How do you feel about the Penguins? I know some of you have issues with Crosby's less attractive traits (ya haters), but as far as Patrick/Atlantic rivals go (and I'll include Washington in that group until my last day), the Penguins were always the franchise I minded least.
Could be because the Islanders have no playoff demons with the Pens (in fact, quite the opposite). Could be because I prefer Mario to Wayne. Regardless, unlike other division rivals, I've seldom hoped the Penguins would rot like mangled roadkill.
This year, now that they are Wales
Conference Trophy champs, there are ample reasons for Islanders fans to hope the Cup winner comes from the Atlantic. Here are three: former captain Bill "McNulty" Guerin; tireless and timely playoff soldier Ruslan "Tank" Fedotenko; and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton(icity) survivor Miro "my sirname is name enough" Satan.
We might begrudge Guerin for the sour way he left the Island, but at least he kept his issues out of the press -- and an old vet's one-more-kick at the can is rarely a bad story. We might begrudge Satan's declining production last season, but he battled injuries and was misused on the power play point. We might be ... honestly, I don't know why one would hate Tank; he was hampered by a shoulder injury last season but returned to score some typical crease-crashing Tank goals down the stretch. And his hustle-hit-shoot-smile demeanor is one of the things I love about hockey.
Anyway, then there's former Isles assistant coach Dan Bylsma, who is a fascinating story that is hard to root against. I love the way he's handled that team, I love the way he handles the press: Straightforward, no B.S. or paranoia, with a little humor on top.
On that note, some fun reading to honor the repeat Wales Conference champs:
- Pensburgh runs down how Hossa's decision to sign with Detroit led to where they are now, with the trio of ex-Islanders in the supporting cast.
- James Mirtle has a review of the Bylsma story -- one of the best coaching debuts in history.
- Mirtle links to this great Pittsburghlive feature from last month, which digs deeply into the awesome story of Bylsma, former California checker-turned-Cup-finalist coach.
But that's just me. Who are you pulling for in the finals? You bitter at any of the former wearers of Orange and Blue? Or do you hope a drug scandal disqualifies them all, and no one takes the Cup?