The NHL Playoffs start Wednesday night, kicking off one of the most intense, physical and fun competitions in sports. For the uninitiated, we prepared a guide to the teams vying for the Stanley Cup with recognizable faces from the Olympics.
Playoff hockey is more exciting than just about anything, from filing your taxes to playoff football to sex, probably. Unfortunately, hockey, at least at an every day professional level, is woefully underwatched in the U.S. because finding the NBC Sports Network on your cable guide used to be difficult, to put it politely. But it is much more widely available now, and many more people signed up after the winter Olympics, that wonderful celebration of worldly competition, when we all followed hockey so intently. Now NHL competition is ramping up, but new fans who discovered stick and puck during the Olympics have no idea who they should root for, and that is where we come in. You have heroes already but no unifying national jersey to rally around. Let us be your guide to Olympics heroes of the past, competing for the best trophy in sports in the present.
Some teams are undeserving of your love and affection, though. The Colorado Avalanche missed the playoffs last year, only to finish at the top of the stacked Western conference this year; their young, untested roster will kill their playoff hopes early. The Detroit Red Wings have made the post-season for the last 23 years, almost as long as I have been alive, and sent ten players to Sochi, but that does not mean they will survive the first round. A handful of Russian Olympians play for the plucky Columbus Blue Jackets, a sexy Cinderella pick, but Russia did not play well enough for you to learn their names. The Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning don't have reasonable hopes in hell of contending. Here now are your surefire favorites to win the Stanley Cup, with GIFs, and Olympians.