It’s understandable if some Caps’ fans hesitate a tad in fully getting behind the Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup, even with their opponent being so foul a team as the Penguins. After all, the Red Wings methodically swept away the Capitals’ only trip to the Finals ten years ago. Those who followed each game of the series of course know it was one of the most competitive sweeps of all time, with its three one-goal games (including that really, really almost-had-it OT Game 2 in Detroit) featuring lots of non-rolling-over by the supposedly overmatched Caps (remember sneers of “Detroit in three”?).
Still, despite this cruel dispatching, I personally never felt the animosity towards the Red Wings I did towards the other Washington playoff opponents that year. The volcanic Pat Burns was enough to grate on the nerves of any non-Bruins fan in the first round. The Sabres will always hold a sour place in my heart for the highly contentious Conference Finals. The memories: Matthew Barnaby and his water-bottle-throwing tantrums; Lindy Ruff’s non-stop whining regarding every perceived injustice heaped on his poor put-upon team by those mean Capitals and meaner officials; the constant darling-ism heaped upon Dominik Hasek by Darren Pang. Remember how crestfallen Pang sounded with his sighing “Congratulations to the Capitals” after Joe Juneau beat Pang’s deity in OT of Game 6?
I’m sure there was some (now forgotten) aspect of the Senators that caused me to dislike them in their brief five-game appearance in Round 2 as well. But, as I mentioned, it was the Red Wings that never really irritated me like the rest. It was kind of like: nothing personal, we just have to professionally do our job and win the Cup, even if this is Dale Hunter’s last real chance ever. So they weren’t that bad. Besides, it’s hard to stay mad at a city that has blessed us for so many years with the Lions.
However, for those fans still understandably holding a bit of a grudge, DCO hereby extends a full pardon to the Detroit Red Wings for their actions in the spring of 1998. We do this to enable a guilt-free supporting of Detroit as they look to vanquish the hype-encrusted blight that is the Penguins. The latest incarnation of such hype: the predictable-yet-still-offensive call for Sidney’s coronation as Conn Smythe king before a single second of the Finals has been played. It’s inevitable, of course, that he wins this award if the Pens win the Cup (perhaps even if they don’t), even if his meager goal-scoring rate continues. It’s as pre-scripted into NHL “legend” as the Manning boys winning Super Bowl MVPs was for the NFL. The making of a good “story” (in this case, the heralded “Next One” leading his team to a championship, fulfilling the prophecy) overshadows other (more) deserving candidates, even perhaps those on a winning (Detroit) team. Storyline over merit.
So here’s the storyline DCO is behind: Detroit in 4, or 5, or 6, or 7. Whatever it takes.