The Grind Line: Choosing the Best Playoffs Bandwagon

What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. This week Tony Wolak, Devin Little, Patrick Brown, and Kyle Knopp are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

Another season for the Detroit Red Wings has come to an end, and for the fifth year in a row the Wings, have finished outside of the playoffs. While the NHL postseason is the best time of the year, having a team to put your support behind and root on makes a run for the Stanley Cup all that more enjoyable. 

For this week’s version of The Grind Line, we ask our muckers to pick a team to jump behind and choose who they want to raise the Cup in July. 

Tony Wolak: Vegas Golden Knights

Another season, another year removed from the Red Wings’ glory days. I’m still going to enjoy the NHL playoffs, though.

I’m a logical person, so I have a logical process when it comes to choosing my Stanley Cup favorite. First, are there any major Red Wings ties? The Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, and Florida Panthers get the boot.

Next, who’s most deserving? Adios, Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues, and Nashville Predators. There are better teams out there. Sorry. Kick out the Avalanche because come on. They’re great and all, but sorry, I’m not sorry. Especially to you, Patrik Nemeth.

Colorado Avalanche Patrik Nemeth
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Patrik Nemeth (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

So, where does that leave us? The Washington Capitals reign supreme in the MassMutual East Division. I prefer the Golden Knights over the Blues, so they get my vote. Same with the Tampa Bay Lightning – Petr Mrazek and the Carolina Hurricanes can wait. And you know what, the Toronto Maple Leafs have suffered enough. Go Edmonton Oilers!

With this final four, Vegas and Edmonton would square off in the semifinals. Washington and Tampa Bay would do the same. Give me Washington vs. Vegas part two, with the Golden Knights taking home the Stanley Cup. 

Devin Little: Tony’s Echo Chamber

I love where Tony’s head is at, although I’ll make one amendment: as much as I want to see Anthony Mantha enjoy a long, fruitful playoff run with the Capitals, I also want to see their first-round pick – that now belongs to the Red Wings – to fall within the top-25. Instead of Washington, give me Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup Final to take on the Golden Knights. 

Anthony Mantha Washington Capitals
Anthony Mantha, Washington Capitals (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

I wore a Vegas jersey on our latest episode of The Hockey Writers Grind Line. As much as the 2009 Stanley Cup Final still stings, I’m a big fan of Marc-André Fleury. I also love Mark Stone — so much so that I made a trade in my fantasy hockey league to make sure he was on my team. Vegas has embraced the sport of hockey like only Vegas can, turning the sport into an outright spectacle, and that’s the kind of energy the NHL needs more of. I hope they get rewarded with their franchise’s first Stanley Cup victory. 

Pat Brown: A Storm is Brewing

What do you call a Carolina Hurricanes player on vacation in the Greater Antilles?

A Caribbean Jerk!

Remember back in 2019 when the Hurricanes’ post-game antics got under resident angry old man Don Cherry’s skin so much he flew off the handle and called the team a “bunch of jerks?” Predictably, the team and fans rallied around that, and they instantly became one of my favorite teams in the process. Because, you know, it’s OK to have fun when you play hockey. 

It doesn’t hurt that Mrazek is one of my all-time favorite ex-Red Wings, and the team has been methodically putting the pieces together for a few years now. They certainly have an opportunity to do some damage in this year’s playoffs.

Petr Mrazek Carolina Hurricanes
Petr Mrazek, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

You know, it’s funny – I always felt bad for Carolina after the Red Wings’ 2002 Stanley Cup championship run, mostly because they got their hopes up against the Hall of Fame-laden team after winning the first game, only to drop the next four. I never felt bad for Philadelphia (1997), Washington (1998), or Pittsburgh (2008), but I think Carolina’s rooted history in Hartford has preserved a soft spot in my heart.

Whatever the reason, I’m looking forward to a fun playoff season! Go Canes!

Kyle Knopp: Going Back-to-Back

There is no denying that the 2020-21 season was chaotic. This year has been completely unpredictable between the late start, shortened schedule, and COVID outbreaks that affected some teams more than others. That makes me believe that something chaotic is going to happen during these playoffs. 

The most chaotic ending to this season is the scenario I presented on our podcast — Taylor Hall will raise the Stanley Cup as a member of the Bruins. Think about it, after starting the season on the Buffalo Sabres, a deadline trade takes him to the ultimate prize. Another possibility that would only make sense in a year such as this would be Joe Thornton and the Maple Leafs finally bringing Lord Stanley’s Cup back to Canada. While I would be happy for Jumbo Joe, I can’t quite put my support behind Toronto and definitely won’t for the Bruins. 

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I also agree that the Golden Knights and Wild are exciting teams to watch, and who doesn’t like to cheer for the antics of the Hurricanes. However, the team that I want to win the Cup this season is the Lightning.

Yes, I might have a biased sense of loyalty, but the Lightning are loaded with talent and poised to be the first team to win back-to-back Cups since the 2015-16 and 2016-17 Penguins. All I know is that no matter what happens this postseason, I’m going to enjoy every second of every game!

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