The Stanley Cup Playoffs are in full force; there's dried blood on damaged knuckles, loose teeth sliding across the ice, and fraying stick tape as far as the eye can see.

The fall of an empire

Whether you're an avid follower or a casual observer of hockey, most everyone knows that there are good teams, and then there are great teams. The Original Six of the National Hockey League - The New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, and Toronto Maple Leafs - are easy crowd favorites. You grow up loving them, regardless of your actual feelings on the sport, and you cheer for them as they get further and further into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It's a tradition to see these teams excel, as much as it's a tradition to tail gate at the Super Bowl and watch the mascot race during the World Series.

Only this season, things went a little differently than expected. The Red Wings didn't qualify for the Playoffs at all, failing to make it to even the first round for the first time in 25 years. The Blackhawks, a fan favorite and home to a few of the league's 'golden boys', was swept by second wild card team the Nashville Predators in just four games, resulting in one of the biggest Playoff upsets in NHL history. In fact, with only one Original Six team advancing to the second round, it leaves you wondering what the future of hockey is going to look like.

Let's hear it for the underdogs

While the NHL elite keep falling, victory stories from the most unexpected places keep popping up as we move further into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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Take the Toronto Maple Leafs. They're an Original Six team that's been recovering from finishing last in the League back in 2015. The team has been rebuilding since Mike Babcock was appointed head coach following the loss, and they made it 6 games into the first round of the Playoffs with a whopping 9 rookies on their roster. Despite falling to the Ottawa Senators, the Leafs made it farther this season than anyone expected them to go, and the young team proved that they're a force to be reckoned with.

On the topic of young teams, the Edmonton Oilers shook things up by selecting first round draft pick Connor McDavid as their captain this season, making the 19 year old the youngest captain in the history of the National Hockey League. The new "Next One", and compared often to Pittsburgh Penguins' captain Sidney Crosby, McDavid was already one to look out for. His Art Ross trophy win came as no surprise, but leading his team to take out the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs was an impressive feat.

There's a lot more hockey ahead for the team, but there's already whispers that this could be Canada's chance to bring the Stanley Cup home.

And as the only Original Six team to make it as far as the second round, the New York Rangers (having defeated the Montreal Canadiens in the sixth game of round 1) have a lot of pressure going into this week of hockey. The team hasn't won the Stanley Cup since '94, but they have promising rookies and one of the best goalies in the league on their side. This year might just be their year.

There's dozens of games and a whole lot more fights to watch before the 2017 Stanley Cup winner is revealed, but until then: who are you rooting for?