Cinderella emerged this evening as the Edmonton Oilers (peace be upon them). They just won the Western Conference semi-final.
Here's the series of events that led to tonight:
The Oilers backed into the playoffs after the Vancouver Canucks lost the 81st game of the regular season. The winning that team that night was the San Jose Sharks. As a result, the Oilers claimed the 8th and last seed in the west. After defeating the 1st seed Detroit Red Wings, the Oilers found themselves down two games to nil in the best-of-seven semi-final.
About a half an hour ago the Oilers won their fourth game in a row to win the series 4-2 and advance to the final.
The team they beat?
You guessed it, the San Jose Sharks.
I wonder what the Sharks would give to go back to game 81 and lose to the Canucks, thus eliminating the Oilers from the post season and altering the hockey universe in their favor.
If Edmonton's poise and tenacity weren't enough to get behind the feisty puppets of Big Oil, there is always Dwayne Roloson, who was just recently traded by the Wild to the Oilers at age 36. Roli the Goalie has been sensational, especially in a game 3 double-overtime breakaway save against Jonathon Cheechoo that, let in, would have given the Sharks a 3 games to nil lead. The Oilers never looked back. (Ed. - Remarkably, I was able to find the great photo above depicting both players. It is the outstanding work of the AP's Paul Sakuma. Note the stick in the throat.)
The Oilers now face the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, which will be an uphill battle. Should be great.
In other hockey news, the best sports columnist around, Steve Rushin, pays homage to the playoff beard in his latest offering for SI (subscription only). Here's a couple of tastes:
The Islanders dynasty of the early '80s established beards as a lucky playoff talisman. Soon, even Montreal's Adams Division was a Grizzly Adams Division, and ever since, almost everyone who has raised the Stanley Cup has looked like Karl Marx.
In hockey, as in Biblical times, the length of a man's beard is a bar graph of his greatness.
Rushin really is worth the price of admission, as are the Oilers.
Oh what fun this is...