I stand here before you, the BR community, to admit that I was wrong in predicting this year's Stanley Cup Finals. I am the biggest Detroit Red Wings fan I know, and the feeling that I have in the pit of my stomach is one that I have felt only a handful of times before.
Disappointment, shame, confusion, hysteria, disbelief...Trust me, the list continues long beyond those.
I am here saying the Pittsburgh Penguins deserved to win the Stanley Cup.
The Detroit Red Wings could not repeat as champions this year because they lost the most important factor in their Cup run of a year ago—hunger.
The drive, determination, and grit the Red Wings had a year ago before they won the Stanley Cup helped get them there. They needed to prove to everyone that they were the best team in the NHL. It was put up or shut up, and the Red Wings put up in Pittsburgh's backyard.
Fast forward to June 12th, 2009—today. The Penguins start off Game Seven tearing out of the gates outshooting the Red Wings in the first period, 10-6, which before this series, would have been unheard of. But that was not the first time the Penguins had done so in these Finals.
The Penguins manipulated the game's tempo. They set the pace, and the Red Wings managed to sneak in a handful of scoring chances, only to have Marc-Andre Fleury and his swashbuckling mustache turn them away one by one.
The Red Wings didn't want it like Pittsburgh did. That was the difference in this game.
If this was a year ago, I'd say the Red Wings would have had this game in a strangle hold before the second period was over. But this isn't a year ago. The Red Wings had their time with the Cup, and lost that one thing they underestimated—the hunger.
The Penguins, after being handed their walking papers at Mellon Arena last year, knew damn well how it felt to go out on your own home ice, being so close. And I can only imagine how much they are all enjoying their revenge, served with chilled champagne flowing out of Lord Stanley's Cup...except for two Red Wings, and ex-Penguins Marian Hossa and Ty Conklin.
Hossa had a chance to knot up Game Six in last year's Finals with mere seconds left, only to see the puck trickle harmlessly through the crease. He knows how bad it hurt. I can only imagine what is running through his head after his jumping ship to the same team he lost to. Just sickening.
Like I said, I am a die-hard Red Wings fan. In those eyes, this series ripped my heart out and stepped on it with a new pair of RBK skates on. But as a hockey fan, I can say that I just witnessed one of the best seven-game series I can remember.
In my opinion, Marc-Andre Fleury should be the one with Conn Smythe Trophy in his stall. Without his play in Games Six and Seven, the Red Wings are back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions and walk out of Mellon Arena with the Cup, again.
The Red Wings turned it on in the last 10 minutes of the game. They started pressuring. They created fantastic scoring opportunities, peaking with Jonathan Ericcson's one-timer from the blue line. Niklas Kronwall rattled one off the crossbar after that. The Wings even had a handful of scoring chances within the last minute.
A standard NHL game is 60 minutes long. The Detroit Red Wings played their style of hockey for 10 of those. That's a 1/6 ratio.
If only the Red Wings had played the entire game like those last 10 minutes. I think it's sufficed to say the celebration would be in the other locker room. And yes, that does probably mean cars, couches, and whatever else could be found in Detroit would end up engulfed in flames.
Pittsburgh raced to every puck, dug a little bit harder, and it showed. They wanted it more. The Penguins were hungry, and the Red Wings weren't.
The Wings lost their edge the second they won the Cup in 2008.
The Penguins played all year long with a red and white chip on their shoulder, and they brushed it off about an hour and twenty minutes ago.
As I said before, I was wrong. As much as it pains me to admit that, it's the case. So here I am. After it all, the only words I have are congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins and their fans. You deserve the Stanley Cup and all the celebrating that comes with it.
But trust me when I say, we'll see you next year.