So, I'd better start by explaining what's going on. First, here's the playoff bracket (or look at a full-size version here):
Naturally, I looked at that and thought "fanfic-off!" So, I've paired each team with its fanfic doppelganger, taking only from the most well-known stories and
St. Louis Blues/It's a Dangerous Business, Going Out Your Door: The knock on the Blues in recent years has been that they're a great regular-season team that can't close out in the postseason. Likewise, many people consider Dangerous Business's ending to be one of its weakest parts. A big question for St. Louis will be who's playing goalie; Jake Allen and Brian Elliott are both pretty good, but the team hasn't shown much confidence in either. And let's face it, for a story about trekking across Equestria to find a plant that can save Twilight, Dangerous Business is anything but solid in goal. Still, this is a team that is generally considered a legit contender thanks to its consistency and depth... and this is a fanfic that is loved by its fans for the same reasons.
Minnesota Wild/My Little Denarians: The Wild were not a good team at the trade deadline, quickly falling out of contention for a playoff spot. Then, they signed goalie Devan Dubnyk and went on a 26-6-2 tear to break 100 points and secure a playoff spot. My Little Denarians gets off to a weak start, over-reliant on 4th wall jokes and dull inner monologues, before launching into a relentlessly fun action/comedy that spans multiple fandoms.
Nashville Predators/Background Pony: The big question facing the Preds: who's going to put the puck in the net for them? It seems like every forward on the team has a question mark, or a lengthy cold streak this season. Can they overcome that? Or will they prove to be like Background Pony, and take 20,000 words to make a point that could have been made in 2,000? Either way, everyone agrees there's a lot of depth on this team/in this story; it's just a question of whether they can do anything with it.
Chicago Blackhawks/Fallout: Equestria: The Blackhawks have won two Cups with this core, but fatigue could be an issue: going deep into the postseason year after year wears a body down. Fallout: Equestria, likewise, has been overexposed for years; even the people who love it would agree that the attention it gets is a little ridiculous. But Fo:E doesn't ride on empty hype, and you don't win as much as this team has without some serious talent. Even with a weak start to the year, nobody would be surprised to see the Blackhawks win it all, and everyone will tell you that Fo:E doesn't get great until chapter
Anaheim Ducks/My Little Dashie: Is this team good, or just lucky? They're 33-1-7 in one-goal games this year, and while their fans will probably tell you that that means they're "gritty," or that they "know how to win," everyone else will tell you that numbers like that just aren't sustainable. Their mere +7 season goal differential also suggests they're a lot closer to mediocre than their record suggests. So, is My Little Dashie any good, or did it just happen to come out at the right time and place to capture the imagination of a big chunk of the fandom? Most reviewers will tell you it's the latter, but MLD's fans don't let that stop them from celebrating their fic.
Winnipeg Jets/Biblical Monsters: The Jets caught fire at the end of the season, riding three shutouts from goalie Ondrej Pavlic to a wildcard berth. And let's face it, Biblical Monsters is all about that last chapter. They also have one of the dirtiest players in the league in Dustin Byfuglien. Well, maybe dirty isn't the right word, but he does have a bad habit of getting himself suspended for stuff like this. So... yeah, that seems about right.
Vancouver Canucks/The Life and Times of a Winning Pony: The Canucks are traditionally a very hate-able team, despite the fact that they don't have very many hate-able players on their team at the moment. Likewise, you don't have to go far to find a reader who despises the so-called Winningverse, but when you go back to the core story, it's surprisingly inoffensive. There's currently a bit of a goaltending controversy in Vancouver, and seemingly has been for the better half of the past decade... despite the fact that, for most of that stretch, they've had at least one, sometimes two, incredible goalies (Luongo, Schneider, Miller... it's an embarrassment of riches over there), which is certain to drag into the postseason. And if there's one thing Life and Times does, its dragging the drama out.
Calgary Flames/Past Sins: There is literally no advanced stat analyst who's going to pick the Flames to win the Cup. By every non-oldschool measure, they're a mediocre team that's been overachieving all year. They're one of the worst possession teams in the league, and there's absolutely no reason to believe they won't begin their regression to the mean long before the Finals. Except... well, it's been 82 games already, and they haven't yet. Past Sins? Critics rate it anywhere between "not bad, despite some flaws" and "[...]bad[...]flaws," and have been variously panning it or delivering faint praise for years. And yet... it's still incredibly popular, spawning spinoffs, art galore, and multiple printing runs, and shows no signs of fading into the mists of fanfic history. And both Past Sins and the Flames have a lot of fans ready to dispute any fancy stats/reviews as the killjoyery of people who might know numbers, but don't know hockey. Or who might know editing, but don't know storytelling. Don't blame the team or the fic, though; the fans aren't their fault.
Montreal Canadiens/Diaries of a Madman: How far can one man take you? That's the question Habs fans and DoaM fans alike are asking. Goalie Carey Price has carried his team all season, and won't just win the Vezina, but probably the Heart as well for his efforts. I mean, it's not like the rest of the team is bad... but Price has been their workhorse all year, starting 66 games and putting up unbeatable numbers. whatmustido, meanwhile, has only written 1.7 million words of fanfiction on his story, and the story shows no signs of stopping--or even slowing down.
(I considered Project Horizons for this spot as well, but that one might actually finish before too long. Call it a hunch, but I don't think the Habs are going to be bowing out too quickly)
Ottawa Senators/The Dresden Fillies: The Senators have a lot in common with the Wild, at a glance: both were floundering before a midseason goalie acquisition (a trade for the Wild, an AHL callup for the Sens) showed up and went on an absurd streak. Since getting the callup, Andrew Hammond has gone 20-1-2, backstopping his team into a wildcard berth. Beyond that, though, the comparison unwinds. The Wild's core is mostly veterans and players acquired via trade or free agency, while the Senators have a very young, mostly home-grown core. The Dresden Fillies, likewise, shares some surface similarities with My Little Denarians (Dresden Files crossover, weak start, strong finish), but you don't need to read far to see that they're two completely different stories.
Tampa Bay Lightning/Friendship is Optimal: Hockey just doesn't belong in Florida, and meditations on the nature of a possible super-AI don't belong in an MLP fanfic--but both of them are pretty darn good, anyway.
Detroit Red Wings/Cupcakes: You want to hate Detroit. You know you're supposed to hate Detroit. They're the Red Wings, for crying out loud... but these aren't the Red Wings of yesteryear. True, they've made the playoffs for the millionth straight year (okay, 22 years--it's still absurd), but they're no threat to go deep, and everyone knows it. Likewise, you might know intellectually that you're supposed to deeply revile Cupcakes, the infamous "first gorefic," but then you discover that it hasn't aged well, even as an object of loathing. A few seasons in, it doesn't even feel vaguely like the characters as we know them now, and it's not like it was particularly shocking or disturbing on its literary merits. With both the Wings and Cupcakes, you might know why the older fans hated them, but it's hard for the new guys to care too much.
New York Rangers/Fall of Equestria: When I was a young man, I learned who to root for and who not to. Now, you also have to learn to be a little flexible come playoff time; what do you do if the team you love isn't there? You've got to find someone to bandwagon on, but you need to pick carefully: some teams are perfectly fine to jump to, others you need a good excuse ("he can cheer for the Kings, his uncle has season tickets"), and so on. However, there's one thing you never do, and that's root for New York. People who root for New York teams are objectively the worst; that's just science. Likewise, there's never a good reason to read something like Fall of Equestria. No, not even ironically; no, not even as a counter-reaction; no, not even because you've got some great deconstruction or fix for it. Some ideas, and some fandoms, should just be left to die--there's nothing of value there, that can't be had at a less soul-crushing price from literally every other team or fanfic.
Pittsburgh Penguins/Austraeoh: Pittsburgh has seemed to sleepwalk through large stretches of the season, and only clinched a playoff spot on the last day of the season. By rights, this team should be out in four... and yet, would anyone really be shocked if they suddenly came alive and made a Cup run? That's what having Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on a team will do: no matter how bad the team seems to be as a whole, you know that at any moment the stars could take over and show why they're two of the best hockey players of the modern era--and arguably the two best playing the game today. Austraeoh and its sequels are slogs full of directionless digressions, extended pointless descriptions, and just dullness in general... but its readers stick with it because they know that there could be a sudden burst of payoff at any moment, to reward them for sticking around.
Odds are that both will end with a whimper rather than a bang, it's true. But would you really want to bet on it?
Washington Capitals/The Celestia Code: It's one of the laws of hockey that any Russian-born player must be described as "enigmatic;" and Ovechkin is certainly no exception. That said, I've always felt like he's not all that hard to read; he's just a quiet guy who's really, really good at putting the puck in the net. Likewise, The Celestia Code isn't as full of mystery as the title might suggest, but it scores a lot of points along the way. And both Caps and Code are, in both their most sublime and more disappointing moments, relentlessly entertaining.
New York Islanders/120 Days of Blueblood: The "other" New York team, and just like the Mets, they've got a complex about it. You should still wish they didn't exist, but you don't have to get quite as worked up about it because the fans are at least a little less obnoxious.
So, that's my bracket! Naturally, I'll be cheering on my Wild, which I guess means I'm rooting for My Little Denarians. Man, I should have thought this through a little better; if my team wins, I knock out Dangerous Business in the first round.
In any case, I hope some of you were at least a fraction as entertained by this as I was, and if not, at least now you have a reason to watch the games. After all, you might not care if the Ducks or Jets advance out of the first round, but I bet you've got an opinion on My Little Dashie vs. Biblical Monsters.