A Kings’ fan’s guide to the playoffs: Eastern Conference edition
Want to be a temporary fan of a team? We’re here to help you pick one.
The Los Angeles Kings have another long summer ahead of them, and while that means that the players and front office have time to sit back and reflect on the season, that doesn’t mean that life just stops for hockey fans.
No, there are still playoffs to be had. And with the Kings out of contention, perhaps some of you are looking for a team to temporarily become a fan of. There’s no replacing your favorite team, we know, but what better way to enjoy the playoffs than to get heavily emotionally invested in a brand new team?
Today and tomorrow, we’ll be presenting you with our very own playoffs guide to help you make your decision on who to root for in the playoffs. We start first with the Eastern Conference.
Tampa Bay Lightning
In favor: Who doesn’t love greatness and a wire to wire win? Let them win all the trophies. The Presidents’, the Stanley, the Hart, the Vezina, the Conn Smythe. We can hate them next year when they hit every building with targets on their backs.
Against: Pffift…who needs this wicked domination? Not me. If they win, they could make hockey boring watching them win four or five Stanley Cups in a row. Like the Terminator, it’s better to stop them now before they grow up and become too strong. —Michael
Columbus Blue Jackets
In favor: The John Tortorella post-game interviews. Nothing better in any sport.
Against: Artemi Panarin in a Kings uniform comes much easier with a fast playoff departure. It also gives Ilya Kovalchuk more time to recruit and hang out with Panarin at Manhattan Beach. —Michael
In favor: David Pastrňák. Ever hear his story about how he was so poor as a kid he had to save money on tape and that’s why he uses so little? Heartwarming. Pastrňák is a marvel. He takes the abuse—cheap or otherwise—from the other teams and keeps chugging along unaffected. He’s the guy you want raising the Cup.
Against: Do you really want Boston to peacock around North America with those smug looks eyeing you up and letting you know that their teams are better in every spot and every league? Me neither. —Michael
Toronto Maple Leafs
In favor: They have fun players like American Hero Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Kasperi Kapanen. And you should also root for former King Jake Muzzin to see playoff success since our own team was so bad, he became a victim of the Tank. And let’s be honest, you can get your fill of eyebrows and screaming “DAMMIT MUZZIN” by rooting for Toronto. Plus, Canada is due. Let’s root for hockey’s origin country to finally get their Stanley Cup. (Bonus: taking out Boston in the first round.)
Against: Their fanbase is a little rabid at times and keeping the Cup out of Canada one more year could be fun, no? —Robyn
In favor: You rooted for them last year, why not just keep rooting for them? It was easy to relate to Caps fans’ frustration in their 40+ year wait for a Cup, and if you were mad that people were bitter about LA’s second run to a title, you can’t be bitter about this one. At the very least, pull for Nic Dowd, the most productive newcomer for Washington. Dude got traded to VANCOUVER last season, so appreciate the long chain of events that have finally given him a shot in the NHL playoffs.
Also, Carl Hagelin, I guess.
Against: Their lovable underdog card is gone this season, I’m bitter about how easily they rack up division titles, they’re facing Justin Williams in the first round, they’ve still got Tom Wilson, and (if you’re bitter about the Kings’ coaching situation) they changed coaches and basically had no noticeable drop-off in performance. I can’t blame you if you’re still thankful that they took out Vegas, but odds are, they aren’t facing them again. —Eric
In favor: Isn’t it time this team experienced some happiness? Scenes of the packed arena finally being given something to celebrate as the Hurricanes clinched a playoff spot this season are emotional enough to make even the hardest hearted amongst us a little misty-eyed. Besides, us non-traditional market teams have got to stick together. Whether you loved or hated the Storm Surge, can you imagine how angry a Hurricanes Stanley Cup win would make Don Cherry? Like, he’d be apoplectic. Wouldn’t you like to see that? It would be the one thing that would get me to tune into Coach’s Corner.
Also, Justin Williams. Now and forever. If I could have it so Justin Williams won the Stanley Cup every year for the rest of his career, and perhaps retroactively, too, I would. He should never be sad.
Wrote this at the end of last year on locker cleanout day. We earned ourselves an invitation, can’t wait.#TAKEWARNING pic.twitter.com/w4KyKuXcGH— Justin Williams (@JustinWilliams) April 5, 2019
Against: I got nothing. I picked the Hurricanes mostly because I just wanted to spend like five to seven minutes thinking about Justin Williams, and didn’t really contemplate why you would want to actively root against him? Like, how very dare you? I guess maybe don’t root for the Hurricanes because they’re the underdog and lots of times that leads to heartbreak? —Sarah
New York Islanders
In favor: The Islanders are a massively confusing team. They won the Jennings Trophy with two goalies who were brutal in 2017-18. They finished in second in the Metro despite having a worse Corsi For% than the Kings. They lost John Tavares and got better. They have two home arenas! What I’m saying is, you don’t know how the Islanders are going to do in the playoffs, and I don’t know how the Islanders are going to do in the playoffs, and and no one knows how the Islanders are going to do in the playoffs. If you like rooting for a team and not knowing what on earth is going to happen, pick the Isles.
Against: Finally, at long last, I have another chance to talk about Thomas Hickey on this site. Hickey turned into a New York cult hero after scoring some overtime game-winners -- one in the playoffs -- and repeatedly antagonizing Tom Wilson. I stopped paying attention, but now I see that he has zero goals and four assists in 40 games, has racked up some healthy scratches and Isles fans on Twitter (always an accurate depiction of player performance) seem to despise him now. As a longtime Hickey supporter, I find this unforgivable, and I place no blame on Hickey and all blame on the Islanders. —Eric
In favor: The more time the Penguins spend in the playoffs, the more incredibly awkward interviews Sidney Crosby has to do with Pierre McGuire. Any time he gets way too close-talker with a player, Twitter explodes with a chorus of STOP MAKING IT WEIRD, PIERRE, which is always great.
The Penguins are interesting this year because they spent some time being actively bad, Matt Murray was perplexing in net, Evgeni Malkin was hurt—okay, basically everyone was hurt at some point or another—and for a while it looked as if they could miss the playoffs entirely. For as much as you don’t know what you’re going to get with the Islanders, you also don’t entirely know what you’re going to get with Pittsburgh, who, despite the championship pedigree, also make no sense whatsoever. Cheering for Pittsburgh means cheering for chaos, and I freaking love chaos.
Against: I grew up near Pittsburgh. I have been alive and following the Penguins for all five Stanley Cups. I can say with great authority as someone who was so invested in the team that in third grade, I wrote a letter to Mario Lemieux: enough is enough. Let someone else have some fun for once.
Also, they had Tanner Pearson and then they gave him away to Vancouver for Erik Gudbranson. Come on. No one gets to treat my boy like that.—Sarah