Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hockey mattering is all that matters

The year is 2008. The last time a team came back from 0-3 in the NHL: 1975. Before that? 1942. My point: It's probably not in the Stars this season.

Will I be disappointed if the Red Wings sweep the Stars out of the Western Conference Finals? Yes, a little bit. I'd like them to at least get one win in this series. Then again, anyone would like to get one win against Detroit since Osgood replaced an aging Dominator in net after Game 4 of Detroit's opening round series.

But can I really be disappointed? Stars fans, can we really be disappointed when we zoom out and look at not just a potential sweep at the hands of the Red Army, but look at this series in the context of the playoffs? According to many hockey savants, the Stars shouldn't have gotten out of the first round.

Remember the feeling - just a few weeks ago - when they beat the Ducks at AAC, smiled down a row of handshakes and got ready for the first second-round series in five years. Remember that? It was great.

And to do the same thing against the Sharks, despite allowing SJ to climb back into the series, the Stars held their ground and claimed a marathon victory to advance to this Western Conference Finals for the first time since going to the Cup Finals in 2000. It's been great to not just watch (like Stars fans have done the past few years) but it's been great to truly experience playoff hockey once again in Big D.

And the Stars couldn't have picked a better time. The Mavericks just fired their coach after a second straight first-round disappointment. The Cowboys - despite their 13-3 record in '07 - fizzled against NYG in the divisional playoff round. As Wade Phillips said, the Cowboys made it to the "final eight." Well, the Stars can be proud of their "final four" finish - if that is where it ends, and in all likelyhood it will. More importantly, the city of Dallas once again is championing the Stars, much the way it did during the Belfour years.

I don't have any figures on this, but I'm sure the 2008-09 Stars season will see an increase of season ticket holders from this year. People around town are wearing green caps, hockey jerseys, thinking about sewing a "C" onto their suit (that last one might be just me, but there may be others).

The Stars - barring a historic comeback, the likes of which have been seen only twice in NHL history - will not win the Stanley Cup. They won't win the Western Conference. But perhaps more important than any trophy, the Stars won back Dallas.

It's a victory that's long been overdue, but it's one that is still oh so sweet.

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