Everyone is going to wax poetic about tonight’s Penguins/Capitals game. It’s completely justified: this has been one of the best playoff series I’ve ever seen, and it’s hard to imagine tonight’s game disappointing anyone. However, what I keep going back to is just how far we’ve come.
This photo was taken just over three years ago. How much has changed in that time? Washington and Pittsburgh have gone from basement-dwellers to Stanley Cup contenders. Fans pack both buildings, and Pittsburgh is even getting a new one. This is about much more than a new uniform or two, this is a complete transformation of two hockey clubs; and Crosby and Ovechkin are the cause.
From a larger standpoint, think about how big of a home run this has been for the league. Two franchises completely revitalized, and two superstars with a genuine rivalry. We went into this series dreading the coverage it would get. No matter what we saw it wouldn’t live up to the hype, right?
Wrong. The last six games have been fantastic, and we as hockey fans are begging for people to notice. Game six led Sportscenter the next morning, and there was Barry Melrose looking fried and downright giddy. Hockey fans have gone from dreading this series to wishing it never ends, and tonight it does.
One of the best things about this series is that there is a true rivalry being made. That old picture was taken in the hopes of creating this rivalry between the two superstars, but until this season it felt completely manufactured. Then they met at the benches earlier this year, and the rest is history. This is real now, and a lot more than numbers on a score sheet. This is Bird/Magic for a new era, and whether we like it or not this will be what gets the NHL back on the map.
Over the past two weeks we’ve seen them match each other on the scoreboard game in and game out, and tonight will be no different. We have to hope this won’t be the last time we see these two teams meet in the playoffs. The league managed to create the perfect storm this time around, and tonight that storm peaks.
No doubt the two are rivals now, but tonight we get to see that rivalry Under Pressure.