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Almost made it… a Freelance Fan sailing through the NHL season (#TeamlessInAtlanta) and the Stanley Cup Playoffs without really caring who won each game. Just enjoying hockey as a sport, appreciating the different styles of each team without the stress that comes with a Favorite Team. The season was fun; it was an eye-opener to have the opportunity to simply enjoy The Game without the baggage that comes with a Favorite Team.

I was so wrong. Perhaps it was due to the East Coast schedule providing more games we could watch in prime time. Or perhaps it was because some teams grabbed the Game of the Week more often, but by the end of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there was an unmistakable sense that I was actually beginning to Care Who Won The Games.

Ovechkin-Lundqvist: The Stare ©Clydeorama

First there’s our favorite Bad Boy, Alexander Ovechkin, who rediscovered his mojo sometime in March. Then there’s former Thrasher (see Teams that have Abandoned AtlantaIlya Kovalchuk enjoying a spectacular year AND a second round playoff victory that never ever—EVER— has occurred for an Atlanta NHL team. Then… and I can’t believe I’m saying this.. there’s this goaltender from this team from New York City that I had vowed I would NEVER support. Reminds me of my all-time favorite baseball pitcher. Focused. Always watching. Always anticipating. Henrik Lundqvist is the Greg Maddux of Goaltenders. A master of the game. In control. His work in front of the net as precise as a Maddux-placed fast ball. Henrik has finesse.

In short, I suddenly had three teams whose fate could make or ruin an evening! Totally caught this Freelance Fan by surprise. Three teams from the Northeast? New York, New Jersey, and DC? For this Southerner, the world just turned upside down.

What to expect in the next week as the New Jersey Devils match up against the New York Rangers in hockey’s Final Four? No predictions on the table here. This crazy season continues.

But just between us, I’d sure like to see this guy wearing the #30 Red, White, and Blue jersey skate around the ice carrying the Cup come June. Sean Connery was right.

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