Question of the Week: Choosing Lesser Evils

Stammer is still playing at the World Championship. But are you watching? - Greg Fiume

The Lightning are golfing, but there's still hockey being played. Are you watching? And can you stand to cheer for someone else? (Traitor.)

I think we, as hockey fans, can all agree that the first round of the NHL playoffs is a pretty awesome time. There are so many great stories, the rivalries get crazy, and there's a crap-can full of meaningful hockey to watch every single night.

So why do I feel so dead inside?

Oh, that's right, it's because the team I actually give a dump about spent the final thirty-eight games of the season trying to play with their gloves on their feet and their skates on their hands. And by that I mean they usually lost, and they looked clumsy and tragic in the process.

So we can forget the Lightning for a while. But not really. I know you people think about the Lightning all the time. But what about the games that are actually going on right now? How do we watch? While other fan bases are going crazy, I'm following the playoffs the way I do every year when the Lightning do not qualify: I'm paying attention to each series, and choosing who I want to win based on who I hate less.

For example, I hate the Washington Capitols (divisional rivals and all that) but boy do I hate the Rangers. I know some people call them "Lightning North" because of Tortorella and Brad Richards, but I view those as heel-turns. Torts and Richie? Bad guys. Eliminate them.

I live in Toronto, but I've never been a Maple Leafs fan. They're a bunch of self-pitying crybaby bandwagoneers. "They suck I'm loyal they suck I'm loyal." But... they're playing the Boston Bruins, so GO LEAFS GO! Why do I hate the Bruins so much? Oh yeah, because of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals. Oh wait, I've hated them for twenty years. Whatevs.

You get the idea. This week's question: I ask what hockey are you watching right now?

Clark Brooks, Raw Charge contributor:

This year, I'm in a pool where I can win thousands and thousands of dollars. If I do, I'm off to Bermuda where I will live out my remaining years in lobster and fancy, neon-colored drinks with little umbrellas and plastic swords. Okay, so it's hundreds of dollars, with which I'll pay off my cable bill and treat myself to a steak dinner. Either way, it's Let's Go Blues!

Pete Choquette, Bolt Prospects:

There are two particular areas of interest have nothing to do with the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

One is a Syracuse team that has the talent to make a very deep push in the AHL playoffs. We know how the Lightning season ended with Richard Panik and Radko Gudas making strong closing statements at the NHL level. But, it doesn't end there and players like Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are making some strong impressions of their own so far in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Guys can improve a ton with an extra month of AHL playoff hockey, and it absolutely will have a bearing on who makes the team in the Fall and who might be trade bait in the Summer.

The second area of attention is Halifax in the QMJHL where you have the incredibly rare situation of two franchise caliber line mates playing together in their draft years. One of them, be it MacKinnon or Drouin, will probably be wearing a Lightning jersey on draft day, giving Lightning fans a very clear routing interest in the junior ranks right now. One of these two kids will be picking up the mantle when Marty St. Louis or Vincent Lecavalier retire as a franchise cornerstone to go along with Stammer.

So I think Lightning fans are better to have their eyes somewhere other than the NHL level right now.

John Fontana, Raw Charge managing editor:

I'm following the Lightning's AHL team exploits; the Syracuse Crunch (or, shall we call it Tampacuse's northern district) swept the AHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and will be moving on to the semifinal round imminently. So many guys that Lightning fans already know or were exposed to this past season are part of that team (Brett Connolly, Radko Gudas, Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, Ondrej Palat, Mark Barberio, Andrej Sustr, J.T. Wyman, J.T. Brown, Vladdy Namestnikov).

But I think the question you were asking pertained to the NHL playoffs. I've watched a few minutes here and there, followed chatter on Twitter and stories as they developed (the Gryba hit on Eller and the bad blood that's ensued in the Senators/Canadiens series for example), but I haven't invested myself in the Stanley Cup playoffs, mostly by way of burnout from covering the compressed, fast-paced 2013 season.

Justin Godfrey, The Hopeful Chase:

Since I live in Chicago I do support the Blackhawks especially since this town knows how to throw a victory parade. However, a trip to Vegas in February left me with a monatary interest in San Jose (only 12 wins to go!).

In a more general sense I enjoy watching people watch the playoffs. I have friends in Chicago who are already stressed out beyond reason and they are handling the Wild fairly easily. I can't imagine how they are going to handle the second round or, god forbid, the Conference Finals. There is nothing like watching grown men and women curse at the TV in a crowded bar.

The nice thing about the Lightning not making the playoffs is that all of the stress is eliminated. I figure every year they don't make the playoffs probably adds five years to my life.

Oh, and watching Sidney Crosby try to grow a playoff beard is always amusing.

Patti McDonald, Raw Charge contributor:

In my honest opinion, I try my best to watch all of the games and follow all of the storylines that develop from the playoffs. Although the Lightning did not make the postseason, it is the Stanley Cup Playoffs! Regardless of who is in and who is out, they are always exciting and if you call yourself a hockey fan, you should be watching some games! Usually when the Lightning fail to make the playoffs, I hope for a Cinderella type of story. This season, I kind of hope to see all of the top three seeds beaten in the first round. That would be exciting.

Clare Austin, Raw Charge contributor:

  • Cheering for: The Crunch, obviously; Suomen Leijonen, as always.
  • Sort of cheering for: Pittsburgh (Yeah, I said it. What's it to ya?); NYRangers; Ben Bishop; the boys on Team USA.
  • Really want the Minnesota Wild to lose (though not through goalie injuries) because I hate that Ryan Suter and Zach Parise are getting rewarded for colluding on their contracts and I despise Craig Leipold, who gave out two of the biggest contracts in NHL history then cried poor and shut down the league over big contracts.

I honestly don't like any of the other teams in the playoffs, but I'm willing to pay the price of Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings wins to get Minnesota and Damn Dirty Ducks losses.

But I'm not really going out of my way to watch any of the games. I've watched the Penguins, but mostly because the majority of regular television is so awful that I just can't take it. I'd rather watch games I don't especially care about than watch "Two Annoying Girls Who Claim to be Broke But Own an Actual Horse in New York City."

Tell us what you're watching in the comment section. Now. NOW!

Nolan Whyte is an infrequent contributor to Raw Charge (you can see why). He also blogs hockey at Frozen Sheets Hockey and posts fiction at End City. Smash his stupid face on twitter at @nolanwhyte.

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