The bearded stubble. The octopi flying from the stands. The interest that these games moving forward mean more than the 82 that preceded them. This is playoff time when Red Wings fans go to their offices during the day with dreams of watching a hockey game that will make the previous one look like the Squirts. Thursday night began Detroit’s run to the Stanley Cup with a solid 4-1 effort against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Detroiters have been fortunate to witness one of the longer runs of success in NHL history. While it cannot compare to the Canadiens of the ’60s and ’70s or the Oilers and Islanders of the ’80s, Red Wings fans have seen four Cups over a 14-year run which has included five total visits to the Cup finals. Even now in a league with the salary cap in place, Wings management has been able to keep the core line-up intact while placing moving parts into a squad that has previously featured the Russian Five and the Grind Line.
For the 2008-9 Red Wings team this playoff run is mostly a race against time. Columbus and Chicago will be extremely dangerous teams in a year or two. Much like Jordan’s Bulls of the late 80’s, these Central Division rivals are a player or two (and a few playoff games) away from being a real force. There’s also the issue of expiring contracts. Hossa joins a host of players worried about their long-term security. Not everyone can sign 11-year contracts in the NHL. This race against time should start on the right foot with the Wings taking the opening series in five.