The Capitals are out of the Stanley Cup playoffs too early (again), but that doesn’t mean that Caps fans no longer have a reason to pay attention to the rest of the playoffs. Some of the reasons are emotional (teams and fanbases that we just don’t want to see win and some that we do) and some are strategic (draft position), so let’s get to it.
Boston vs. Columbus
Let’s be realistic. No one outside of New England wants to see Boston win another title, especially with championships in the two most recent major league sports (Red Sox in the World Series and Patriots in the Super Bowl). Besides, they won a Cup in 2011 (too soon) and that would leave the Caps as the only Cup winner in the decade without multiple Cups.
While the Blue Jackets are a rival, they have a fanbase that has not had a lot to enjoy, so seeing a city and fanbase that has no other pro sports teams (though the Ohio State University football program arguably qualifies), I would not have an issue with their city getting to enjoy a title. Columbus sacrificed a lot of their future at the trade deadline so their future is not as bright. Besides, they have one of the best hockey bars around (the R-Bar near Nationwide Arena).
Strategically, if the Blue Jackets advance to the Eastern Conference Final, their first round draft pick (owned by Ottawa in the Duchesne trade) drops to one of the bottom four picks. This moves the Caps’ pick draft up a spot in the first round.
Carolina vs. Islanders
I’m glad this round is over because it was a no-win situation. Allowing Trotz to leave was going to look and feel worse if the Islanders advanced. Seeing the “bunch of jerks” and their late to the party fanbase advance isn’t exactly a joy either, but at least with Carolina advancing to the Eastern Conference Final, their draft position in the first round has dropped to the bottom four in the first round, so that does benefit the Caps.
Dallas vs. St. Louis
If Dallas advances, one of the second round draft picks that Dallas traded to the New York Rangers for Mats Zuccarello becomes a first rounder and we don’t want to see that happen. As a Caps fan, I never want to see anything that benefits the Rangers, especially since they will select second overall in the upcoming draft thanks to the draft lottery and they are doing a pretty good job with their rebuild in a short period of time.
St. Louis is the only remaining (and existing) team from the 1967 expansion to not win the Cup. It probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for them to win one. Besides, they went to the Final the first three seasons in the post-1967 expansion NHL, were swept all three times, and haven’t been back since. It may be about time.
San Jose vs. Colorado
San Jose is the equivalent of the Caps in the Western Conference in terms of always doing well in the regular season and always falling short in the playoffs (at least until last season for the Caps). Their core is getting older, Joe Thornton is getting close to retirement, and their pain needs to end sometime. The San Francisco Bay Area has done pretty well with the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco Giants each winning multiple titles this decade, so that works against any sympathy for that area’s fanbase, but they will likely be getting worse before they get better and this may be their last good chance at a title.
Colorado is a feel good story after the horrific seasons that they have endured recently and there is a certain German goaltender that most people in the DMV still have a fondness for, but Colorado still has two Cups, including one during the Avalanche’s first season after relocating from Quebec, which edges this one towards the team with no Cups. Besides, Colorado is young, talented, has the 4th overall pick in the upcoming draft (thanks to Ottawa), and should only be getting better.
Enjoy (or at least try) to enjoy some great hockey over the next month.