Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wings owe the Stars

The Detroit Red Wings are now headed to the Stanley Cup final after beating the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference final 4 games to 2. When the final game ended and the players lined up to shake hands, the Wings were likely more grateful than they let on. Not because the series went longer than the apparent 4 game sweep it looked to be early on, but rather because Dallas had done the Wings a great service before this series even started.

Despite winning the Presidents Trophy and having the best record in the NHL almost wire-to-wire, the Wings were not chosen by many to win the cup. Nagging concerns about Detroit’s ability to play a physical series and win it. Uncertainty about the legitimacy of the Wings regular season point totals based on the fact they play in the worst or second worst division in hockey depending on your assessment of the Central and Southeast divisions and which one was weaker. Add to that the historical fact that few teams which win the Presidents Trophy actually win the Stanley Cup and Detroit was missing from the top of many experts’ prognostication lists.

But in comes Dallas and takes care of Anaheim and San Jose for the Wings and in the process drains themselves of the kind of gas you need to win this marathon. We will never know if this Detroit team would have survived a grinding, physical series with the larger and meaner Sharks and/or Ducks. My thought is no. But that is how the playoffs work. You don’t get to pick your opponent and the only thing you can do is play the team in front of you. It’s not the Wings fault, but it certainly was to their advantage and it’s the Dallas Stars who provided that advantage.

In Detroit they will not be wondering or worrying about these questions as they head to the final nor should they. Debates about how easy or tough a run to the final are, happen in the cities where their team didn’t get to make that run. In Dallas it will be a debate. How would the Stars have fared had they been afforded the opportunity to play Nashville and Colorado instead of Anaheim and San Jose?

Everyone who has won the cup says (amongst many things) that you have to have some luck and you have to have at least one easy series. Detroit must thank the hockey gods for the luck, and Dallas for taking care of the Ducks and Sharks for them.

See you at the rink.

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