As Nicklas Lidstrom celebrates his 40th birthday, he’ll get his wish of moving on in the playoffs. Every Red Wings fan sat on the edge of their seats waiting for the victory over the Phoenix Coyotes. We knew they’d win. You can never doubt your team, and Red Wings fans get harassed whether the team wins or loses. But are the Wings the most detested team moving into these playoffs?
I’ve never heard anyone despise Ovechkin and the Capitals. The Washington Capitals are fun to watch and the talent on the team works hard with much less fanfare than their captain. Ovi has been criticized for grandstanding by such notables as Don Cherry, but the guy makes plays. Ovi boasts he’s the greatest player in hockey right now, and maybe he is. But his antics don’t bother me, if he can play great hockey. Unfortunately, we won’t see Ovi postseason unless he decides to be a guest commentator on Versus.
I’m betting the most despised team would be the Pittsburgh Penguins. Matt Cooke is not loved by anyone after his blow to Boston’s Marc Savard. The hit, incidentally, caused fast-track implementation of the ban on blindside hits. Sid the Kid also has a reputation that varies from spoiled to snub. Defending champs get that kind of dislike mostly because the fans want to see another team advance, rather than a dominant force. Just like the Red Wings, welcome the Pens to the circle of scorn.
Detroit will play San Jose in the second round. The Sharks didn’t want to play the boys from Hockeytown to advance because the Wings have momentum, but also because San Jose want to break their problematic journey kinks from year’s past. In what will be a great series, both teams have so much to give. San Jose needs to win as they have topped the charts for years. Their fans are poised to be champs. They want the Shark Tank to be deadlier than it has in the playoffs. Great season, but the Sharks have to deliver well into the next round. Good luck!
Detroit needs to win because it’s expected. Haters, fans and the media all expect Detroit to be in the race every year. With 19 playoff seasons, there’s a reason why passion in Hockeytown is ridiculously bonding. Families talk Wings, all over the country Michiganders become friends over the Wings, and more than not, random fans dig the style of Detroit’s play as purist hockey fans.
Whatever team may play for the Stanley Cup, first round playoff hockey is so compelling that the pundits brag about the excitement that no other sport has in such competition. What the Detroit Red Wings have done is enough to support their cause of winning the Stanley Cup. Drowning in the conference race, then taking over in fifth, and beating the fourth seed shows their climb and determination. Losing for Detroit is not an option. Detroit fans have chewed their nails to the wick, but this week they’ll have to wash their gear for the next battle. So here’s a prayer a Red Wing fan sent to me:
“Our father who art in Detroit, hockey be thy name. Thy will be done. The cup will be won. On ice, as well as in the stands. Give us this day our hockey sticks, and forgive us our penalties, as we forgive those who cross-check against us, Lead us not into elim…ination, but deliver us to victory. In the name of the fans, “Lord Stanley”, and in the name of the Wings. Amen – LETS GO RED WINGS!!!”
I’m quite certain the Penguins have the same type of prayer or chant. With the rich history of the emerging teams, what’s amazing about this second round of the playoffs is four of the Original 6 teams are in. The Montreal Canadiens, The Boston Bruins, the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks bring a rich tradition of classic hockey history and fandom. Can’t wait for the classic hockey banter, the retro-wear, but the biggest question is who will bring back the mullet?