Dixon 4, Mason 0

We almost had one sort of history made last night in the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Had the second-year Seattle Kraken been able to come through with their second consecutive Game 7 road win of this post-season in Dallas last night, it would have been the first time in modern professional sports history when the newest team in a league would have gone head-to-head with the second newest team in a league in a playoff series.  The Vegas Golden Knights, the poster child for how to do expansion right, had previously advanced to their third Western Conference final in the six years of their existence on Sunday night, when they went into Edmonton and eliminated Connor McDavid and the Oilers with an impressive road victory of their own.

Instead, Dallas prevailed in what turned out to be a tense, thrilling defensive effort, a 2-1 nail-biter where the winning goal was scored by rookie Wyatt Johnson, who wasn’t even alive when the Stars last won a home playoff Game 7 and their only Stanley Cup to date (1999-2000), and the outstanding goaltending of Jake Oettinger, who stymied the Kraken completely for the first 59 and three-quarter minutes and then added two more saves in the final frenetic seconds to seal the win.

So the Stars will face the Knights for the conference title for the second time in four years, paralleling the NBA Western Conference rematch of bubble playoff foes.  The Stars made short work of Vegas in five games played in late summer 2020, all before rubber-covered video screens in Edmonton.  This time, their small but enthusiastic fan base will have the chance to scream as loudly as they did last night as they try and take advantage of a window of opportunity for Metroplex relevance where the tanking and scandal-laden Mavericks are as unpopular as they have ever been, the Cowboys are in year 27 of their Super Bowl title drought and the just-crowned XFL champion Arlington Renegades were a .500 team toiling in a near-empty, recently vacated baseball stadium clinging to life in the shadow of Jerryworld.

The Stanely Cup storylines that did emerge are nevertheless noteworthy.  For the first time ever, all four conference finalists will be from cities south of the Mason-Dixon line.  As you can see, Las Vegas falls just below the defacto dividing line which HowStuffWorks.com officially defines for those of you who may have forgotten, or not allowed to study, their Civil War history:

Originally to settle a land dispute between the Penn & the Calvert families, the 244-mile Mason-Dixon line created boundaries between PA, MD, DE, & WV. As part of the 1820 Missouri Compromise to even out the number of slave states (red) & free states (blue), Congress declared territories south of the original Mason-Dixon Line were slave states. The Compromise extended west along the Ohio River to its mouth at the Mississippi River, then west along 36° 30′ north.

Florida and Carolina will square off in as unlikely an Eastern Conference finals as ever, a series with several overtones of irony.  Florida will look to upset the #2 seed in the conference as they did the record-breaking top-seeded Boston Bruins.  Carolina’s pedigree, and indeed still some of its more popular throwback games, is also rooted in New England, as the fondly remembered Hartford Whalers, whose theme song BRASS BONANZA is eerily reminiscent of a 1970s game show.  Even more ironically, a hockey team with the same name as the visiting team’s NFL franchise (Panthers) will square off against a team with the same name as one of South Florida’s most popular college teams (Hurricanes).

And when Vegas ousted the Oilers in the same manner as the Panthers knocked off the Toronto Maple Leafs, it assured that for the 29th straight year the Stanley Cup will not be housed in its native Canada.  True North hockey fans are understandably more than a bit frustrated, as it generally takes till about this time of year for the climate to be balmly enough for people to actually want to get out and enjoy life.  If there’s one bit of good news, these series should be exciting to watch and if they actually do want to travel at least they won’t have to pack anything too heavy to wear.

Here’s hoping this next round is, well, unparalled.


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