Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hockey? Hockey!

The NFL draft has passed, nobody cares about the NBA any more, the baseball season is just getting started, so it must be hockey season! Yes, even as a Red Wings fan, I acknowledge that the season does continue even after they have been eliminated. (Remember, I'm old. I learned about hockey when Detroit was the team from the Norris that didn't make the playoffs. See what I mean? Yeah, that long stretch in the '70s and early '80s where their only series win was a best-of-three over Atlanta.)

Besides, it's a good year to be watching hockey. There have been some outstanding games so far, and there are likely some better games on the horizon, or at least more significant games.

For example, Philadelphia and Boston are playing Game 7 tomorrow night. Oh, by the way, Boston had a 3-0 lead in this series. If you're watching, you'll hear "1942 Maple Leafs" and "1975 Islanders" quite often, because they are the only NHL teams to come back from a 3-0 deficit (the Leafs are the only team to win the Cup that way). Most teams don't even force a Game 7.

Of course, the Red Sox are the only non-NHL team to win a series after being down 3-0, and if you think this is karma coming back to haunt Boston fans, you may not be familiar with the sports dynamic in the East. From what I understand, there is no way it would carry over. Boston is much like the Blackhawks were up until a few years ago (until their cheap, stupid owner died and was replaced by his son, a much better owner), plus with hockey being much less visible in most of the US, there are many fewer people who are even aware the Bruins have been suffering lately. (Also, it's a much shorter drought. So far.)

If you're a hockey fan, you'll be rooting for Boston. Not just because Bruins fans don't deserve this, but because it would mean three of the four teams left would be Original Six teams. (San Jose spoiled it for everyone. Darn that talent. Anyway, it hasn't happened in the modern era.) And because Philadelphia is, essentially, the dirtiest team in the league. Second-most penalty minutes, most major penalties, one of only four teams to have a player receive a match penalty. They have, as near as I can recall, always been a thuggy team, and unfortunately the NHL's version of discipline is worse than probably all three other leagues combined, so they keep doing it because no one will stop it. That kind of play doesn't need to be rewarded. Go Bruins!

You may also have read about ZOMG Montreal! because of their impressive run so far (knocking out top-seeded Washington and defending champ Pittsburgh in seven games each). Of course, the MSM had a field day with this, the first time a team has ever beaten the President's Trophy winner (for best record in the league) and the defending champ in consecutive rounds. Well, since 1994 (when the league switched from playoffs within divisions first to playoffs within conferences). How many times was it possible? Doesn't matter. "First time evah!" is more important.

Naturally, I (and anyone else with a brain and a decent memory) immediately thought "Oh, you mean like the North Stars." I knew just about exactly when it happened: the early '90s, right when Mario Lemieux was leading the Pens to their first-ever Cups. Sure enough, in 1990-91, the North Stars were fourth in their division and had a losing record, but managed to knock off the top two teams in the Norris and the surprise winner of the Smythe playoffs (Gretzky-less Edmonton) before falling to Pittsburgh in the finals. (I did remember incorrectly, though: Vancouver actually had a worse record, so they would have been the eighth seed in a modern playoff setup, and the Canucks were bounced in the first round.) Still, it's basically the same thing.

Except that Minnesota had never won a Cup, and the franchise that is now in Dallas has only won one. Montreal has won 24 times. Granted, they haven't won since 1993, but that's nothing compared to the remaining teams. San Jose's first season was 1991-92 and they have never won ... the Flyers haven't won since 1975 ... the Bruins haven't won since 1972 ... and Chicago hasn't won since 1961. So new fans might be cheering on the underdog Canadiens, but long-time fans outside the Montreal area will probably be rooting for someone else.

I'm a little disappointed that the Wings' season is over, but San Jose has a very good team, Detroit didn't take advantage of the opportunities they had, and after all, they've been very, very successful, both in modern times and overall:

  • 24 Finals appearances, second only to Montreal;
  • 11 Cups, third behind Montreal and Toronto;
  • 6 Finals appearances and 4 Cups since 1995, both best in the league (the Devils have 4 appearances and 3 Cups, no other team has more than 2 of either in that time).

Yes, they went 42 years between championships, but that is history, and I am grateful that I've been able to see them be so successful for so long. (They've made the playoffs each of the last 19 seasons, the longest active streak in the NHL or NBA, the two leagues with similar playoff structures.) I wish luck to fans of four of the five remaining teams ... maybe one of them is yours.

1 comment:

  1. I guess this means you are not in despair over the elimination of the Red Wings. Good!

    I found this entry very informative and yes, slightly above my head;)


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