9/19/2006 - Oilers 1-3 Carolina - Carolina wins Cup 4-3
Once again: damn. Hockey is a game that seems deliberately obtuse at times and last night was one of them. Stripped of the vim and vigor that obliteratd the 'Canes in game six, the Oilers floundered to a 3-1 loss that wasn't as close as the score line. In the first minute they were stunned by a goal by Aaron Ward of all people. Aaron, don't you know I run the finest Michigan blog west of the Pecos River? How could you? The alumni organization is going to hear of this.
But I'll refrain from quoting some despondent Smiths song as is my wont. The Oilers went beyond even the expectations of the wild-eye society rejects on Internet message boards about four games into the second round. There is indeed no shame in falling at the final hurdle.
Still, today I'm going to shave the playoff beard and I will not be putting it in a plastic baggie carefully labeled Playoff Beard 2006(!) WOO! GOILERS! WOO! In times of stress I will not remove the baggie from its secure location, gingerly open it, and stroke the hairs therein as Michigan plays Notre Dame or my sixth wife says she wants to divorce me because I watch too much football or someone close to me is gravely ill or Michigan plays Ohio State. I suppose the chances of that were remote in any case, but now they are zero. This is considered a loss.
I don't think this will happen again any time soon without something approximating the divine intervention that got the Oilers to this point in '06. An honest assessment of the team finds it with a bevy of good players but only one great one -- Pronger -- and a lot of decisions to make in free agency this offseason, starting with hometown favorite and leading scorer in the playoffs Fernando Pisani. With competent goaltending the Oilers are no longer a team that hovers around the 7-10 spots in the Western conference, but they aren't likely to be a destroy-all-comers team like Ottawa or Detroit -- and how many cups have they acquired recently?
No, this thing that happened seems like a one-off event more akin to Calgary's run to the final. I don't think they'll be back this way again. Even favorites in the NHL have a tough time getting through.