippled Darren Puppa, Dieter Kochan, and Zac Bierk (Sebastian Bach’s brother-in-law).

Playoff History Vs. Lightning: In 2011, the Bruins and Lightning met in the Eastern Conference Finals for the right to play for the Stanley Cup. A back-and-forth series ended in a thrilling 1-0 Game 7 victory for the Bruins who would move on to beat Vancouver in the Finals.

Reasons to Root For Them: They’re not part of the Southeastern Conference. They have a solid shot of winning the Cup. The excitement of winning back-to-back Stanley Cups might render announcer Jack Edwards speechless.

 

5. Washington Capitals

Ex-Lightning Players: Jeff Halpern, Roman Hamrlik

Playoff History Vs. Lightning: In 2003 the Lightning beat the Capitals 4-2 to pick up the franchise’s first ever playoff series win. Tampa fans will remember that series for producing one of the top moments in Lightning history – Martin St. Louis’ triple-overtime winner in Game 6. Eight years later the Lightning would meet the Caps again. This time Tampa Bay steamrolled Washington and swept them 4-0 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Reasons to Root For Them: The city of Washington could really, really use a championship team. If Alex Ovechkin wins a Stanley Cup, then Steven Stamkos can take over the label of “Best Player Not To Have Won a Stanley Cup.” Roman Hamrlik – the former Lightning number one draft pick has played more than 3,000 games without winning a Stanley Cup (he is currently the leader among active players in that stat). Without the Lightning in the playoffs the Caps should be able to advance past the second round.

4. New Jersey Devils

Ex-Lightning Players: Stephane Veilleux, Kurtis Foster and Bryce Salvador (1994 6th round pick by the Lightning)

Playoff History Vs. Lightning: The Devils have eliminated the Lightning twice: in the 2003 Eastern Conference semifinals and the 2007 Eastern Conference quarterfinals

Reasons to Roof For Them: This might be Martin Brodeur’s last shot at a Stanley Cup. Supposedly they could use the money brought on by extra playoff games.

3. Ottawa Senators

Ex-Lightning Players: Filip Kuba, Zenon Konopka, Matt Gilroy

Playoff History Vs. Lightning: Ottawa beat the Lightning in the 2006 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Reasons to Root For Them: They entered the league the same year as the Lightning. It would be nice for a Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup. They were nice enough to trade Brian Lee to Tampa Bay for Matt Gilroy (based on playing time since the trade happened, the Lightning are the early winners in that deal).

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

Ex-Lightning Players: Alex Picard

Playoff History Vs. Lightning: The Penguins and the Lightning have met once with Tampa Bay knocking the Crosby and Malkin-less Penguins team out of the 2011 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Reasons to Root For Them: They possess the most dynamic offense in the NHL right now. If Sidney stays healthy, scores a ton of points and leads the Penguins to another Stanley Cup it would make for a very interesting contract year for him in 2012-13. If he doesn’t sign a new deal before he enters next season expect there to be a ton of “The Penguins Should Trade Crosby” stories to be penned throughout next season.

1. New York Rangers

Ex-Lightning Players: Brad Richards, Ruslan Fedotenko, Steve Eminger, Coach John Tortorella

Playoff History Vs. Lightning: The teams have never met in the postseason.

Reasons to Root For Them: Nostalgia. With Richards, Fedotenko and Tortorella, the 2011-12 Rangers are strongly influenced by the 2003-04 Cup winning Lightning squad. They even display a similar, grinding style of play that wears down opponents. It seems that the time is right for Henrik Lundqvist to put the team on his back and carry them to the Finals. Oh, and the more Tortorella press conferences, the better.

The Western Conference will be broken down tomorrow.

Justin Godfrey
Justin G. came to be a hockey fan during his college days in Florida. He writes about sports, card collecting and other assorted things on his other site - The Hopeful Chase.

2 Comments

  1. Just pointing out, Veilleux and Foster no longer play for the Devils

  2. Ugh, seriously?  I get you’ll never root for the Panthers, although the only way it’s an actual rivalry is geographical, the two teams have never been good at the same time or really played a meaningful game late in the season, but you’d rather cheer on New York and Pittsburgh?  Gross.  What’s the statute of limitations on rooting for former players anyways?

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