See every sports fan’s guide on which NHL wild card team to root for with the 2019-20 Stanley Cup playoffs on the horizon.
March has arrived and the 2019-20 Stanley Cup playoffs are right around the corner. No other major professional sport can match the parity that the NHL offers, which means it’s a race to the finish line for both the NHL wild card teams from the Eastern and Western Conference.
For starters, the playoff picture entails eight teams from each Conference, which hosts two wild card teams in both. The final wild card slot versus the respective top-ranked team for its conference, while the higher-seeded wild card team faces-off with the No. 2 ranked team.
Let’s look at which three potential wild cards teams from both the Eastern and Western Conference that fans should root for.
The Carolina Hurricanes shocked everyone last season by not only clinching a wild card spot for the East but advancing to the Conference Final. Captain Justin Williams and his “Bunch of Jerks” upset the Washington Capitals in Round 1 and in dramatic fashion.
If there’s a feel-good story to root for this spring in the NHL — it’s the Hurricanes. Carolina portrays the typical underdog character while providing excitement with their style of play and postgame celebrations after a victory.
At the time of writing, the Hurricanes sit three points out of a wild card position but do have 18 games remaining on their schedule. If the Hurricanes clinched a spot in the playoffs, Carolina would likely see a rematch with the Capitals or take on Brad Marchand and the Boston Bruins.
Talk about entertainment, no?
Columbus Blue Jackets
Similar to the Hurricanes, the Columbus Blue Jackets play the role of an underdog for not only the East, but the entire league.
Columbus was projected to be a draft lottery team after the club lost the likes of Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Sergei Bobrovsky to unrestricted free agency this past summer. It seems that head coach John Tortorella had other plans for the Blue Jackets, and opponents should be nervous if they meet Columbus in the first round of the playoffs.
Columbus has skated with a “nothing to lose” attitude all season, and fans learned what that approach can do after the Blue Jackets arguably portrayed one of the biggest upsets in Stanley Cup playoff history last spring. The Blue Jackets not only eliminated the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning last year, but swept them in convincing fashion.
There’s no reason why the Blue Jackets couldn’t play the role of spoiler again this season.
New York Islanders
The Stanley Cup playoffs just wouldn’t be the same without a New York market team bidding for Lord Stanley. The New York Islanders proved last season, and “year one” without John Tavares, that the orange and blue were a force to be reckoned with.
While head coach Barry Trotz’s squad isn’t having the same enjoyable season, that can all change if the Islanders clinch a playoff berth. Fans will enjoy watching the Islanders during the postseason and especially on home ice when they play at the old Nassau Coliseum which is now “NYCB Live.”
Fans can feel the building’s uncanny energy on TV when the Islanders are home, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself buying New York apparel after watching a couple of playoff games or an entire series.
There are no superstar names on the Islanders and their team-first attitude and approach on and off the ice are hard to root against. Seriously, unless you’re a pronounced New York Rangers fan, how can someone dislike the Islanders?