Perhaps the Mayans were off by a year?
The win earned Detroit a date in the Western Conference semifinals with the Chicago Blackhawks and simultaneously vanquished the only team that had thus far shown real success against the Hawks. With Anaheim out of the picture Chicago is now a combined 9-1 versus the three remaining teams vying for a shot at the conference title.
So everything’s groovy in Chicago, right?
Well, uh, kinda.
See ever since I was a small child Detroit’s sole purpose on this planet was to dash my hockey hopes and dreams. I was too young to remember Chicago’s first round sweep of the Wings in 1984-85, but just exactly old enough to recall them returning the favor two years later. The 86-87 season was my first with whole shoe boxes full of sports cards, and the memory of Steve Yzerman, Petr Klima, Adam Oates and super goon Bob Probert violating the Hawks still burns the eyes, nose and ears.
In the 1988-89 campaign rookies Jeremy Roenick and Eddie Belfour stormed onto the scene, and despite a mediocre regular season they took back the night and bounced the dirty birds in a huge first round upset. I was now officially old enough to hate at this point, and as I’d charge the running back during my Pop-Warner days I imagined Probert’s hideous mug behind the oncoming mask.
The 1991-92 season brought a small respite from the psychological torture that was the rivalry thanks to the tremendous success the team had that year. Despite a brutal regular season series that saw Chicago go 1-5-2 against the first-place Wings, by the time the two teams met in the second round of the playoffs I knew we were destined for greatness. The Hawks swept Detroit on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals and for just a moment in time I believed the rivalry had finally swung in Chicago’s favor.
What a foolish little boy I was.
Three years after their first run to the Cup in 30 years, it appeared the Hawks were at it again. In the 94-95 postseason they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in a tense seven-game series, and then swept the Vancouver Canucks before running into Detroit in the conference finals. The result was a heart-wrenching five game defeat which saw Chicago lose all three times the games went into OT.
After that the Hawks began to slip into their dark period and, in many ways, so did I. Partying and women suddenly became more important than hockey, and considering the Hawks would only make the playoffs three times in the next 12 years, I think they probably agreed with me.
So we bumbled along without each other throughout most of the 2000s until suddenly a couple of kids named Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews decided it was time to put hockey back on the map in Chicago. In 2008-09 the Hawks once again found themselves in the conference finals, and wouldn’t you know it, only the Wings stood in the way of another trip to the Cup.
And this time, I could watch them in a bar!
But it wasn’t meant to be. Again my hopes were dashed into the mountain side. The defending Stanley Cup champs dispatched Chicago in five and sent me spiraling into my first adult hockey-induced depression.
Luckily for my therapist the Hawks were not to be denied, and just a year later they came roaring back to win the Cup. Since then they’ve had a couple of disappointing first round playoff exits, however none have been at the hands of the Wings.
I suppose what I’ve been trying to get at is that despite a lifetime of drama, I’m ecstatic Detroit’s eliminated Anaheim, and that the Blackhawks are facing a team which they’ve totally dominated this entire season.
I just wish it wasn’t the Red Wings.