First and foremost, to you and your fans, let me say "congratulations" on a very hard-fought series and a thrilling Game 7 victory.
As a Red Wings fan, I could get into excuse-making here.
I could talk about the huge loss of Johan Franzen and the crippling losses of Dan Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi in the game as reasons why Detroit didn't have enough firepower to beat the Sharks, but I won't.
The Sharks came out the better team and played smart, desperate hockey throughout the game.
Antti Niemi is proving he can win, and convincingly so, without a stacked Chicago Blackhawks team in front of him.
Patrick Marleau finally came through in huge form.
Joe Thornton put his team on his back and played the best playoff hockey game of his entire career.
I have no problem saying that the San Jose Sharks were the better team in Game 7, period.
So, Sharks, you now have the daunting task of facing the odds-on Stanley Cup favorite in the Western Conference Finals for a second straight year.
You may recall, we've had this kind of conversation before, when I wrote this last season around this time.
Yet again, by beating the Detroit Red Wings, you may be able to follow in the skate tracks of the 2003 Mighty Ducks, the 2004 Calgary Flames, the 2006 Edmonton Oilers and the 2007 Anaheim Ducks and make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
What's more, each of these teams made it to Game 7 or, in the case of Anaheim in 2007, won the whole damn thing.
I thought you were on this path last year, but you ran up empty against the Blackhawks, and well, we all know what happened after that.
Believe it or not, as a Red Wings fan, I truly want this year to be different for you.
I not only want you to beat Vancouver; I also want you to beat Tampa Bay or Boston in the Stanley Cup Final.
I want to see Antti Niemi become the first goalie to win back-to-back Stanley Cups with two different teams.
I want to see Jumbo take the Cup from Gary Bettman and thrust it high into the air.
I want to see him skate over to Patrick Marleau, your longest-tenured player and former captain, and give it to him so he'd be the first to take a lap with it around the rink.
I want to see Joe Pavelski drink champagne out of the Stanley Cup because he will undoubtedly be one of the guys that will help you win it, but not get enough credit for doing so.
If you do end up beating Tampa Bay to win the Cup, I want to see Dan Boyle kiss the Cup for a second time in front of the team that foolishly let him get away to San Jose three seasons ago after helping them win their first Cup in 2004.
Speaking of Tampa Bay, as Steve Yzerman is their GM, I wouldn't be too sad to see them win the Cup either.
But in the end, I'd still rather see the Sharks emerge as the 2011 Stanley Cup champions because that is the only thing that would make losing this round, in this way, justifiable.
I truly believed my Wings were going to beat you last night, and you know what? They could have too.
But they didn't.
Instead of flying up to Vancouver, my team is heading home to hit the links.
Make no mistake, Sharks—you earned this series win, fair and square.
But that doesn't mean you should be satisfied, or even close to satisfied, with your season.
You've got eight more games to win to truly end this year the way you want to.
Congratulations on beating the Red Wings for the second straight year.
Now, make it count and go win that damn Cup. For yourselves, for your fans and for at least one Detroit Red Wings fan who doesn't want to see his team's season end for nothing.
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