NHL Playoffs: Beating Red Wings Could Yield Finals Appearance for Sharks

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst IMay 6, 2010

DETROIT - MAY 4:  Patrick Marleau #12 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates his overtime game-winning goal against the Detroit Red Wings in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena on May 4, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan.(Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

As a deeply passionate Red Wings fan and columnist, it makes me nauseous to think that, largely by their own doing , the Red Wings have effectively ended their 2010 playoff run.

The Sharks can sweep the two-time defending Western Conference Champions tonight at Joe Louis Arena.

However, even if the Wings manage to win the battle tonight, the war that is the Western Conference Semi-Finals is essentially over.

I've often said that I'm a hockey fan first and Red Wings fan second.

By that I mean, my love for the sport I've played and followed for decades outweighs the love I have for my Red Wings (if only by a very slight margin).

Simply put, if the Detroit Red Wings somehow disappeared ala Moscow Dynamo tomorrow, I would still watch NHL hockey.

This hierarchy of passion allows one to take the red and white colored glasses off from time to time and simply enjoy the sport or a series from an objective perspective.

Seeing the Sharks on the verge of returning to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in six years, it occurs to me that, regardless of who they'll face, a Stanley Cup Finals appearance may already be in the cards.

The Sharks are poised to follow in the skate tracks of the 2003 Mighty Ducks, the 2004 Calgary Flames, the 2006 Edmonton Oilers, and the 2007 Ducks—each of these teams beat the Red Wings in the playoffs.

They also share another noteworthy achievement—all of them either made it to Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals or, in the case of the 2007 Ducks, won the Stanley Cup.

Yes, over the past seven years, the road to the Stanley Cup Finals has gone straight through Motown, and this year is likely to be no exception.

True, the Sharks have refined the delicate art that is choking in the playoffs over the past few seasons and, should they indeed dispatch the Red Wings, facing either of Chicago or Vancouver isn't going to be a picnic.

Still, this Sharks team has something different about it this year.

Beating the Red Wings, a team they have had very little success against in the playoffs, could yield the good mojo necessary to finally get their collective heads together and find the confidence they need to realize the greatness their roster seems to promise.

As I wrote back in November , if there is one team that must win the Stanley Cup this year, one team that has no more second chances or "we'll get 'em next year"'s in the hopper, it is the San Jose Sharks.

Recent history suggests that beating the Red Wings will all but guarantee them this chance.

But why?

Why has beating Detroit yielded such great things for so many teams over the past few years?

Excuse me while I put my red and white colored glasses back on.

Because the Detroit Red Wings are the best franchise in hockey, if not all of sports.

They eat, sleep, and breathe like champions and every other team in the league looks to them for guidance on how to be winners.

When you beat a team like that, you know you're beating the best and beating the best is a sure-fire way to send your confidence through the roof.

If you've played in the West the past seven years, and you've had designs on competing for a Stanley Cup, surviving the Red Wings has proved to be the fast-track to doing just that.

And for those of you who wonder how a Red Wings fan can be so calm in the face of defeat and actually produce some encouraging words for the team set to defeat them, let me leave you with this—the Stanley Cup is ours, we just loan out to other teams once in a while.


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