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A Bruins rooting guide to the remaining field of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs

05.12.17 at 3:44 pm ET
P.K. Subban's Predators are still in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports)

P.K. Subban’s Predators are still in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports)

And then there were four.

In what’s been a pretty fast-moving Stanley Cup Playoffs (there’s been just two Game 7 meetings through the first 12 series), the third-round showdowns have been set. In the West, it’s the Predators against the Ducks. And in the East, it’s that same Senators that knocked the Bruins out in the first round against the defending champion Penguins.

It’s a rather different field for the NHL, you’d have to admit.

It doesn’t have the big television market of a Chicago, New York, or Boston, which is something that the league has consistently hoped for or banked on over the years given the successes of those clubs. It’s also not loaded with starpower, either, aside from the Penguins of course (these other teams have star players, sure, but it’s not that of an Ovechkin, McDavid, Matthews, etc.). But what this final four lacks in mass appeal is helped by the fact that it’s anyone’s run.

You could conceivably see any of these four teams lifting Lord Stanley by this time next month.

So, who are you rooting for?

Let’s start in the East.

I have to say that it’s probably impossible for most Bruins fans to root for either one of these teams. Still, let me try.

The Senators

Last time they won Stanley Cup: Never (not this version of the Sens, anyways, which came to the NHL in 1992).

Last time they’ve been to Stanley Cup Final: 2007, in one of the worst Stanley Cup Finals of this era.

Old friends: Chris Kelly, traded from the Sens to the Bruins to help the B’s win the Cup in 2011, returned to the Senators this past season. Kelly has played in just one playoff game this spring, and it was that 3-2 double-overtime loss to the B’s in round one. Little known fact: The Bruins actually had Craig Anderson at one point, too. It was back in 2006 that they claimed him off waivers from the Blackhawks. But Anderson never played a game for the Bruins, and was claimed by the Blues just a few weeks later.

Why you can root for them: They’re a massive underdog. Then there’s the story of Anderson, whose wife, Nicholle, has been battling cancer this season. She was at Game 6 in Boston when the Sens eliminated the Bruins, and she was the first person the Ottawa netminder went to when the game and series went final. It’s rather incredible to think that Anderson has played with all of that on his mind. Erik Karlsson is also just an incredible defenseman, so to see him on the game’s biggest stage would be a treat.

Why you can’t root for them: The Senators are the team that knocked you out in the first round, and it was quite a contentious series. You had the 6-foot-2, 209-pound Bobby Ryan flailing all over the ice to draw calls. You had knee-on-knee hits. You had more than enough ammo to walk away from this series and say that you just straight-up do not care for the Senators. And if you’re of the selfish type, the Bruins were the last team from their division to win the Stanley Cup. Also, their style is beyond boring, and they could lead the NHL to record-low ratings if they were to play ‘their game’ in round four.

The Penguins

Last time they won Stanley Cup: 2016.

Last time they’ve been to Stanley Cup Final: 2016, obviously, where they defeated the Sharks in six games. The Penguins have been to the Finals three times during the Crosby era, with the first trip coming back in a 2008 loss to the Red Wings, and then the middle time coming with 2009’s win over the Red Wings.

Old friends: On the ice, it’s Phil Kessel. Phil the Thrill played the first three years of his pro career with the Bruins, and ultimately left after contract disputes (accelerated by issues with then-coach Claude Julien) sent him to the Maple Leafs in a trade that paid off tenfold (at the time) for the Bruins. David Warsofsky is also among Pittsburgh’s ‘black aces’ practicing with the team. Including Warsofsky, the Penguins have five New England natives on their roster. Behind the bench, Mike Sullivan is their coach. Sullivan played one season with the B’s back in the 90s and coached the Bruins from 2003 to 2006.

Why you can root for them: Can you? I think this is probably the biggest question mark when it comes to rooting interests this spring, even larger than the Sens conundrum you may find yourself in. Aside from maybe the local connections, it just feels as if there’s years and years of bad blood when it comes to the Bruins and Penguins, so maybe your rooting interest for them would be to simply get the dry toast Senators out of the mix.

Why you can’t root for them: If you’re a Bruins fan, I think this one is obvious. But hey, just in case you needed some more reasons. Here’s one. And another. There’s a third. And how about a fourth? It’d also be nice to get a different champion.

Out in the West, your potential rooting interest paths get a whole lot easier.

The Predators

Last time they won Stanley Cup: Never.

Last time they’ve been to Stanley Cup Final: This is actually the first time that the Preds have made it beyond the second round of postseason play, so it goes without saying that they have never been to the elusive fourth round.

Old friends: Matt Irwin had a cup of coffee with the Bruins in 2015 before he was banished to the minors. You may remember him as the guy that audibly screamed ‘F— off’ after a turnover. Behind the bench, Peter Laviolette coaches the Preds. A Franklin, Mass. native, Laviolette led the P-Bruins to a Calder Cup win in 1999, and was an assistant coach for the Big B’s in 2000-01.

Why you can root for them: It’s Nashville, man. This is one of those cities where hockey has absolutely worked, and the atmosphere around that team is just something else. Every game at Bridgestone has an electric atmosphere, and these playoffs have brought that out and really taken it to another level. It would also be pretty incredible to see the P.K. Subban trade immediately bite the Canadiens in the ass and see Subban, who was dragged through the Montreal mud on his way out the door, lift hockey’s greatest trophy in his first year with the Preds while the Habs exited in the first round of the playoffs.

Why you can’t root for them: Maybe you’re in the camp that still hates Subban from his Canadiens days. That would probably be the only possible reason that you could root against this Preds team. Or maybe you just hate fun and it’s too much for you.

The Ducks

Last time they won Stanley Cup: 2007.

Last time they’ve been to Stanley Cup Final: 2007, in that aforementioned boring ass-kicking of the Senators.

Old friends: The Ducks are really short on connections to the Bruins, actually. The 32-year-old Nate Thompson was a sixth-round draft pick of the B’s back in 2003, and while he skated in a bunch of games for the P-Bruins, Thompson skated in just four games with the Big B’s before he embarked on what’s become a 550-game NHL career.

Why you can root for them: This sounds a little weird, but an Anaheim win would seemingly validate the idea that you still need size and physicality to win it all. That would be a plus for the Bruins — a team with David Backes, Matt Beleskey signed and expected to play big roles up front, and Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo as their one-two on the backend — after what’s felt like a two-year trend of skill and speed getting the job done. Now, that wouldn’t mean that the Bruins need to further load up on size and heaviness, but it would show you that a balanced roster in that regard can still get the job done for your team.

Why you can’t root for them: This is a team that’s pretty loaded with players you love to hate. Corey Perry, while often entertaining, is considered one of the most despised players in the NHL. Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa are two players that Bruins fans are more than familiar with from their time with the Canucks, and they’re still the same players they were then.

..And while we’re at it, I’ll take the Predators in seven games and the Penguins in five games.

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