My Western Conference playoff team to follow is clearly the Vancouver Canucks, that's all taken care of. Also the Kings if they pull off the surprise of the century and miraculously make the playoffs. This seems unlikely but not completely beyond the realm of possibility.
However, for whom do I cheer in the East? (Yes, yes, I know the Sabres aren't eliminated yet but in my mind they are so I can spare myself the April 11th heartbreak).
Unlike my affection for the Sabres, I require that my playoff mistress team actually be poised to make a strong push toward the finals. Last season with the Pens was pretty exciting. Therefore, I look to the top three teams. Not that finishing in the top three necessarily guarantees success, but its a good place to start for the casual bandwaggon playoff fan.
I immediately eliminated the Bruins because I just can't cheer for them. I love Tim Tom and Andrew Ference was one of our All-Star defensemen this season, but I just can't cheer for a divisional rival. Sorry Beantown. I know my Grandpa was raised in Boston and he went to games at the Boston Garden all the time with Eddie Shore and all that but its not going to happen. You need fans who don't enjoy watching you lose and I need a team that doesn't have Phil Kessel on it, unless that team is Team USA.
That leaves the Caps and the Devils.
Last year I enjoyed the Caps Cinderella story immensely. Nicklas Backstrom, Ovie, Mike Green, Brooks Laich, Matt Bradley, Coach Boudreau coming up from the minors to win the Jack Adams? It was all good and warm fuzzies and happy times.
However, it seems sooo trendy to like the Caps now. I suppose it was trendy to like the Pens last season but that affiliation comes from my parental units' hometown pride and not necessarily from the media telling me to like them. Although, the media lovin' them up didn't hurt their case to be my playoff mistress while Jason Pominville was wearing the red, white and blue in Nova Scotia.
Its hard to ignore the swagger of a record-setting Brodeur-backstopped Devils team with Zach Parise having a career goal scoring year. David Clarkson, Travis Zajac, Paul Martin? Good times to be had by all.
How to choose, how to choose.
The Caps have "Scarlet Caps" which is, in my opinion a check mark in the "Cons" column. Although they boast Ovie and his Eastern Motors commercial which is worth about five checks in the "Pros" column. BUT if there happens to be a Caps/Pens playoff series I will be forced to boycott it. I refuse to be subjected to anymore overblown hype about rivalries between Semin/Ovechkin and Crosby/Malkin. These rivalries and "hatreds" do not exist. They were a few comments made in passing that writers, desperate for a story have jumped on and blown up. Frankly, I blame it all on Alexander Semin running his Russian mouth earlier in the season. I hate you, Alexander Semin. However, it will not be known until playoff time if there will be such a match up, so I can't totally hand the Caps an early playoff rose. They are still in the running to become Anne's Next Top Playoff Team.
Then there's the Devils. Apparently, according to the email I received the other day about the Pirates' 6-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils' AHL team in Lowell, the Lowell Devils are the Pirates "bitter rivals." I would definitely mark that in the "Cons" column. Also, the possibility of a Rangers/Devils playoff series makes my head hurt almost as much as a Caps/Pens matchup. One of the other "BIGGEST STORIES EVER" of the season was, of course, dearly beloved Sean Avery.
I'm sure we all remember what Sean did last year in the playoffs with Marty Brodeur and that awkward fat-joke-laced rivalry. I don't think I can handle any more of that. But, like the possible Caps/Pens match-up it will not be known to the Devils will face in the playoffs so I still have love for New
I don't have enough of an emotional investment in either the Caps or the Devils to be able to put up with their crap is basically what I've concluded.
The Sabres can shill out the same six stories about Ryan Miller and Paul Gaustad and I'll eat it up. Tell me MORE, NHL Network. I need MORE. Pat Kaleta is from Buffalo!?!? Wow! Craig Rivet didn't want to be traded here? Great! However, that is because I'm apparently a semi-sadist. I can't get enough of Adam Mair giggling at the word "motorboat" in that "10 Stupid Questions" segment earlier in the season. Also, watching him yell at Jarkko Ruutu never gets old. Basically, I'll take whatever Adam Mair is serving up seems to be the point I'm trying to make in this paragraph.
So pretty much I'll have to wait until the playoffs actually start to pick a team to root for. Then again, my allegiance might change.
I can't forgive the Flyers for trading Scottie the Hottie to Phoenix (really, that's the ONLY reason you can't cheer for them?) so that rules them out. The Panthers are just not interesting and the Hurricanes make me feel unclean. The Rangers are still the Rangers even if I do adore John Tortorella and the Canadiens are still in our division. Maybe I'll just rule out the Eastern Conference all together this year and watch the World Championships instead.
I think this is blasphemous to say, but I'm even more ok with the Sabres missing the playoffs as long as some of them play in the World Championships. I absolutely love international sports so this is totally fine with me. This is also why D2 is my favorite Mighty Ducks movie. If none of them opt for the WCs then I'll be sad, but I'll watch anyway. That's how I developed my random and inexplicable affection for Matt Greene, who knows who I'll suddenly love this year? Maybe I'll cheer for a random Swede... probably not.