At the end of my last post, I wrote something about being let down by the Wings. I don't know exactly what I said, because that would require me to go back and reread the most painful thing I've ever written in my life (and that's saying something coming from someone who's written 25-page papers on the prison system before). But over the last couple of days, I had a chance to do quite a bit of solo driving, which is always when I do my best thinking. And the more I thought about what I had written and the fact that I really had lost my faith during the second period, the worse I felt. I couldn't wait to get back to my computer and "make amends." I actually thought of being late to my camping trip so I could go back and write some more.
The truth is, I am proud of my boys. In the heat of the moment, while I was mourning the loss, I was angry and upset and miserable and mean. But in all honesty, this particular playoff run exemplified why I truly love the Wings (except for the part where they were supposed to win...).
They fought and they battled, seemingly uphill at times, and they carried an entire devastated region on their backs for two months. And that can't have been easy considering the amount of injuries they were playing with. (Kris Draper had torn neck cartilage? Seriously? I didn't even think that that was something that was possible. Also, I've never seen the word "testicle" tossed around in news coverage as frequently as I have the last few days. I'm completely astonished that Lidstrom had surgery on his balls during the third round and only missed two games. And I'm not even a guy. In the words of my brother, "What kind of a man does that to another man?" regarding the spearing incident. And those are just the beginning of the list.) I also once read somewhere that Detroit was the most overweight city in America, so that probably didn't help matters either.
It's not just the injuries that they battled through that make me proud, though. One of the moments that defines the playoff run in my mind was The Goal That Wasn't. A lot of lesser teams would have just called it quits and said, "this isn't our year," but the Wings battled back and won that series. They just put their heads down and went to work on the ice.
Mostly, though, I admire their class. I know it's talked about a lot in sports, and it's often irrelevant, but it seems like it always comes back to that for me. It's part of what makes me thank the Hockey Gods for the good fortune of growing up a Wings fan. It's also why I was so upset when they traded for Bertuzzi and was so glad when he left. While I have no idea what the players are like privately, it's nice to at least be able to admire their public personas, which is more than I can say for a lot of other teams out there.
This was most noticeable during the second round when it had been fairly well established that the refs were going to follow an "anything goes" policy. Anaheim had proven in the past that this was an effective way to win in the playoffs and seemed determined to do so again, but the Wings never stooped to their level. While Anaheim felt it was necessary to start after-game scrums (games they won, which I still haven't figured out) and rough up players, the Wings stuck to their tried and true "between the whistles" schtick. One of my brothers kept screaming for them to just do it back, and maybe that would've made the series easier to win. But I liked the fact that they didn't. Maybe that makes me less of a fan, but I'll go head-to-head with anyone else's rabid devotion if you want to make it a contest of who likes the Wings more.
The same thing was showcased during their blowout victories in Game 4 against Chicago and 5 against Pittsburgh. They just kept playing their game and let the other teams make fools of themselves as they paraded to the penalty box. Even when the Wings arguably lost their composure in Game 4 of the Finals, they never sank to the childish antics and vicious attacks that so many other teams resort to when faced with the frustration of being dominated.
There was an article linked to on Snapshots that claimed that Franzen would've become the poster boy for obstruction if the Pens had ended up losing. Which is really funny considering the egregious amounts of obstruction that were ignored against them. Especially when there's a guy on Crosby's team who somehow only managed two penalty minutes during the entire series. coughHalGillcough
I'm going to stop myself before this spirals out of control into an officiating rant. That's not what this post is supposed to be about. As much as I'm disappointed that they came up one game short, I really am proud of what the Wings did this season. They were counted out of every series, including the one against playoff-virgin Columbus, and went further in the playoffs than any other Cup-defenders since...themselves in 1998. Nobody expected that to happen, and in all honesty, neither did I, especially during the doldrums of February and March.
Over the course of the last two months, I've spent way too many hours pouring over every word of hockey coverage and run up more credit card bills at bars than I care to think about. I've drank approximately 687 gallons of Slurpees, and cut at least 17 years off of my life expectancy. But man, did I ever have a good time doing it.