Last year the Edmonton Oilers knocked the Detroit Red Wings out of the playoffs in the first round. I had my bitter little bout of "fucking Edmonton etc., etc." for a couple months, and then I moved on. The rest of the playoffs tore at my loyalties as team after team I resigned myself to got their ass kicked. Finally it came down to Edmonton, Anaheim, Buffalo, and Carolina, two of which I sure as hell weren't going to cheer for (I'll give you two guesses).
You'd think I would have gone for Buffalo, but the Canadian in me refused to allow it and instead made the excuse that if I cheered for Edmonton and they won, it meant the Wings didn't choke, Manny Legace wasn't to blame, and they might have lost, but it was to the Stanley Cup Champions. So, having watched them bitterly as they took out San Jose, I continued to watch, now cheering for them, as they decimated Anaheim, and by the time they made it to the Carolina Hurricanes I had forgiven their every wrong. I was in love with this team. (Incidentally, Pronger's was the first name I knew. Sure he was surpassed as my favorite player on the team by Fernando Pisani after that still amazing short-handed goal in Game 5 OT, and then again by Jussi Markkanen for that ridiculous playoff performance, but Pronger was first. From the instant MacT threw him out there to take the first ever Cup Finals penalty shot I was in love.)
When they lost and that sea of red flooded the ice it wrenched my heart--they came so close, only to lose it all at the last minute. When the Detroit Tigers lost the World Series this year and the Cardinals with their red uniforms stormed the field I had flashbacks.
This game might have been even worse. It was the same thing this team has grown so used to, all the expectations, the promise, only to have them all shattered at the last second or sixteen when everyone believes they'll pull through. It probably doesn't feel the same for the Oilers, that's for sure--but as a fan, I wanted to see them rub it in Chris Pronger's face. I miss him--but I have certainly not forgiven him, and after this, it'll be an even longer time coming if it ever happens.
I didn't actually get to see any of the game at all--I listened to the first two periods intermittantly on Oilers Radio, and was on the phone with Elly who was at the bar watching through the third. My feed was a minute or so behind hers, so when she started screaming no when that last goal went in I refused to believe it for a few seconds--and then my roommate had to come into my room and tell me to breathe. I can only imagine what would have happened had I been at Rexall Place.
Elly covered most of what my opinions are on Pronger as well (the only thing I'd add is seriously can he stop having press conferences in which he basically just throws "hahaha you still don't get to know!" in our faces?) so I'll avoid that and move on to: stepping back from the emotion involved in that loss, it is, of course, less surprising when you consider everything that played into it--namely all the injuries:
- Staios was out before the game even started--still. This meant players like Smid and Tjarnqvist were playing 30 and 27 (respectively) minutes of the game--not things those two are used to.
- Bergeron is said to have "looked green" literally upon walking into the arena. He played two shifts in the second period before leaving for good.
- Ales Hemsky, in what is the biggest cause of distress of the evening for me, got nailed after four shifts and went out for the rest of the game with a "right shoulder injury". Early diagnosis is not good.
- Winchester, though not a high-minutes player, left after a fight with O'Donnell and didn't play for the rest of the game.
- Jussi Markkanen, of course, is also still out with a knee injury--it didn't play much into this game, but it's one more problem for the Oilers lineup.
I will say this one last thing about Chris: He might not have had any other way around what he did--but he could at least have wish it could have come out differently.