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End of season offers sadness or euphoria

Tuesday, 06.08.2010 / 12:41 PM / Columns

By Paul Kukla - NHL.com Correspondent

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End of season offers sadness or euphoria
NHL.com blogger Paul Kukla offers a clinching lesson for Hawks fans, and a hopeful one for Flyers fans.
Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers fans, look at this as either good or bad news.

Chicago fans take note: In the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, my team, the Detroit Red Wings, won Game 6 to win the Stanley Cup. They won the game on Pittsburgh's home ice and the celebration started.

Many Wings fans thought the Penguins would win Game 6 to force a Game 7 back in Detroit, but the Red Wings held on to a win after holding-off a furious attempt by the Penguins to tie the score.

I really wasn't prepared for the win. Mentally, I had convinced myself the Penguins were going to win the game and the Wings would win Game 7 at home. When the final horn sounded -- just as a Marian Hossa attempt slid through the goal crease -- the moment froze in my mind.

Chris Osgood raised his arms, Dan Cleary stood still, staring at Osgood with a stare that said, "Did we really just win the Stanley Cup?"

Yes. It was over, and two long months of playoff stress were suddenly turned into jubilation. As a fan, there is not much more we can do but stress out before, during and after every playoff game. But when the last horn of the season is heard, you either feel on top of the world or just plain sick.

Philadelphia fans take note: The plain sick feeling came in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final. The Wings won a convincing Game 5 by the score of 5-0 to go up 3-2 in the series. Once again, I felt the Wings would lose Game 6 on the road, which they did, and then win Game 7 at home -- which they didn't.

What happened? Did the Wings relax too much? Did they lose the desperation feeling players have to feel in order to succeed this time of year? Maybe the grind of the schedule got to them and they were just too tired to compete at the highest level and the Penguins sensed that and played all out for the full game.

Whatever it was, the final storyline told me the Wings could not get it done, even with two chances to win the Cup, and the Penguins did and deserved to win.

The last two Stanley Cup Final series should be a great example for both the Blackhawks and Flyers. One of the last two scenarios will be played out beginning Wednesday night but the final story has yet to be written. The only thing we can do is stress out and keep looking at the clock as we countdown the hours and minutes left before the puck drops on what could be the last game played for this season.

As I neutral observer, I want the series to go the full seven games. I did pick Chicago in seven, but that's not the reason I want a full, seven-game series. I want it because I don't want hockey to end on Wednesday.

I am ready for a Game 7, where everything is on the line -- where one team wins and the other goes home knowing how close they really came to winning the Stanley Cup.

I have experienced both the joy of winning and the gut wrenching feeling of losing a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final in the last two seasons. It is time now for others to feel either the highest high or the lowest low.

Watch, enjoy and cheer. The season is about to come to an end for one team. For the other, a summer season is about to begin, one you will never forget.

Feel free to email me at pk@kuklaskorner.com with any questions. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Quote of the Day

With this being the last year [at the Coliseum], we'd love to try to get back to the dance like we did against Pittsburgh and prove ourselves and go even further. It's an important year.

— New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano