Saturday, 13 June 2009

Remembering South Detroit

If you didn't enjoy this year's Stanley Cup Final, please check your pulse. If you found the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs to be somewhat boring, please get a CAT Scan. If you didn't hold your breath last night for the final minute in Game Seven between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings, you're probably already dead. While I say that the conspiracy theorists be damned, this was the best Stanley Cup Playoffs in a long, long time. Detroit - the high octane offensive and suffocating defensive team - played superb hockey through four rounds and just came up short. Pittsburgh - battling arch-rivals, former teammates, and the same team that paraded around the Mellon Arena with the Stanley Cup last year - put what may have been a season to forget behind them after erasing all those memories with the Stanley Cup win last night.

I admit that I am a Penguins fan. I have a lot of Penguins-themed merchandise around the hockey basement, and my favorite player while growing up was Mario Lemieux. I'm sure you might be thinking that it's bias time since I am a Penguins fan, but that's not the case. I hope.

You see, Detroit played well last night. In fact, they played good enough to win the Stanley Cup if it hadn't been for a determined Penguins team. If there had been any effort lower than what the Penguins displayed last night, I would be congratulating the Red Wings right now for the second year in a row. The Red Wings were good enough to win the Stanley Cup last night. The only problem was that the Penguins were better on June 12, 2009.

Tonight's victory over the Red Wings for the Penguins will be memorable. They exorcised the demons that the Red Wings seem to bring last season by pushing this series to seven games, and then went into Joe Louis and played their hearts out. They erased the 10th-place standing they sat in at March 25. They erased the doubters who said that this team would feel the hangover from last season. They erased a dismal showing in Game Five of the Final where they lost 5-0 to the Red Wings. They erased two 2-0 deficits to higher-seeded teams.

But this needs to be said: the Red Wings did not choke. Not in this writer's view. They played well enough to win the game had Pittsburgh not brought 110% effort. Again, anything less than that amount of effort would mean a Stanley Cup parade in Detroit. The only difference is that the Penguins were the better team on June 12, 2009.

And I'm not going to browbeat Marian Hossa for his decision to leave the Penguins during free agency last year. That's the beauty of free agency: he can choose where he wants to play, and he made a fairly basic choice in opting to go with the most successful team of the new millenium in order to win a Stanley Cup. However, it is my belief that with Hossa leaving the Penguins, it actually made the Penguins better as they could afford to go out and trade for Chris Kunitz, Bill Guerin, and Craig Adams, and sign Ruslan Fedotenko as a free agent. That money would have been tied up in Hossa long-term, and I may be writing about the Red Wings had that happened. Hindsight is 20/20, but we learn from history. And Marian Hossa is now oh-fer-two in Stanley Cup Finals.

The Red Wings' dynasty is nowhere close to being over. Heck, even the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s had a few slips along the way as Montreal won in 1986 and arch-rival Calgary won in 1989. The Red Wings have a number of players signed long-term, and all of these players are major cogs to their success: Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Franzen as examples. They had the emergence of some very good, young players this post-season as well, namely Helm, Ericsson, and Abdelkader. No, the Red Wings will still be dangerous next season and in future seasons. And with the sour taste of defeat in their mouths, they might just be the hungriest team next season. Beware of the Big Red Machine next season, NHL.

But today is PhotoBlog in a different way. Today is all about last night's win, and the images that should be locked in Penguins fans' minds for a long time. This is why you follow for 82 games and 16 wins in the playoffs. This is why you wear the colours of your team. This is why you live and die with each shot and save. This is why hockey is religion.

Congratulations to your 2009 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

adr said...

I noticed something about the cup last night. Take a look at the graphic on the bottom of the trophy. Seems it's been changed to a HHOF thingy for this year. Any idea why?