The transition from the first round of the NHL playoffs to the second is always a tricky one for hockey fans. You go from having games on all evening to a much sparser schedule, and even the occasional night off. And more important, you go from having more than half the league’s teams on the ice to just more than a quarter.
That means, statistically, your team is probably out. And that development may have left you searching for a bandwagon to jump on.
If so, I’m here to help. Choosing a bandwagon team is a tough call — you have to strike just the right balance. You want the team to be good enough to have a realistic chance to win the Stanley Cup, but not so good that you look like some sort of front-runner. You want to be joining a fan base that’s large enough that you’ll feel welcome, but not so large that you’ll be lost in the crowd. And you want to make sure you’re going to be rooting for players who won’t make you feel all icky for doing so.
It’s a personal decision, and I can’t make your pick for you. But I can offer some guidance, in the form of this ranked list of the remaining teams and the pros and cons of cheering them on the rest of the way.
8. Chicago Blackhawks
The good: They have a ton of talent, led by Jonathan “Captain Serious” Toews, who’s recently been earning some “best player in hockey” chatter. They have Patrick Sharp, who looks like this. And coach Joel Quenneville has been known to bust a move when he’s not grabbing a crotch.
So they’re tons of fun to watch. They’re also good. Really good. They won the Stanley Cup last year, and also in 2010. If they win it again this year, they’ll be as close to an NHL dynasty as we’re likely to see in the salary-cap era.
Your mileage may vary: Patrick Kane basically comes across as every smug townie with a mullet you’ve ever known, which was annoying a few years ago but has somehow become kind of endearing.
The bad: You saw the part about them being the defending champs, right? If you jump on their bandwagon now, you’re a transparent front-runner and the hockey gods will smite your team.1
Bottom line: No. Just … no. Were you honestly thinking about picking the defending champs? Wakey wakey.
7. Los Angeles Kings
The good: For pure entertainment value, Darryl Sutter is the best coach in the NHL and it’s not close (as long as you don’t have to ask him any questions). And he’s got an awfully good team in front of him, including most of the key pieces from L.A.’s 2012 championship run. That includes guys like Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar, as well as the Dry Island Twins.
Your mileage may vary: How do you feel about the whole concept of “doing things the easy way”? Would you say that’s a deal-breaker?
The bad: The Kings are two years removed from a Cup, so you don’t really get any creativity points for picking them. Their games often end up being low-scoring, so they’re not a great choice if you prefer your wins mixed in with a ton of excitement. And their captain, Dustin Brown, has a reputation as one of the league’s most prolific divers.
Bottom line: Nope. Keep going.