Never before has the NHL needed a series like the one about to commence. Following a lackluster three seasons since the lockout, hockey fans can once again rejoice in what we are being dished:
Sid the Kid, Malkin—the Robin to Crosby's Batman, Jordan Stall, Fleury in goal. Pittsburgh is poised to reign supreme for a decade.
On the other side we have the team that has done just that. Chris Chelios, age 46, Chris Osgood, age 35 (arguably the Wings most seasoned "youngster"), and Nicklas Lindstrom, age 38, have been at the top of their sport for longer than most of the Pittsburgh Penguins have been tying up skates.
Age, though it may be the most glaring difference between these teams, could also be the most profound thing to happen in modern-day sports. It is an opportunity for a young team to grab hold of a torch held too long by aging veterans, and usher in a new generation of hockey—or it could be an opportunity for an aging team to leave one last imprint on Lord Stanley.
Coaches have last year's tape, sportscasters have tape from generations ago, and fans have last week. Our sports culture has quickly adpoted a "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately" mindset, demanding constant success and steady improvements over what we had come to expect. Penguins fans could only hope and wait until their "babies" came of age, and Detroit fans could only pray that age didn't fail them now (because we all know the octopus never will).
Perhaps there is not too much different between the two teams. They are strong on power plays, excitingly risky on penalty kills, and each have deep benches. The glaring difference, though, will always be age.
Can the Wings' legs hold up for one more series? Can Crosby, Malkin, and Fleury steal the spotlight and thrust hockey back onto the main stage? Will Hasek return to sign another five-year contract?
The spotlights are primed, the zambonis are tuned, and the most intriguing possible scenario is about to unfold in front of a very deserving NHL crowd—and we are lucky enough to be on the edge of our seats.