Sunday, June 14, 2009

For the Ages?

I have to follow up on my pre-Game Seven post about the greatness of hockey.

First off, I hope you watched the game and I hope you enjoyed it, because it was everything you dare hope for as a sports fan: intense in every respect, ferociously contested, splendidly played, with an outcome that was far from certain right down to the final second.

In many ways it reminded me of Game Seven in 2004, when my Tampa Bay Lighting defeated the Calgary Flames by the same score and in the same fashion (watch your 2-0 lead get cut to 2-1, then hold off a furious late rally to preserve the lead and claim the title).

The big question is this: Did Friday night’s game mark one great championship for the Pittsburgh Penguins, or did it mark the wholesale passing of dynasty’s baton from Detroit to Pittsburgh? Obviously, it is way too early to know. But still, it’s hard not to speculate that the latter might be the case.

Having won four Stanley Cups over the course of eleven seasons – with three different goaltenders, two different head coaches, and quite a few changes amongst their forwards and defensemen – the Detroit Red Wings have clearly been a dynastic franchise, and most people expected them to hoist the Cup again on Friday. After all, Game Seven was on their home ice and it had been 38 years since a Game Seven of the finals was won by the visiting team.

But Pittsburgh had other plans, and the Penguins defied the oddsmakers not only by winning on the road, but by coming back from series deficits of two-games-to-none and three-games-to-two to get there.

And they came back despite the fact that in the game which put them down three-to-two, they got shellacked 5-0 and looked so bad everyone thought they were mentally through and would get crushed in Game Six.

What really makes the dynasty-in-the-making talk intriguing, however, is that in addition to winning the Cup in such memorable fashion, the Penguins won it at a remarkably young age. Detroit’s roster is chock full of veterans whose tickets to the Hall of Fame are already stamped – but Pittsburgh’s captain, Sidney Crosby, is just 21 years old and resides in Mario Lemieux’s guest house. Plus, Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood is 36 while Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury is just 24 – which is significant when you consider that goalies, unlike most other athletes, are said to reach their peak in their thirties instead of their twenties.

Keep an eye on this bunch from Western PA. If they prove to be a dynasty, you can say you watched it happen. And even if they prove not to be, you can still say you watched one of the most exciting teams of a generation, for they are certainly that.

Frankly, I hope the Lightning rise again and knock them off – but that looks unlikely, and if the NHL has to be ruled by any team other than the Lighting, I hope it’s this group of Penguins.


Scott F said...

Speaking of dynasty - How bout my Lakers! Get ready for a few more! Average age of 26. Outside of Fisher, Kobe is the elder statesman at a young 30!

JDS said...

Yeah, there's no denying that they're looking dynastic. Plus, with the Celtics winning last year and the Lakers this year, it kind of seems like old times (though I'd take any of the 80's teams over any of the 2000's teams).