We're in a pretty screwed up position here, fellow Senators fans. We haven't gone into the playoffs without our team to cheer for since waaaay back in 1996, and now we're left with a difficult decision: Who's our second choice?
Some fans may simply tune out of the playoffs, or will refuse to cheer on a team aside from their favourite. But for the rest of the fans, there are various reasons why you may decide to cheer on any of the 16 teams that made the playoffs. Below the fold, I'll outline some of the possible reasons Sens fans might have. But by all means vote in the poll, and if you'd like explain your reasons in the comments section.
San Jose Sharks: San Jose is an easy team to pick, but there are still plenty of reasons to cheer for them. Not the least of which is their similarity to the Ottawa Senators, in many ways: Great regular-season success, and little to show for it in the playoffs. They're also loaded with Ottawa connections, from GM Doug Wilson to Ottawa-born Dan Boyle, plus a few ex-67s in the system (Jamie McGinn and Lukas Kaspar). Then there's Jeremy Roenick, a fan-favourite among many who played for the Hull Olympiques, and Claude Lemieux, who has to be given credit for his unprecedented comeback as a 45-year-old.
Boston Bruins: There are a few loveable characters on the Bruins, including goaltender Tim Thomas and sophomore wrecking ball Milan Lucic. It's always hard to cheer for a divisional rival, but the Bruins have plenty of Ottawa connections: Former assistant GM Peter Chiarelli has the big GM's job there, plus Zdeno Chara and Shane Hnidy are both former Senators defencemen, and leading scorer Marc Savard is from the Ottawa area.
Detroit Red Wings: There aren't many connections between Detroit and Ottawa, other than one extremely notable one: Marian Hossa. Hossa is still fairly popular in the area, and might just be enough for Sens fans to put their support behind the Wings for the series.
Washington Capitals: One reason why anyone might cheer for the Caps: Alex Ovechkin. The guy's electric and always entertaining. There is also former Senator Brian Pothier as well as former Sens prospect Brooks Laich. And let's not forget the ever-exciting Mike Green, who's well on his way to revolutionizing the defensive position in the NHL.
New Jersey Devils: Boring, yes. But also potentially historic, with Martin Brodeur--newly minted as the all-time winningest regular-season goaltender in NHL history--leading the way. But they're also lead by Zach Parise and Patrick Elias, two players trying to change the way that the Devils are perceived as a more entertaining team for the NHL.
Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks have been one of the NHL's feel-good stories, with the franchise awakening from a decade of mediocrity and irrelevance into one of the youngest and most exciting teams in the league. Youngsters Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane lead the way, complemented by former Senator Martin Havlat and former 67 Brian Campbell. And just for good measure, Ottawa native Ben Eager is there to keep things in order.
Vancouver Canucks: Plenty of folks will be watching the Canucks, to find out if Roberto Luongo has what it takes to lead a team in the playoffs, and whether or not Mats Sundin has charged the offence enough to lead them past their competition. Former Senator Sami Salo will be helping out from the back-end, and some Sens fans may root for Vancouver thanks to Canadian solidarity.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Meetings in each of the past two seasons' playoffs bred a pretty good rivalry between the Sens and Pens, but there still seems to be a sense of mutual respect between the two teams. Not much in the way of Ottawa connections on Pittsburgh, but Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are always exciting to watch.
Philadelphia Flyers: I'm still a little reluctant to cheer for the Flyers because of past animosity, but they do have two great young leaders in Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. They've also got Gatineau native Daniel Briere and former Gatineau Olympique Claude Giroux on the roster.
Calgary Flames: I think just about every Canadian outside of Edmonton can't help but cheer for Jarome Iginla, and plenty of Canadians rallied behind the flaming C for their last big Stanley Cup run. Former Ottawa Senator tough guy Andre Roy is on Calgary, as well.
Carolina Hurricanes: They used to be the Hartford Whalers, which is a pretty good reason in itself (it's why I'm a closet 'Canes fan). They've also got former Senators Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves on their lineup, one-time Senators prospect Tim Gleason on the blue line, as well as Jarkko Ruutu's brother Tuomo Ruutu playing for them.
New York Rangers: Assuming Wade Redden doesn't get benched or sent to the minors, then there are still plenty of fans who'll cheer for him, even if it is in a Blueshirts uniform. And whenever Sean Avery is in the playoffs, you know something will be going on.
Montréal Canadiens: Sigh... I guess the root-for-a-Canadian-team mentality will likely make the Habs a popular choice for some Sens fans, but I just don't like this team.
St. Louis Blues: There are virtually zero connections between the Blues and the Senators, but that fact in itself might be a good reason to cheer for them. And how funny would it be if Carlo Colaiacovo and Alex Steen played a significant role in any playoff run after being given up on by the Maple Leafs?
Columbus Blue Jackets: Former Senators Antoine Vermette is still popular in Ottawa, and Sens fans will more than likely cheer for his success even if it's not with Ottawa. He joins another former Sen, Mike Commodore, who's popular just about anywhere, and former 67 Mike Peca. Plus how can you not cheer for a team that's making the playoffs for the first time in its franchise history?
Anaheim Ducks: I don't like the Ducks, and most Sens fans are likely still a little sensitive about our 2007 Stanley Cup Final loss to them. It's been a pretty impressive late-season push to the playoffs for Anaheim, though, so their underdog status may make a few people interested in following them through the playoffs.