The Penguins weren’t fortune enough to earn a guaranteed spot in the official playoffs, but they were fortunate enough to find themselves in the better hotel option in the playoff bubble in Toronto. The Bruins, Lightning, Capitals and Flyers will also be spending all their free time in the same hotel. Let’s see how the occupants in Hotel X may be getting along with each other for the next several weeks.
Recency bias: Boston won season series 2-1, outscoring Pittsburgh 13-9.
Long term bias: The Bruins and Penguins share the same colors, which was protested by Boston when the Penguins ditched the blue in favor of black and gold. It’s safe to say the Penguins jersey is clearly the better one. Nobody likes Boston besides Boston. They’re wicked awful. No love for Beantown in The Burgh.
Player to root for: Zdeno Chara. There’s not much to choose from in Boston, so Chara it is. He’s fun to watch when he’s not playing the Pens. The 42 year old 6’9” Czech product (he must have drank the same water as Jagr when they were kids in Czechoslovakia) has spent half of his life playing in the NHL. It’s hard to dislike the guy after what he’s done for hockey.
Player to root against: Everyone. But obviously Brad Marchand tops the list. For any number of reasons. His face. His antics. His skill. His team. Choose any you’d like.
Like-ability: 0.0 - Never in a million years would seeing the Bruins hoist another Cup bring me any joy.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Recency bias: Tampa Bay won season series 3-0, once in OT, outscoring Pittsburgh 9-5.
Long term bias: The Penguins and Lightning met for the second time in the Playoffs in 2016 en route to the Penguins Stanley Cup victory, meeting in the Eastern Conference Final with the Penguins winning in seven games. The Lightning have been one of the best teams in the league the last three seasons and don’t have any bad blood per se, but it’s certainly high octane hockey when these two teams meet, which breeds rivalries. It would be quite a show if the two teams meet this year which could create a great rivalry, but there’s not a lot of animosity long term between the two teams.
Player to root for: Mathieu Joseph. He’s the brother of Penguins prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph who was part of the Phil Kessel trade. Mathieu’s role with Tampa Bay was diminished this season and he spent the majority of it in the AHL, but he will be with the Lightning and staying in the same hotel as P.O. which could create some pretty great moments for the brothers.
Player to root against: Cedric Paquette. He’s the Lightning’s biggest agitator and embraces the role against the Penguins. Paquette isn’t afraid to challenge the big names like Crosby and Malkin, and he seems to do just that each time he plays against the Penguins.
Like-ability: 5.0 - The Lightning are a fun team to watch play hockey and have some very high end talent at every position. They’re also led by Steven Stamkos. ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski had this to say about Stamkos in his article of 10 people to root for this year:
Five players in the NHL have played at least 600 games and carried a points-per-game average of more than 1.00 in the past decade. Four of them have won the Stanley Cup: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin. The other is named Steven Stamkos. I’ve covered many of his playoff disappointments, whether in championship series or in four shocking nights against the Columbus Blue Jackets. I’ve been in scrums in which he’s had to explain his team’s defeats and his own frustrations, such as putting up one assist in six Stanley Cup Final games against Chicago in 2015.
This Lightning team is one of the most well-constructed that we’ve seen in recent memory. Although that doesn’t always translate to a championship, I’d love to see Stamkos collect the chalice from Gary Bettman after a self-satisfactory, productive and, above all else, healthy run to the title for Tampa Bay.
Recency bias: Washington won season series 2-1, outscoring Pittsburgh 13-9.
Long term bias: Unless you’re brand new to the NHL, you shouldn’t need a reminder of these two team’s long term bias. But let’s check it out anyway. The two franchises have met 11 times in the playoffs since 1991, with the Penguins victorious in nine of the meetings, including all five the Penguins were crowned champions. The Capitals have the last laugh, however, as they defeated the Penguins in six games on the way to their Cup victory in 2018.
Player to root for: Carl Hagelin. He was a key part of the famous HBK line and won two Cups with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017. He was a fan favorite for his speed and work ethic he displayed each game. The Capitals traded for him in February, 2019, and it’s hard to dislike him as a Penguins fan.
Player to root against: Just about everyone again, but nobody more than Tom Wilson. He may have cleaned his act up some this year, but it took a 20 game suspension to get through to any of his three brain cells for him to change. The playoffs are his time to shine as the punishment never fits the crime, but he’s got a pretty big target on his back with the NHL still.
Like-ability: 0.0 - Zero. None. Nada. No love between these two teams. It’d be hard to say the Capitals-Penguins rivalry isn’t one of the best and most intense in the NHL right now and for the last ten years. It may spill out into the hallways of Hotel X.
Recency bias: Pittsburgh won season series 2-1, once in OT, outscoring Philadelphia 11-7.
Long term bias: The Flyers and Penguins rivalry really peaked in the early 2010s but is still very much alive and well to this day. It’s one of those sports rivalries that will never go away. The Flyers weren’t much of a threat to the Penguins since defeating them in 2012, but were the hottest team in the league before hitting pause. This could be the chance for them to meet once again on the biggest stage.
Player to root for: Oskar Lindblom. His story has been well documented this year with his bone cancer diagnosis in December and just recently finishing his chemo treatments three weeks ago. A few days ago he signed a three year, $9 million deal and I couldn’t root any more for the young man.
Player to root against: Claude Giroux. Once again there were plenty of characters to choose from, and they’re all orange somehow from their mascot to their players to their jerseys. I hate them all.
Like-ability: 0.0 - The Flyers haven’t been a threat in a long time yet still top the list of teams I hate. They keep finding new ways to get the Penguins off their game, and now they seem to be making all the rights moves in the front office. It’s been nearly 50 years since Philly won a Cup. Hopefully it’s another 50 before it happens again.