Show of hands: Who seriously saw THIS coming?
Had a clairvoyant approached me at nine o’clock this morning (that would be 11:00 am for our friends in “the D”) and shared a few facts about tonight’s Game Three between the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings, I likely would have been quite disheartened, though not necessarily shocked.
Here is what he or she might have said: The Sharks will trail 3-1 at the end of the second period; Joe Pavelski will be held to just a single assist; the Sharks will face a penalty shot with a 1-0 deficit in the first period against Henrik Zetterberg; the Sharks will go 0-6 on the power play.
I am all too eager to expound on how the Sharks have risen to meet and beat tremendous challenges and overcome an amazing amount of adversity so far this postseason, but how could they possibly overcome all that? How could they possibly win their sixth consecutive playoff game? How could they go up 3-0 in the series against the vaunted Red Wings?
Game One ended 4-3 in favor of the Sharks. Game Two ended 4-3 in favor of the Sharks. How would Game Three end? Anyone? Bueller?
Shockingly enough, Game Three ended 4-3 in favor of the Sharks, though they needed overtime to get the job done this time around. Still, not bad for entering the third period trailing 3-1 to the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
While the erstwhile postseason savior of the Sharks, “Little Joe” Pavelski, was held without a goal in the game, the rest of the team rose to the challenge.
Nabokov made 32 saves—many of the stellar variety. Young guns like Setoguchi, Mitchell, and Couture chipped in with points. Patrick Marleau continued to contribute—scoring the thrilling game-winner in OT—and the highly criticized “Jumbo” Joe Thornton came up huge, drawing the Sharks within a goal at 6:42 of the third period and assisting Marleau with a beautiful pass on the game-winner.
The Red Wings and their core of supporters (fans and multinational media alike) can complain all they want about the disallowed goal in the first period, but the referees made the right call (even TSN admitted that). They can complain about the 6-2 power play differential in favor of the Sharks, but if anything the Sharks deserved more calls. They can complain, or they can shift their focus to Game Four.
The Sharks and their fans would be fine with the former, but we all know the latter is what will happen. The Red Wings still will not go quietly in this series. The Sharks have fought their way to three one-goal wins in the series, and in all likelihood the fourth will be just as close.
Sweeps in the Stanley Cup Playoffs are extremely difficult to achieve. The Sharks led the Colorado Avalanche 3-0 in 2004, only to see the Avalanche win Game Four and Game Five to force a sixth game. The Sharks trailed 3-0 against the Dallas Stars in 2008 but were able to force a sixth game. This series could still be far from over.
Then again, the Sharks could continue to shock the world (at least the painfully small portion of the world that cares about professional hockey). The Sharks went into a daunting road arena named after a legendary boxer and put their opponents on the proverbial ropes. With the Red Wings reeling, the Sharks have the dumbfounding opportunity on Thursday to deliver the knock-out blow in a series sweep.
Is it likely? Not really. But how much of the 2010 postseason has been “likely” when it comes to the Sharks? This series could well be over less than 48 hours from now. Stranger things have already happened.
2010 is a different year, Sharks fans. Enjoy it.
Keep the faith!