NHL Playoffs 2018: One reason to root for every team to win the Stanley Cup

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My esteemed colleague Pete Blackburn would have you believe that every team is terrible and you shouldn't root for anyone when the the puck drops Wednesday on the NHL playoffs. I'm here to tell you that's a lie. There are 16 teams in these Stanley Cup playoffs, and every one has something going for it. From the Lightning to the Devils and the Predators to the Avalanche, there's something worth rooting for with each. 

Sure, sometimes you have to dig harder than others to find that something good, but it's doable. Here's a reason you should root for each NHL team in this year's playoffs.

Anaheim Ducks

Reason to root for them: They've dealt with a lot this year

If the Bruins aren't the most injured team in hockey, it's got to be the Ducks. Ryan Getzlaf missed time, and the Ducks will likely be without one of their top defensemen in Cam Fowler for this series. John Gibson's status is in question as well. The Ducks have had to go through a lot this season, but these playoffs are all about overcoming adversity.

Boston Bruins

Reason to root for them: See the Ducks

The Bruins overcame being one of the most injured teams in hockey to get to this point, and they've proven that they can tinker with the lineup to match their needs. They've survived injuries to Patrice BergeronRick NashBrandon Carlo and Zdeno Chara. Still they've plugged on. Also, if Ryan Donato makes it into the lineup (he's projected to at least be a Game 1 healthy scratch), he's impossible to root against. One of Team USA's best players in the Olympics and juggling the NHL and Harvard? That's a pretty awesome story.

Colorado Avalanche

Reason to root for them: Their massive one-season turnaround

The Avalanche would need a miracle run to do anything this postseason, but consider this: They're a year away from going 22-56-4, their lowest franchise win total in a non-shortened season. Jared Bednar has managed to turn this team on its head. In just a year, Nathan McKinnon went from 53 points to 97 points (reminder: he's 22 years old) and they've done with this with the same core. It's a great turnaround and story, and one that I for one would like to see continue.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Reason to root for them: One word: BOBROVSKY

Sergei Bobrovsky, 2016-17's Vezina Trophy winner and third-place Hart Trophy candidate, turned in another solid season for the Blue Jackets. After the Blue Jackets were brushed aside 4-1 in the playoffs by the Penguins last year, Bobrovsky posted a save percentage of .921. If you want to see great saves in rush opportunities, you want Bobrovsky in these playoffs.

Los Angeles Kings

Reason to root for them: They aren't the Penguins -- and they may be our only hope

It's hard to believe that this would be LA's third Stanley Cup since 2012, but here we are. After a scorching hot start to their season, the Kings are trying to fight through injuries to Jake Muzzin and Derek Forbort. They feel like the only team in the Pacific giving us breaks from the Blackhawks and Penguins winning titles. And I think we all need another one right about now.

Minnesota Wild

Reason to root for them: They can be chaos incarnate

In the past, I've acknowledged the Wild as what might be the best logo in sports, so using that would feel redundant. So how about the fact that Canada South has only made the Conference Finals once in their 18-year history. Eric Staal is still tearing it up at 33, and the Wild are missing Ryan Suter. The Wild are coming in as big underdogs despite a good season, but they have the capacity to play spoiler.

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Can Eric Staal and the Wild player spoilers?  USATSI

Nashville Predators

Reason to root for them: Don't lie, you were last year

One thing the Predators tried to prove this year: They're actually really good. How did they do that? Well, they only went out and won the President's Trophy in dominant fashion. The Predators were the most exciting team in last year's playoffs, which is easy to forget. They're no less exciting now, people just realize that they're good. And the President's Trophy Curse has to be broken eventually, right?

New Jersey Devils

Reason to root for them: Patrick Warburton. And upsets.

Remember how exciting Nashville storming through the West was last year? That's basically what this would be. If the Devils can take out an undoubtedly amazing Lightning team, then they can take out anyone this year. The atmosphere around Nashville hockey was incredible. Imagine if the Devils make a run in their first playoff appearance since they lost the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012.

Also, and perhaps more importantly:

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Giphy


Philadelphia Flyers

Reason to root for them: Claude Giroux's silky assists

Claude Giroux is one of the best players to watch in hockey, putting up 102 points for the Flyers. He had a real shot at the Art Ross Trophy if Connor McDavid would stop doing Connor McDavid things, but Giroux should get serious looks for the Hart Trophy. He plays some of the cleanest hockey you've ever seen, and hey, the city of Philadelphia needs a win right? Wait, scratch that last part.

PIttsburgh Penguins

Reason to root for them: Sid the Kid

Look, I know that I'll get flak for this, but find me a nicer guy than Sidney Crosby. After the Humboldt tragedy he sent a personalized message to the survivors, he plays hockey with random kids on the ice in Quebec and he's just an all-around good dude. The funny thing is, there's a good chance Crosby is also the reason to root against the Penguins. But I just don't know how people can hate someone so likable.

San Jose Sharks

Reason to root for them: Sharks are cool, and the Sharks know it

The other half of the Battle of California has some of the most lovable characters in hockey, with Brent Burns and Paul Martin making up the back line. Their Twitter is about as good as it gets, as is their fan-service. They've given away Brent Burns Chia Pets in the past and Brent Burns grills with missing teeth. Also, this is their pinned tweet right now:

Plus they call their arena The Tank. This team knows how to brand.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Reason to root for them: They've made Tampa care about hockey. Oh, and GOALS

Jeffrey Vinik and Steve Yzerman have done the unthinkable: They've made a Florida city care about hockey. Nikita Kucherov set the league on fire with a 100-point season, and the Lightning are just fun hockey to watch. They put up goals at a borderline alarming rate, and this is the kind of team that you'll want to watch all the way through the playoffs.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Reason to root for them: They need this

If Auston Matthews doesn't convince you to root for Toronto, maybe this will: The Maple Leafs need revenge for their 2013 playoff matchup against the Bruins, in which they suffered a Game 7 collapse so bad it sent them into rebuild mode. After three years out of the playoffs before making it last year, Mike Babcock has this team back on its feet, and despite a first-round loss to Washington last year the Maple Leafs look faster and... well... Better this year.

Vegas Golden Knights

Reason to root for them: The Island of Misfit Toys winning the Cup would be amazing

Is there a more compelling story in sports than a city people weren't sure could hold a team finally getting one and making the playoffs in its first year? If there is, I'm yet to find it. The expansion draft was designed to make Vegas a Frankenstein's Monster of veterans and cast-offs that teams didn't want to protect. Instead, the team turned out to be Voltron, assembling to create one of the best teams in hockey this year. Now, the Golden Knights have title aspirations. We'll see how they perform in the postseason.

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The Golden Knights are hard to root against.  USATSI

Washington Capitals

Reason to root for them: Ovi. Enough said.

Come on, it's the Caps! It's Ovi! This team needs a win, and Alexander Ovechkin already has a career achievement award. After a 49-goal season, Ovechkin is trying to lead the Capitals to the Conference Finals for the first time since 1998 and break the voodoo hanging over Washington's head. Remember how excited the Bills got when their playoff drought was snapped? Don't you want that for someone else?

Winnipeg Jets

Reason to root for them: Put some respect on Winnipeg's name

Similar to the Lightning, if you love goals, this is the team for you. Paul Maurice is a strong contender for the Jack Adams Coach of the Year Award, and the Jets haven't won a playoff series since relocating to Winnipeg from Atlanta. Last time they were in the playoffs was in 2015, when they were swept aside by the Ducks. Something tells me Patrik Laine and Co. won't let that happen against the Wild.

So, there you have it. 16 teams, 16 reasons to watch. Don't let Pete get you down. There's a lot of great hockey to be had here. And a lot of lovable teams to watch as well.  

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