This is the first time I've been quite so caught up in the bigger playoff picture, following teams at all 3 of the affiliation structure, and it's definitely had its pros & cons.
On the good side of things, it's always great to cheer on your team, presuming they made the cut. And if you're entirely out of the running, there's generally a team with a former member of "your" team that you can get behind.
This was especially true for me in Hershey, where I caught upwards of 30 home games. That's a lot of time getting to know a team, even at a distance, and there's the underlying knowledge that when the playoffs end the team scatters. Some will be back, but many won't. At the end of the run, that's what I found myself mourning more than anything.
On the less-positive side of things, people get downright nasty. While twitter and the internet has exacerbated the problem - it's easy to forget the humanity on the other side of a playoff rivalry when you don't have to see the people you're insulting - it's an extension of the mob mentality that's one of the most appealing things in sports fandom, subconsciously or otherwise. Put on a jersey, and you disappear into a crowd - it brings a sudden freedom from accountability, even before you add alcohol. Some people take this to damaging extremes.
This year, two teams that I care about - and have strong geographical ties to - met in the first round of the NHL playoffs. The ugliness that the 7-game series brought out of both sets of fans was appalling, and I'm not just talking about the racist tweets regarding the Capitals' Joel Ward.
I can understand, hypothetically, growing up in a region with a bitter and long-standing rivalry (PIT v. PHI comes to mind). But it's not something I expect to be a part of, nor would I ever want to be. Even in the last few years, players whose careers I have enjoyed following have been shuffling around the continent and leagues - should they suddenly become something to be loathed for being part of a business transaction which they may or may not have had any say in? It boggles my mind.
I've said it before, but it bears repeating - I'm a fan of hockey first, and teams second. There will only be on winner in any given year, and I wish those for whom 2012 is "the one" all the joy they can find in their success.