The Stanley Cup playoffs are reaching an incredible competitive zenith with two game seven’s on tap for the weekend. Both series have been fascinating to follow, and should both provide some classic action in these final games.
Yet if you’re in the majority, in other words a fan of the 26 other teams gone golfing, then you might be asking yourself, “Who the hell should I root for?”. Fear not, The Hockey Writers is here for all of your bandwagoning needs.
The Tampa Bay Lightning
Why you should root for them: Two words: Steven, Stamkos. Perhaps one of the purest snipers to ever play the game, Stamkos is a threat from anywhere on the ice. His one-timer from the left faceoff dot is now stuff of hockey lore, forcing teams to plan their penalty kill almost entirely around preventing the former Sarnia Sting from unleashing his deadly shot.
The Lightning are much more than their superstar though; they’re a great story in how to successfully construct an elite team through smart drafting and shrewd transactions. The bulk of their roster has been developed within the organization, yet not all in the same fashion. While Stamkos and Victor Hedman were acquired in the draft lottery, the likes of Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson were either late round gems or even undrafted free agents. If you’re a fan of smart team building and impeccable offensive hockey, then this is the team for you.
The New York Rangers
Why you should root for them: It could be argued that for what the Dallas Cowboys are to American football, the Rangers are to hockey. Clad in their iconic “blueshirts”, something about the Rangers just oozes both Americana and hockey history, a rare double. America seems to pay just a bit more attention to hockey when the Rangers are doing well, which can maybe help explain the sports’ rising television ratings over the last few years. Mark Messier lifting the Stanley Cup in 1994 was seen as the moment hockey became “cool” in the 90’s. Would it have been as cool had he lifted the Cup wearing a Vancouver Canucks jersey?
The 2015 Rangers have perhaps the best goaltender of the last ten years in Henrik Lundqvist (not to mention of the coolest off the ice). Lundqvist is still searching for his first Cup after many a heartbreaking loss, and wouldn’t it be neat to see him become the “King” in more than just name? If you’re a fan of feel good stories and the glitz and glamour of the Big Apple, then you’re in good shape when you have to explain to your friends the Lundqvist t-shirt that you just “randomly” got in the mail.
The Chicago Blackhawks
Why you should root for them: The Blackhawks became the darling of the NHL when they captured their first Stanley Cup since the Kennedy administration in 2010. And who can blame them? A franchise that had been dormant (almost literally) for so many years had returned to hockey’s biggest stage with some incredibly likable superstars.
If you appreciate a rugged two-way game with some elite offensive skill mixed in, then maybe Jonathan Toews is for you. Not a fan of “old time hockey”? Then Patrick Kane has you covered with perhaps the sickest pair of mitts the game has ever seen. Not the flashy type? Well then you can take your pick from the cerebral Duncan Keith, or maybe the lovable Andrew Shaw.
Let’s cut to the chase though: if you really need a legitimate reason to root for them, look no further than their beautiful uniforms, which may be the very best in all of professional sports. Who doesn’t love sweet jerseys?
The Anaheim Ducks
Why you should root for them: The Ducks were once the butt of every joke around the NHL thanks to some absolutely putrid teams. Yet with the advent of generational talents in Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne paired with some iconic jerseys, the then-Mighty Ducks became every young kid’s favorite hockey team in the early 2000’s. It wasn’t until they dropped the “Mighty” from their name that they claimed California’s first Stanley Cup in 2007. The torch has now been passed to superstars like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, who lead an incredibly talented Anaheim squad.
With one of the youngest and mobile defense corps in all the league, the Ducks can hurt any team in a multitude of ways. Add the fact that they have four lines that can contribute offensively, and you have the making of one of the most entertaining teams in the league. They play in beautiful Orange County, California, otherwise known as the land of beaches and traffic jams (though not nearly as bad as in L.A, as any O.C native will tell you). If you’re a fan of exhilarating hockey, but might be more of a beach and sunshine kind of person as opposed to the traditional snowy hockey settings, then you’ve found a gold mine in the Anaheim Ducks.