Thursday night marked the end of one of the most thrilling but brutal best-of-seven series I can remember.
The series, just like my emotions, endured a roller-coaster ride full of twists and turns that ended at heartbreak city for Red Wings’ fans. The Red Wings valiant effort at the epic comeback fell, yep, you guessed it, one goal short as the San Jose Sharks knocked off the Wings 3-2 in Game 7.
Just as the Wings did in the series, they fell behind early and were forced to play catch-up. The 2-0 deficit in the first and 3-1 deficit in the third proved to be too much for the Wings. In the end, it’s the Sharks that are moving on to face the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Finals, rather than the Wings.
First off, I’d like to congratulate the San Jose Sharks and their fans. I didn’t believe the Sharks had what it took to beat the Wings in Game 7. In the past, when the lights were the brightest, when every players’ play was placed under a microscope, the Sharks’ stars, specifically Joe Thorton and Patrick Marleau, couldn’t handle the pressure and they would become non-factors.
In Game 7 against the Wings, Thorton started the Sharks off on the right note with a beautiful pass that was one-timed by Devin Setoguchi to grab the lead in the first period. Marleau was clutch when the Sharks needed it most scoring the game-winning goal with 8:47 left in the third period. A strong performance under the spotlight will not get rid of the critics, but it will silence them for the time being, which has to be a good feeling for the Sharks.
As a Red Wings fan, I could not be prouder of the effort the Red Wings put forth this series. It would have been easy to quit when facing a 3-0 deficit. They could have packed it in and none of us could have complained. The same goes for Games 5 and 6 where they trailed in the third period, but they didn’t.
The Wings never gave up and were so close to making history. Although a second round exit in the playoffs isn’t your ideal result, the Wings should keep their heads held high and take the offseason to learn from this year to make another run at the Cup.
During Game 7, I was freaking out. I was pacing around the room, jumping up and down, throwing my hands up in the air and yelling at the T.V. I was told that it was just a game and that I was too emotionally invested in the Wings.
In my opinion, it was more than just a game. For me, I have to be emotionally invested in the team I am rooting for. I’m sure there are some of you who feel the same way I do as well as some of you who think I’m insane for caring so much about a sport. I guess we will have to agree to disagree.
The worst part about Game 7 is that the chances were there for the Wings to comeback, but they weren’t able to capitalize on them. Some may blame the injuries, referees, or just plain bad luck on the Wings’ loss to the Sharks but it was the stellar play by Anti Niemi and missed opportunities that prevented the Wings from moving on. Ultimately, the better team, the team that won four games first, won the series.
Now that the match-ups for the conference finals are set, here are my picks:
Western Conference Finals
1 Vancouver Canucks vs 2 San Jose Sharks
It only seems right that two of the worst underachievers come playoff time meet in the conference finals for a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Sharks were in this position last year but were swept by the Chicago Blackhawks who eventually went on to win Lord Stanley. Both teams are physical, fast and talented with plenty of depth. Both teams have had difficulties closing out their series as they have each watched a team come back from a 3-0 hole only to win Game 7.
Ryan Kesler came to life in the Predators series and the Sedin twins picked up their play towards the end of the series. Luongo has recovered from his shaky start against Chicago and has been solid. San Jose heavily relied on Anti Niemi against Detroit and I’m not sure that Niemi will be as reliable against Vancouver. In the end, the Canucks are just too big and talented for the Sharks.
Canucks in 7
Eastern Conference Finals
3 Boston Bruins vs 5 Tampa Bay Lightning
In case you forgot, there are still two Eastern Conference teams remaining in the playoffs. It’s been a while since these two teams played considering they both swept their opponent. Tampa Bay has rattled off seven straight wins since being down 3-1 to Pittsburgh in the first round. The Boston Bruins got revenge on the Philadelphia Flyers with their sweep and they looked dominant while doing it. The Bruins were better than the Flyers in every aspect of the game, especially goaltending.
The more Steven Stamkos plays playoff hockey, the more he understands what it takes to be productive and ultimately, win. Veteran leaders Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier have been incredible this postseason combining for 25 points in 11 games. The Bruins are lead by giant defenseman Zdeno Chara who leads the playoffs with a plus-11 rating. The Bruins took a hit with the loss of the leading playoff point producer Patrice Bergeron who suffered a concussion against the Flyers. The Lightning look like a team hungry for another trip to the Stanley Cup Finals and the loss of Bergeron hurts the Bruins offensive output.
Lightning in 6
The Eastern Conference Finals get underway on Saturday at 8 PM while the Western Conference Finals kick off on Sunday at 8 PM. Since my beloved Red Wings weren’t able to advance, you can bet I’ll be rooting for the Tampa Bay Lightning who’s GM is Steve Yzerman. Yzerman was my favorite player growing up and since the Wings can’t win, I would love to see him achieve success in Tampa. Hopefully, one day he returns to the Wings’ organization in some shape or form.