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Bandwagons for Penguins fans to join for rest of 2019 playoffs

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Playoff hockey in Pittsburgh is over, so now it’s time to root for another contender still in the hunt. Who ya got?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-San Jose Sharks at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

For the second season in a row, the Penguins’ championship hopes ended a little earlier in the playoffs than the team and fans expected. A Round 1 exit by terms of a sweep on top of that surely makes for the dedicated supporter to feel a bit cheated from the best competition of the year. And though the sting of defeat will carry through for the rest of the postseason, fans who genuinely love watching hockey often find another contender suitable enough to root for until October.

Choosing a bandwagon is an exciting part of the NHL postseason when your team gets bounced, especially when you consider how much parity drives this sport. Anything, and I mean anything, can happen (just look at Tampa Bay!) It’s officially time for Penguins fans to saddle into the dramatically entertaining world of no-rules hockey for the next couple of months and pick a team still in the running to blindly and loyally root for.

The Front Runners

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-San Jose Sharks at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights

This one’s pretty obvious, just like last season. Marc-Andre Fleury is still beloved in this city, and because he now plays in the Western Conference, his supporters back in Pittsburgh can take solace in the fact that he went from winning a Cup with the Penguins to shipping out to the desert to play for a non-rival that’s entertaining as hell and easy to root for. The Golden Knights also made big moves to bring in the extremely good Mark Stone and are currently whipping the 2016 losers, San Jose, 3-1 in their round one series. I’m sure getting handily beat by the Capitals in the Finals last year is driving a lot of the guys from that roster as well — that mutual disdain for Washington is an added bonus.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Hurricanes

If not the Penguins, who better to bring down one of their biggest rivals than the “Corsi Kings” of Raleigh? They haven’t tasted the postseason in a decade (since the Penguins swept them in the Eastern Conference Final in ‘08-’09), and this franchise is definitely hungry for a deep run. These Bunch of Jerks are also battling back in their series with the Capitals and dominated them in Game 3 to the tune of a shutout win in front of their home crowd to make it 2-1.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets

Do I even need to explain this one? Well, maybe. I know Columbus will likely forever be known as the “Little Brother” to Pittsburgh, but the Blue Jackets not only took down Goliath, they swept him in indisputable fashion. Their miraculous Round 1 defeat of the Lightning is currently the sexiest storyline in the 2019 playoffs, and rightly so. I mean, folks, after making massive trade deadline moves to acquire players like Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, and Adam McQuaid for one last swing at winning a Stanley Cup in the Panarin/Bobrovsky era, the Jackets were faltering and in danger of missing out on the playoffs entirely down the regular season stretch. They just beat Tampa Bay (who, using their incredibly deep roster, set the record for most regular season wins in NHL history and dominated all season) in four-straight games as the second Wild Card winners. All aboard the Colum-Bus!

The “If They Won, That’d Be Pretty Cool” Group

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Calgary Flames

Don’t look now, but the Flames currently have the best chance to return the Stanley Cup to the Great White North for the first time since Montreal did it in 1993. Their offense is also no joke up front, with Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk (who fellow staff writer Robbie likes to call a “rabble rouser” with a game perfect for playoff hockey), and Elias Lindholm leading the gun show. Calgary also possesses the expected Norris Trophy winner Mark Giordano, who’s been stellar all season long. This is arguably the deepest Flames’ team in franchise history. Hopefully the goaltending debacle between Mike Smith and David Rittich doesn’t flame out (I’m sorry) their championship chances.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Calgary Flames at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche

The Avs’ top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen is impossible to ignore. Throw in the addition of Hobey Baker winner and NCAA Frozen Four runner-up Cale Makar on the blue line to complement Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson, and you’ve got a team that’s fun as hell. With another high pick coming in this year’s Draft, they are only going to get better.

Of course, unless you want to damn Derick Brassard for the rest of your life (if he even plays), you can just skip right on past Colorado.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Winnipeg Jets at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg’s disappointing loss to Vegas last season was the upset no one saw coming — not even the Jets. However, this year they’re better, they’re stronger, and they’re faster, and they’re no doubt looking for revenge. The Jets have tough, skilled forwards and big defensemen that aren’t afraid to shoot. Winnipeg is actually one of the teams from the Western Conference I wouldn’t mind seeing in the Stanley Cup Final. Everyone knows about Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele, but talented guys like Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers make this roster even more appealing. And if the Jets can solve rookie sensation Jordan Binnington, they can beat any of the remaining playoff goaltenders.

The “Thanks, But No Thanks” Group

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Capitals

Ovi finally got his Cup, and though I’m very happy for him from a human standpoint because he’s a future Hall of Famer and easily the greatest scorer of his generation, I’d be totally fine with him never winning again. He just plays for the wrong team. Rivalries are rivalries, and back-to-back championships belong to the city of Pittsburgh. Go, Canes!

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Bruins

With the added caveat of me picking the Bruins to win the Cup in my bracket, I wouldn’t be upset if they ultimately get kicked out. Unfortunately, with the Lightning officially out of the way, Boston shoots up as one of the best teams out of the East with the highest odds of winning the Cup. However, Toronto is up in the series, is riddled with skill, and is undoubtedly angry about drawing the Bruins in the first round again. I respect the skill of Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, and Charlie Coyle has been a fun addition, but Boston has been here and has won many times before. My take: Brad Marchand is a noob, and the city of Boston doesn’t need another parade marching through its streets come June. They’ve already had two this year — share the wealth!

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Nashville Predators

The Preds are here solely because I’m still enjoying the fact that Pittsburgh beat them in six games to win the Cup in 2017. Nashville is a fun city, and the fans are crazy and weird in the best ways possible. But if Nashville lost again, it’d be really funny. That’s it, that’s the whole explanation.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks are in this group for the same reasons as the Predators. The only players I feel bad to root against, however, are Joe Thornton and Erik Karlsson. Join San Jose’s bandwagon solely for that reason if you’re a person of empathy, but don’t expect its run to last long with Martin Jones in net.

The “Don’t Really Care” Group

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Winnipeg Jets at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Blues

The Blues might be the most boring team remaining in the playoffs for the sake of neutral fans, and because of that, seeing them win the Stanley Cup wouldn’t really move the needle for anyone else outside of the state of Missouri. However, Vladimir Tarasenko is still there and a bright star, and Jordan Binnington is a very exciting young goalie to watch shut down opponents single handedly. His breakout rookie season has put him on the radar of every single NHL team, and that’s nothing to bat your eyes at.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs

Many neutral fans will likely be rooting against the Leafs these playoffs once again, not because of the players out on the ice every night, but because of their insufferable fan base. It’s probably really hard to see past that and not let them cloud your opinions of the team itself. That’s why Toronto fell into this group. But if you can muster the energy to swallow your pride and back them for the players the Leafs has, it makes it easier. Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner are extremely exciting players to watch, and that’s just naming a few on this talent laden roster. If it wasn’t for the fanbases’ holier than thou attitude, the Maple Leafs would likely be much higher on this list. This will all become much worse if the Leafs survive long enough to take on the title of “Canada’s Team” for the remainder of the playoffs.

Nashville Predators v Dallas Stars - Game Three Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Dallas Stars

Falling under the same umbrella as the Blues, the Stars are a mostly bleh team outside of a few notable exceptions. Sure, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are a blast to watch and Miro Heiskanen is a future superstar in the league, but other than that they don’t do much to excite the casual fan. They’re currently taking on fellow group member Nashville, so if you prefer the Stars over the Predators then by all means hop on board. When paired up against the other teams still standing, the Stars leave much to be desired in terms of on-ice intrigue or interesting storylines.

New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Three Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

New York Islanders

It’s hard to justify jumping on the bandwagon of the team who eliminated you from the playoffs, but the Islanders present an interesting situation for Penguins fans. If they run into either Carolina or Columbus down the road, then rooting against them would be easy, but if they face-off against one or more of Washington, Toronto, or Boston, then it’s a different story. If you were to power rank the bandwagons for the teams left in the East, the Islanders would come in far from the top but still be a few steps from the bottom.

Poll

Which team’s bandwagon are you jumping on?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Vegas Golden Knights
    (553 votes)
  • 6%
    Carolina Hurricanes
    (74 votes)
  • 10%
    Columbus Blue Jackets
    (132 votes)
  • 2%
    Calgary Flames
    (33 votes)
  • 4%
    Colorado Avalanche
    (53 votes)
  • 3%
    Winnipeg Jets
    (46 votes)
  • 6%
    Washington Capitals
    (83 votes)
  • 0%
    Boston Bruins
    (8 votes)
  • 1%
    Nashville Predators
    (16 votes)
  • 1%
    San Jose Sharks
    (17 votes)
  • 1%
    St. Louis Blues
    (15 votes)
  • 4%
    Toronto Maple Leafs
    (59 votes)
  • 2%
    Dallas Stars
    (25 votes)
  • 8%
    New York Islanders
    (100 votes)
1214 votes total Vote Now