Despite what Detroit Red Wings' fans might think, now is no time to panic.
Yes, for the second straight year, the Detroit Red Wings are facing an 0-2 deficit to the San Jose Sharks in the second round of the playoffs.
Yes, Game 3 in Detroit will be the Wings' most important game of the season.
And, yes, the San Jose Sharks are proving to be every bit as good as advertised.
Make no mistake though, the Sharks have been the better team for two games in a row and deserve to be up 2-0 in this series.
But, this isn't the same deal as last year.
Last season, the Sharks were the better team in the second round by a country mile. This season, they've only been better by inches.
Now, as it happens, inches is all a team needs to beat an opponent, but one can't forget that that works both ways.
As the Red Wings board Red Wing One, heading back to Hockeytown, a few encouraging things will be swimming through their heads along with these Sharks who they've failed to beat in two games.
The Wings have been "in" each of these games and have swung the momentum in their favor for long stretches. They've done a lot of the little things that are oh so huge come playoff time like winning faceoffs, zone breakouts and smart defensive plays.
Perhaps most important of all, Jimmy Howard is calm, cool and confident and is giving his team a chance to win.
None of these things could have been said this time last year with any degree of truth.
Yet, just like last year, the Red Wings are going home for a must-win a game to save their season.
Let's also give full credit to the San Jose Sharks. They've been fast, smart, aggressive and patient and are playing much better than they did in Round 1.
That sentiment goes double for their goalie.
Antti Niemi has clearly recovered from a shaky first round. He is proving himself as valuable, if not more, to his current team as he was to the Chicago Blackhawks a year ago.
The Sharks are playing outstanding playoff hockey, but they're beatable. The difference between these two teams has been measured by a single goal.
However, the true difference is even narrower than the height of the puck (that's one inch, for the uninitiated) that each team is trying to stuff into the back of their opponent's net.
Not only can the Red Wings win Game 3, they can win the next four straight but doing so isn't going to be easy.
They must do the little things they're doing well, even better. They must also be even more aggressive in the corners and along the boards, if only to win one more puck battle than the Sharks.
Above all, they must find a way to keep themselves out of the penalty box. You can whine about officiating all you want, but look at the replays. The Red Wings are taking those penalties fair and square.
Speaking of whining, you might bemoan the fact that Johan Franzen clearly is not 100 percent. You may even start thinking the Red Wings are doomed because of it, but don't you do it.
Yeah, it's obvious "The Mule" has a hitch in his get-along, but another few days of rest should do him and his bum ankle some good come Game 3.
Unlike last season, the Wings are down, but they're not yet close to out, despite the apparent desperateness of their situation. These two teams are still painfully close in this series and all the Red Wings need this time around is a nudge (compared to the seismic shift they would have needed last season) to get them on the winning side of things.
Are the Wings in trouble here?
Yeah, of course they are.
The difference this year is they can get themselves out of it a lot easier than they could last year.
The score of this series may be identical to what we saw 12 months ago, but the chance of history repeating itself is considerably smaller.
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