After being thoroughly outplayed or the last 50 minutes of game 3, the Sharks battled for all 60 minutes Tuesday night in game 4 and head back to San Jose even at 2 games apiece with the Flames. The Sharks received an excellent effort from everybody on the ice out shooting Calgary 32-10. Still, the Sharks had to battle from behind the entire game as Calgary scored first and third to take one goal leads each time.
The turning point of the game and possibly the series came near the end of the 3rd period with about 5 minutes left. Devin Setoguchi (explain to me again why he was benched til last night) got the puck and muscled his way past 3 Calgary skaters, deep into the offensive zone. Devin got knocked off the puck but still managed to squeak it through to Jonathan Cheechoo who rifled a sweet slap shot from a horrible angle that found a hole above Mikka Kipprusoff's shoulder that had to have been about 6 inches wide for the goal to tie the game at 2. I've been watching hockey since I could talk and playing it since I was 7 and I have never seen somebody work harder than Devin did on that play. He refused to quit and just keep moving forward until something opened up for him. I think everyone on the Sharks was able to say "Wow, this rookie just showed us what playoff hockey is all about," and will really feed off of that.
Devin Setoguchi had the best game in my opinion as I did not see him have a bad shift all night. Another guy that worked his ass off was Douglas Murray. I've always loved Murray. He invented the Uber Tap (google it, it's amazing) and his nickname is "Crankshaft" which is so much cooler than "Soupy." Anyway, with 10 seconds left in the third period, Murray through dribbler of a wrist shot on net which ended up being deflected by Joe Thornton for what turned out to be the game winner. What a moment. Randy Hahn's call was priceless and I'm pretty sure he won't have much of a voice today. Setoguchi set the example and every Shark on the ice to finish the game followed it.
Getting Christian Ehrhoff back was a huge boost. I completely agree with Ron Wilson's decision (shocking) to play 7 defensemen. After allowing 4 unanswered goals, it was obvious that 5 defenseman and one defenseboy (guess who) could not handle Calgary's size in front. Also, with Ehrhoff not skating at 100%, it allowed him some rest if needed. I was also impressed with Jody Shelley's play. He needed to step up and do more than threaten people and even though he didn't fight, he had some good hits and challenged the Flames physically. He also skated harder than he did in the first 3 games and just seemed to want it more. The Sharks still need more from Brian Campbell and Kyle McLaren however. Campbell looks lost with the puck and his idea of a break out (take it behind the net, skate it to the opposing goal line, turn it over, get stuck) isn't working in the western conference. In the east, the defensemen are smaller and the forwards are less physical so taking it end to end over and over doesn't take a toll on you. In the west, Campbell needs to learn quickly that getting it to the neutral zone and chipping it in is a great play. Let the Sharks big forwards take the beating in the zone and stay responsible defensively. Kyle McLaren just needs to be the intimidator on the back end that he once was. He needs to hit, he needs to trash talk, and he needs to make some contact after the whistle. This will let the Flames know that they can't sit all 3 forwards around the Sharks' net and expect them to return to the bench without any fresh bruises.
Ok, now I have to rant about something truly disturbing. What the hell is wrong with that kid that mimicked every single one of Mikka Kipprusoff's moves during warm ups? For those who didn't see it on CSN or Sports Center, this kid (maybe 8 or 9) was dressed up in full pads with an exact replica of Kipper's mask standing in the aisle behind the Flame's end during warm ups. It's creepy enough that the kid's pads were exactly the same as what Kipprusoff uses and that he painted a red beard on his face, but this kid mimicked every Kipper did. If Kipper made a glove save, the kid faked a glove save on a imaginary puck. If Kipper went into the butterfly, the kid went into he butterfly. It was so bad when when Kipper lifted his helmet at center ice and took a sip of water, the kid lifted his helmet and sipped imaginary water. This kid needs a life. Somebody get him a Nabokov jersey, please. Better yet, get the poor guy some friends. Props to the kid for being a fan and dressing up, but to mimic every single movement is strange. Im naming the kid Kipprustalk, because he'll become the 30 year old man sending fan mail to Mikka under many aliases begging him to pull a Dominik Hasek and lead the Flames to a cup at age 63. I wonder if he'll stay in his seat and clap politely in a suit and tie as Evgeni Nabokov receives the Vezina trophy.
Game 5 is Thursday in San Jose. I'd expect to see the Sharks play as hard as they did in game 4 and dominate the shooting game once again. They know what kind of level it takes to beat the Flames and they all realized that they can play at that level. As far as the lineup goes, I'd look for Thornton and Clowe playing together, possibly with Cheechoo after his goal. RW might stick with 7 D, but Ehrhoff played well enough to warrant a Matt Carle scratch and a return of Curtis Brown or Patrick Rissmiller to help the penalty kill. I'll see what Dave Pollak can find out and post in his blog and then write about anything significant heading into game 5.