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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final

Done but still watching

Tuesday, 05.11.2010 / 9:35 AM / Columns

By Paul Kukla - NHL.com Correspondent

My team lost -- simple as that. The Detroit Red Wings were eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in five games. There is no doubt in my mind the better team won and now San Jose waits at home to play the winner of the Chicago-Vancouver series.

As a fan, I have not been in this position for three years. Since the Wings have been in the Stanley Cup Final the last two seasons, I almost forgot what it feels like to have your team eliminated in an early round.

I won't lie -- it doesn't feel good. But just as I have preached to you over the season, there always is next year, and that now includes the Detroit Red Wings.

 
Even though the Wings packed their gear yesterday, that doesn't mean the season has ended for me. I continue to watch ever single game and will do so until the captain of the winning team raises the Stanley Cup above his head.

I thought the conference semifinals started a bit slow, but now the action really has picked up. We know at least one Game 7 is coming (Pittsburgh against Montreal) and there is a possibility we could have two more. As a hockey fan, that would be the ultimate scenario.

Can you imagine -- six teams facing elimination and only three will move on? Everything is on the line -- winner goes on, loser goes golfing. A hard statement to make, but it holds true. Fifty percent of the fan base will sleep well, once they get over the euphoria of a Game 7 victory, while the other 50 percent won't be able to sleep at all. 

There may be parties in the street, while in other places bridges will be well-policed, watching for fans who may have a sudden urge to jump. All of this for a second-round victory.  As I have said in the past, just wait, it is only going to get better.

Fans begin to realize once they reach the conference finals that four more wins and their team is playing for the Stanley Cup. It may be hard to believe, but yes, your team is that close to reaching the Stanley Cup Final. The whole hockey world will be watching; extra bandwagons will be brought to your city to allow everyone to get on board. Car window flags, people hanging banners on their house, kids and adults wearing hockey sweaters to school and work -- all will become the norm. 

People will start walking around with their face painted and you won't do a double take. You will hear about people doing strange things to win tickets, and you may be a part of it. Your local newspaper will feature your team on the front page and the local television news will have feel-good stories on everything from a guy cutting his lawn with your team's logo in it to a person who travelled 7,000 miles to watch the team play.

Basically, your team and city will be under the microscope. But first, your team needs to get there, and that is the hard part.

As you have witnessed lately, every team is playing all out every game, and every shift can make or break your team. How a team handles a supposed bad call is key, too. Will they play through it and just move on? Or will they use it as a crutch and blame the call for the reason they lost?

Now that I have whetted your appetite, let's get back to the remaining games yet to be played in the conference semifinals. Let's hope the games are tight, the passion is high and the action is never-ending. As fans, that is all we can ask for. As a fan of the teams involved, you may want more, but I can't guarantee you will get it.

Enjoy the games, root for your team or root for our game, one we all love and want to see the sporting world attracted to.

Feel free to contact me via e-mail at pk@kuklaskorner.com or follow me on Twitter.


It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery