Part of being a sports fan is the inherent inevitability of disappointment. Every year in every sport, only one team and one group of fans is happy. For all the rest, there is just sadness. The vast majority of sports fans end the season disappointed. So there's were we, as Red Wings fans, are now. I mentioned this before, but we now have a chemical burn on our cheeks. Once the unbearable, mind-numbing pain fades away, we will be left with a grotesque, stomach-turning scar. The kind that stays with us forever, as a reminder. Shock has set in for many of us, myself most likely included. I've said it out loud, and I'll type it here: Pittsburgh won the last two games, and beat the Red Wings in Joe Louis Arena to take the Stanley Cup away from us.
It's bad. Believe me, I know. I will take this worse than essentially all of you, I promise. I still sit and think about games that happened years and years ago. This one probably tops the list of horror. I could go into detail, I suppose. Brad Stuart picked a terrible time to have his worst game as a Red Wing. Jiri Hudler was equally to blame on the second goal. Osgood wasn't great, he wasn't terrible. He let in two goals, and that should've been enough. And yet for the second straight game, the Wings came out listless and without passion. They didn't drive the net, they weren't strong with the puck. They once again waited for a multi-goal deficit before bringing the fury. Too little, too late. And now a summer of unbelievable discontent. Tough choices have to be made. Hossa, Hudler and Samuelsson are free agents. After seeing them vanish for most of the postseason, and the Finals in particular, is anybody really going to be devastated if they leave? It's clear to me that Hossa was injured. Not hurt, injured. But he came here to win, and didn't deliver. But none of them did. I wouldn't have blamed Pittsburgh fans for not watching when the Wings won Game 6 last year, because the instant the clock hit 0:00 tonight, I was gone. I left. And I discovered that I didn't even have the will to walk, which I almost always do after a brutal loss. I made it about three blocks, leaving a dull and listless voice mail on one of my best friend's phone on the way...and then I just turned back. The music on my MP3 player provided no comfort, it was just background noise to the deafening silence.
Oh, and congratulations to Pittsburgh. I despise sore losers and hypocrites, so I will give credit where credit is very much due. I hate Crosby and Malkin like poison, but they, and their teammates, deserved this. Their defense found a way to strangle the life out of the Red Wings. They did all the things the Wings didn't. They won the battles, they blocked shots, they took away passing lanes, they played smart. They played with the hunger the Red Wings showed last year, which just goes to show that the only thing harder than winning a championship is winning another. All season, the Red Wings floated, disinterested in regular season games. And that laziness ultimately doomed them, as they were completely unprepared for the dogged determination of Pittsburgh's forecheck. I didn't watch Pittsburgh's celebration, I will cringe and turn the channel whenever the image of Crosby holding the Cup comes on...but not because I feel they were undeserving. On the contrary. They deserved it much more than our Red Wings did...and that's why this hurts so much.
Meanwhile, life will go on. And the Wings will be back. Despite what the media rambled on about during the Western Finals, the Wings aren't a bunch of old geezers. Aside from maybe three guys (Osgood, Lidstrom, Rafalski), the core of this team is in its prime. Maybe with some luck, the stunning disappointment of tonight will serve as fuel. Hopefully a little humbling will re-ignite the fire we saw last year. And the fire we saw this year, from our opponents.