Monday, June 28, 2021

Habs or Lightning? A Stanley Cup Final rooting guide for every other fan base

The Montreal Canadiens are in Tampa tonight to kick off the first round of the Atlantic Division playoffs. [Checks notes.] Nope, wait, apparently this is the Stanley Cup final. Huh. Got to be honest, I did not see this matchup coming. Not many of us did. But it’s been pretty much the weirdest season in NHL history, so let’s roll with it.

One thing that hasn’t changed from past seasons: Two teams made the final, which means everyone else didn’t. That means it’s time for one of my favorite annual columns, as we go through all of the other 30 teams and try to figure out which of the finalists they should be rooting for. In theory, this year delivers a classic David vs. Goliath matchup, with the defending champs facing a huge underdog that everyone should be rooting for. Does it actually work out that way? Let’s find out.

As always, these are suggestions only, and if you’ve already made up your mind then you’re free to stick with that pick. But if you’re on the fence, or open for discussion, let’s see if we can talk you into one side or the other.

Anaheim Ducks

Last year, I told Ducks fans they should root for Corey Perry’s team to beat the Lightning in the final. It’s always nice when the hockey gods give me an excuse to recycle content.

Pick: Canadiens

Arizona Coyotes

The Canadiens won 24 games during the regular season, just like the Coyotes. By the transitive property of playoff success, that means that if they win the Cup then Arizona is knocking on the door too.

Pick: Canadiens

Boston Bruins

This is a tough matchup for Bruins fans, who aren’t exactly going to be shoving each other out of the way to get on the Lightning bandwagon after their recent Atlantic rivalry. But come on – no self-respecting Bruins fan can possibly cheer for the Habs, right? Of course not. I’m guessing a lot of Boston fans will choose “none of the above”, but if we have to pick one team, the choice is clear…

Pick: Lightning

Buffalo Sabres

If you’re a Sabres fan searching desperately for some small ray of hope, good luck finding it in a Lightning team that seems miles ahead of anything the Sabres could ever imagine being any time soon. Then you see a Habs team that finished with almost the same record as Buffalo just last season, and you think… maybe?

Pick: Canadiens

Calgary Flames

Hold on, everyone. Timeout.

Canada, huddle up, we need to talk.

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