Friday, June 11, 2010
A (Post-) Season To Remember
So the Blackhawks have finally ended their nearly 50-year Stanley Cup drought. Can we finally put all the talk of the Marian Hossa curse to rest now?
In all seriousness though, what a memorable playoff 2010 turned out to be. Chicago had a great run and truly earned the Cup with a great TEAM effort. I had figured when this season started that the ‘Hawks would be at least one more year away, but the bitter taste from last year’s loss in the Western Conference Final to Detroit seemed to fuel Chicago’s drive to succeed now. And in this current climate of sport – where the prevailing attitude seems to be, “What have you done for me lately?” – it couldn’t have happened a moment too soon for the long-suffering hockey fans in the Windy City. Sure, there are plenty of bandwagon fans who’ve jumped on board in Chi-town, but what team doesn’t have those fans come out of the woodworks once that winning mojo is rediscovered?
Philadelphia also warrants a tip of the cap on a phenomenal postseason. After an underwhelming regular season – which was riddled with rumors of infighting and injuries to several key players – the Flyers came together (and got healthy) at just the right time. I’d stated to some of my hockey friends when the playoffs started how the Flyers – along with the Bruins and Canadiens – got into the playoffs in the East by default and therefore, didn’t truly belong in the postseason.
Talk about eating crow.
Philly showed me – and the whole hockey world – that they indeed did belong in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and made the most of their opportunity after sneaking in. There was simply way too much talent on this Philadelphia roster to dismiss them as also-rans (something the media did far too often this postseason). The Flyers responded to their detractors with a big middle finger and put on an impressive playoff run that was one of the most memorable in recent memory. After all, they call the playoffs “the second season” for a reason, right?
Philly fans shouldn’t hang their heads. Their team did the City of Brotherly Love proud. Every time the Flyers were considered down-and-out-for-the-count, they responded with the resiliency and heart of a champion. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to land the big trophy. But they didn't miss by much.
Perhaps my biggest realization about my hockey observations this season is how I’ve found myself drawn more to rooting for certain players rather than teams. I admitted prior to the start of the Stanley Cup Final that I didn’t have a rooting interest in either team. In fact, I wouldn’t have minded some miraculous aberration allowing both teams to lose. But I chose to watch, and as a hockey fan who is watching from a more objective viewpoint as time passes by, I was mostly certainly rewarded.
I suppose some of that mindset stems from not seeing Toronto in the postseason since before the lockout. Maybe it’s because I’ve had those images from the Vancouver Olympics permanently burned into my mind (therefore making the players who played in that tournament more visible to the eye). Maybe it’s because Mike Emrick reminded anyone who watched NBC’s NHL coverage that Duncan Keith played at Michigan State (but never mentioned once that Keith left MSU for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL during his sophomore year in 2002-03….did anyone else catch that?). But the individual efforts in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final really stood out to me. The face-off circle prowess of Jonathan Toews. The never-say-die attitude of Mike Richards. The shut-down capabilities of David Bolland. The tenacity and fearlessness of Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere. The physical pugnacity of Chris Pronger and Dustin Byfuglien. And of course, the missing teeth of Duncan Keith. While I was certainly aware of these specific skill-sets possessed by these players, seeing them displayed on hockey’s grandest stage seemed to magnify those abilities to the Nth degree. Gotta love seeing who rises to the occasion when the pressure’s on.
Well, now what? The entry draft is two weeks away, so we’ll be riddled with more of the Taylor vs. Tyler debate. My take on that topic will be coming in the near future, so stay tuned.