Now that the Montreal Canadiens have been eliminated, it’s only natural for Habs fans to want to hitch their wagon to another horse come the second round.
Granted, many might decide to swear off hockey altogether until the NHL Entry Draft, and understandably so. Why would you want a masochistic front seat to the sight of another team’s fan base’s pure joy as you wallow in self-pity, with any hope of a Habs championship dashed for at least one more season? Why can’t everyone be as sad as you?
Well, who knows? Watching one of these four teams win it all might actually be cathartic. Plus, if they lose, misery loves company:
4. New York Rangers
It may be a tad controversial to put the team that just eliminated the Canadiens on this list, but bear with me. Should the Rangers go all the way, a Habs loss in the first round would almost have been destined. If you have to lose, you want to lose to the champs… unless of course they’re the 2010-11 Boston Bruins. Fans are still feeling that Game 7 loss.
The only downside is rooting for the Rangers would mean rooting against their opponents, the Ottawa Senators, who are one of the two Canadian teams left alive. However, considering the blossoming rivalry between the Habs and Sens, there’s no real big loss there. Plus, the other is well worth shifting your Atlantic Division, Eastern Canadian loyalties over. Enter the Edmonton Oilers.
3. Edmonton Oilers
Even if you think the idea of Canada’s team and rooting for a city you’ve never even been to is idiotic, everyone still loves a good underdog. The Oilers are ones that have got a lot going for them. They’ve got one of the best players in the game, several ex-Habs (Benoit Pouliot, Zack Kassian and David Desharnais) and a bright future already showing hints of a dynasty in the making.
Milan Lucic aside, with the Stanley Cup-favorite Chicago Blackhawks out of the picture, the Oilers’ path to a Stanley Cup berth isn’t as rocky as it once appeared. In fact, despite being in the playoffs for the first time since 2006, they could go all the way. Of course, the team that took out the Hawks could potentially stand in their way come Round 2… and present a bigger threat than many might have originally predicted.
2. Nashville Predators
Few saw P.K. Subban’s Nashville Predators upsetting the Blackhawks in Round 1. Fewer still predicted the sweep that materialized, the first time in the NHL and NBA that a No. 1 seed has been eliminated in four straight in the first round.
While that fact alone might not make you a believer, them giving up just three goals in the four games might, with Subban contributing to the defensive showcase (and adding two assists in the process). After his Game 1 heroics against the St. Louis Blues (1 goal, 2 assists), in five contests he’s outpaced all but one Montreal Canadien (Alexander Radulov). They each had the benefit of an extra game in Round 1.
Granted, the Habs didn’t do much with the extra game, and scoring more than members of a team that had difficulty putting the puck in net throughout most of the second half of the season isn’t that much of an accomplishment.
Nevertheless, Subban and the Predators are a great pick for the simple reason that, despite being a No. 8 seed, they may be the best team left in the Western Conference. They may have been bigger underdogs than the Oilers to start, but they’re definitely not playing like it. And, if you hated the Subban trade from the get-go, well, there’s the potential of seeing Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin’s career go up in smoke in real time.
Of course, there’s no denying that Subban is a polarizing player and many fans wouldn’t want to cheer for the guy, because they’ve grown to dislike him after he’s been continuously vilified as a selfish, team-last defensive liability in the media (even if Subban had fewer giveaways than Shea Weber this year and the league leader, Brent Burns, is up for the Norris Memorial Trophy).
Don’t worry, though. Whatever reservations you may have rooting for Subban, there’s still one more pick to go, and it’s literally the best one of them all.
1. Washington Capitals
Some might think the Capitals winning the Presidents’ Trophy should disqualify anyone from jumping on their bandwagon. They’re technically the favorites, after all.
They’ve got Braden Holtby in nets, a stacked defense that got boosted by the addition of Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline and, of course, the likes of Alexander Ovechkin up front.
However, Caps fans have suffered through their share of heartbreak over the years, with the team never having once won the Stanley Cup, despite entering the league in 1974. That’s the biggest drought of anyone on this list, by a wide margin.
As such, the Caps are far from a sure thing. Only eight Presidents’ Trophy winners have captured the Cup and they are playing the ever-strong defending-champion Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 2. Unless you’ve been a Pens fan from the start, you’re almost ethically obliged to root against them and hope the wealth gets spread around the league.
No team is more desperate for a taste of silver out of Lord Stanley’s mug. At the very least, that should serve as a sobering thought to Habs fans.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.