Central Divided's Playoff Guide

Ahhh... it's finally here. You were good all year and now Hockey Claus has brought you the Stanley Cup Playoffs! Only problem is, for fans of 15 NHL teams out there, they didn't get a team this playoffmas. Luckily your old pal Zack is here to help you with some reasons to root for and root against all 16 of this years playoff teams!

- Nashville Predators -

Rocky is back for his second shot at Apollo Creed. After coming two wins short of the Stanley Cup last year, the Predators didn’t rebuild, they reloaded. The team that iced a center depth of Colton Sissons, Mike Fisher, Calle Jarnkrok and Freddie Gaudreau in the Stanley Cup Final last year is now going into the playoffs with Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino and Mike Fisher as their pivots. Not to mention the four horsemen of the defensive apocalypse in Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, PK Subban and Mattias Ekholm. And the likely Vezina winner in net with Pekka Rinne. This team is absolutely stacked. They could absolutely lose in the first round because hockey is weird, but this team is built to win the whole thing this year.

REASON TO ROOT FOR: You want to see the most insane Stanley Cup Parade ever. The people in Smashville are absolutely insane.

REASON TO ROOT AGAINST: You’re a catfish enthusiast, after a controversial goal was disallowed in Florida, a disgruntled fan sent a dead catfish to the NHL’s office (with no cooler, gross) with the words “YOU SUCK” on it for almost $150. Then the mayor of Nashville paid her back. Seriously, this city is nuts.


- Colorado Avalanche -

It’s a great story that the Colorado MacKinnon’s made the playoffs this year. After one of the worst season in modern NHL-history, the Colorado MacKinnon’s scrapped and clawed to be the last team to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year, beating the Blues in their last game of the year. In all seriousness, Nate MacKinnon should have a Hart Trophy on his shelf after this year. Riding shotgun to MacKinnon has been Mikko Rantanen who along with Gabe Landeskog forms what might be the most lethal top line in the NHL. The drop-off after is pretty steep. Defensively, there are issues with this team and that was before Erik Johnson suffered an injury keeping him out of the series with the Predators. Oh, and Semyon Varlamov is out.

REASON TO ROOT FOR: You have a cloning machine and can teach Nate MacKinnon how to play defense and goalie.

REASON TO ROOT AGAINST: You’re this guy.


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- Winnipeg Jets -

The darling of the Canadian media and one of the top teams in the league this year, the never-have-won-a-playoff-game Winnipeg Jets! Again, this incarnation of the Jets has yet to win a single postseason contest. And now they’re going to win the Stanley Cup. Ok. There is a lot to like about this Winnipeg team, they’re deep up front, fast and have great goaltending but they’re defensive depth scares me and frankly, coaching is a huge concern. They did get the best possible draw for them in the Minnesota Wild, though.

REASON TO ROOT FOR: You enjoy telling riddles under a bridge.



REASON TO ROOT AGAINST: You think that spinning straw into gold takes away jobs from hard-working people. 




- Minnesota Wild -

This team was dead in the water back in the early goings of the year, lucky for them the games in 2018 counted the same as they did in 2017. The Wild are like getting acne as an adult, you thought you were done with this nonsense but it just keeps popping up to annoy and embarrass you. The injury to Ryan Suter and a tough draw with the Winnipeg Jets probably means a short spring for the Wild.

REASON TO ROOT FOR: You’re a big fan of the AARP’s Player of the Year, Eric Staal.

REASON TO ROOT AGAINST: You like hockey to be fun. And let’s be honest, everyone wants Winnipeg - Nashville in Round 2.


- Anaheim Ducks -

The Ducks should be thankful the Penguins exist on this list because player for player there isn’t a less likable team in the league. The Anaheim Ducks are like a bully’s friend, annoying, always around and never quite potent enough to actually DO anything. The only thing more empty than the hearts of Anaheim Ducks players are the seats of the Honda Center during a Western Conference Final game.

REASON TO ROOT FOR: ...I have nothing, honestly there is no good reason to root for the Ducks unless you have stock in a garbage truck factory because Ryan Kesler will want to parade the cup in his favorite vehicle.




- San Jose Sharks -

Didn’t their window close awhile ago? San Jose has been fairly quiet since making their run to the Stanley Cup Final two years ago but this Sharks team is loaded with talent. The real question with this team is if they can last long enough to get Joe Thornton healthy and back in the lineup. Martin Jones is also an X-factor after having a so-so season statistically.

REASON TO ROOT FOR: You’re a fan of facial hair, Thornton and Burns have the best bearded duo in the league award going for them.

REASON TO ROOT AGAINST: You don’t buy the hype of Joe Thornton being some stately player. (Homeboy spears more than Poseidon)


- Vegas Golden Knights -

The team that absolutely nobody expected to be here, much less to be the team that won the Pacific Division, the Golden Knights have defied expectations all year long and they drew the one team that has people picking them to lose all over again. Lead by a breakout season from William Karlsson and some great goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, the Golden Knights aren’t just any expansion team. Home-ice advantage is going to do wonders for this team and is their only hope of getting to the conference final to lose to whichever team comes out of the Central.

REASON TO ROOT FOR: Cinderella is your favorite Disney movie.

REASON TO ROOT AGAINST: You think it’s midnight.


- Los Angeles Kings -

They’re baaaaaack! After taking some time to enjoy the golf course, the LA Kings are back in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Lead by a fantastic season from Anze Kopitar and Jennings Trophy winning goaltending from Jonathan Quick, this team is a scary out for anyone in the West. Oh, and they have Jeff Carter back after missing most of the year on IR. Playing the upstart Knights will be a tough test for this team, but they’re the only team that seems to have gotten them consistently.

REASON TO ROOT FOR: You yearn for an older style of hockey that isn’t focused on all that pesky speed.

REASON TO ROOT AGAINST: They’ve won the cup this decade, so rooting for them feels dirty.


- Boston Bruins -

Any other year, Bruce Cassidy would have to be a front-runner for the Jack Adams. The job he’s done in Boston this year has been marvelous. One of the top two teams in the second half of the season, Boston has had the temperament of a hydra, every time you think you’ve cut off a head, two more pop up and your lead is gone. They have arguably the best top line in the NHL in Pastrnak, Bergeron and Marchand and a stout defensive corps. They’re one of the top contenders in the East for a reason.

REASON TO ROOT FOR: You believe that age ain’t nothin but a number, Zdeno Chara is approximately 742 years old and still playing massive minutes for the Bruins.

REASON TO ROOT AGAINST: You’ve watched Brad Marchand play. I, for one, look forward to him beheading Ron Hainsey at center ice with his skate blade and getting a $5,000 fine.


- Tampa Bay Lightning -

If this NHL season was one of Aesop’s Fables, the Lightning would be the Hare of “Tortoise and the Hare” fame. A team that got off to a blistering hot start and dominated the league for most of the year, only to see the President’s Trophy and nearly the division slip out of their fingers. (Ironic that Peter Laviolette of the Predators has a pet turtle…) The biggest concern for this team has to be goaltending as Andrei Vasilevski has come out and said that he feels tired after this year. And why wouldn’t he? He only played 65 games this year. In happy news, despite a late season injury, Steven Stamkos is expected to be back in the lineup for the playoffs. Still a dangerous team, but they will only go as far as goaltending takes them. (You can use this line for any team in the playoffs)

REASON TO ROOT FOR: You like fast, free-wheeling offense.

REASON TO ROOT AGAINST: You’re a goalie in the NHL scared of this workload becoming the norm. (Yes, I know Connor Hellebuyck played more)


- New Jersey Devils -

Well, at least there is meaningful hockey for one of the New York area based teams being played! Despite no one expecting much from the Devils this season, two players dragged this team kicking and screaming into the postseason. Taylor Hall has been rightfully lauded as a possible Hart Trophy winner this year and that makes a ton of sense considering he is a staggering 41 points clear of the second top point getter on his team, Nico Hischier (who also had a nice rookie season). The other player I’ve been impressed with has been Keith Kinkaid who seems to have wrestled the starter’s crease from Cory Schnieder. Too bad the Lightning are going to destroy them.

REASON TO ROOT FOR: You haven’t watched Tampa Bay all season.

REASON TO ROOT AGAINST: You’re a Rangers fan.


- Toronto Maple Leafs -

Honestly, I don’t really have any issues with Toronto as a team. Great young core, fast, all that generic stuff you say about teams. But, hoo boy would it be a nightmare for the other fanbases in the NHL if the Leafs win a cup. Toronto fans are already insufferable, you add an actual win to their already inflated egos and Canada will have to annex the city because of the gas emissions alone.

REASON TO ROOT FOR: Auston Matthews, the irony of a Mexican-American from Arizona, a market derided for years by Toronto based media, being the savior of hockey in Canada’s epicenter is delicious.

REASON TO ROOT AGAINST: You value your sanity as a hockey fan.


- Philadelphia Flyers -

The City of Brotherly Love is having quite the year! I grew up a Flyer fan so I have a soft spot in my heart for this team but I don’t know if the city can handle another championship this year. I don’t mean emotionally, I mean physically. That town went insane after the Eagles won the Super Bowl and with the 76ers looking dangerous, I’m just looking out for the people.

REASON TO ROOT FOR: Claude Giroux should be in the Hart Trophy conversation and seems destined to eternally be the bridesmaid of elite NHLers.

REASON TO ROOT AGAINST: Petr Mrazek is going to win you a Stanley Cup? Lolk


- Pittsburgh Penguins -

If you’re rooting for Pittsburgh to win the cup again this year I can only assume that you either 1) think that trash is delicious for every meal, 2) laugh when animals die at the end of movies or 3) are a Penguins fan. Ironically the Venn Diagram for these three things is a circle. How bout that?

Seriously, if you want Pittsburgh to win again then there is something pathologically wrong with you. If you make a comment about who should win the Hart this year and 100 Pens fans don’t jump down your throat to talk about how “BUT WUT ABOUT GENO?” is it actually a comment?


REASON TO ROOT AGAINST: Every reason. Every single reason out there is a good reason to root against Pittsburgh.


- Columbus Blue Jackets -

The Seth Jones - Zach Werenski pairing alone has me high on this team and then you add in the top tier talent of Alexander Wennberg and Artemi Panarin among others? Baby, you got a stew goin’! So what has me worried about this Columbus team? Goaltending and a tough division to get out of. Bobrovsky just hasn’t proven to me that he’s a great playoff goalie yet, but stopping Alex Ovechkin would be a start.

REASON TO ROOT FOR: You believe in freedom. Jones and Werenski are both red-blooded Americans and one of the best pairs in the NHL.

REASON TO ROOT AGAINST: You’re from Michigan and don’t want to see anything from Ohio succeed.


- Washington Capitals -

Sisyphus is pushing the rock up the mountain once again and the Washington Capitals are back in the playoffs. This team comes in looking to prove everyone wrong and for once is not saddled with a ton of expectations. The only thing that people expect from the Caps is a second round loss to Pittsburgh. Alex Ovechkin is looking fantastic, the defense is looking stout and the real question is who the starting goalie is. The thing that doesn’t seem to be talked about too much is whether or not Barry Trotz is coaching for his job in these playoffs. (He is)

REASON TO ROOT FOR: You have an eternal spring of optimism.

REASON TO ROOT AGAINST: You like to see the people of Washington in eternal anguish.