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NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Is the Sharks-Red Wings Matchup a Rivalry?

Tom SchreierCorrespondent IApril 29, 2011

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Is the Sharks-Red Wings Matchup a Rivalry?

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    SAN JOSE, CA - MARCH 3: Jason Demers #60 of the San Jose Sharks defends Darren Helm #43 of the Detroit Red Wings in the third period of an NHL hockey game at the HP Pavilion on March 3, 2011 in San Jose, California. The Sharks won the game 3-1. (Photo by
    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    For the fifth time in NHL history, the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings will face each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    In 1994, the Sharks became the NHL's first No. 8 seed to upset a No. 1 seed when they defeated the Wings in seven games.

    The next year, the Sharks were swept by the Wings.

    In 2007, Detroit took the series in six and last year San Jose eliminated the Wings in five.

    This year the two teams face off as the aging Red Wings try for another Stanley Cup push and the Sharks look to get to the third round and avenge their Western Conference Finals sweep last season.

    The question remains: Is this a rivalry?

    I asked six players to give their take.

    Tom Schreier is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the San Jose Sharks.

Devin Setoguchi

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    SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 23:  Devin Setoguchi #16 of the San Jose Sharks in action against the Los Angeles Kings in game five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on April 23, 2011 in San Jose, Califo
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    "It's definitely a little one," says the forward.

    Setoguchi believes the strongest rivalries are within the division, especially with the SoCal Ducks and Kings. However, he lists the Wings as a team that "we like...to compare ourselves to."

    "We won last year and we take a lot of pride in that," he says. "[We] get excited to play these guys and they get excited to play us."

    Setoguchi does not feel that endurance will factor into the series.

    San Jose just came off a six-game series against LA where they went to overtime three times in order to win. Detroit swept Phoenix.

    "We train all year to get to this point," he says. "[It's] not hard to get excited and have energy for a playoff game."

Douglas Murray

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    ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 06:  Douglas Murray #3 of the San Jose Sharks skates against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on April 6, 2011 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    "Any time you have two good teams, it becomes a rivalry," says the mammoth defenseman. "Up until last year, they've always got the better of us, so that probably adds to the rivalry a little bit."

    "Before, it was a bit of us looking at them," he adds, laughing, "but now that we've beat them last year, it has to go both ways in order to be a rivalry."

    However, Murray believes that proximity and familiarity breeds contempt. Like Setoguchi, he says that the games against the SoCal teams are bigger rivalries.

    "The fans add to the rivalry a lot more with proximity," says Murray.

    "Also, usually when you're close to another team, you're usually in the same division, so you play each other six times a year instead of the four we play Detroit."

Niclas Wallin

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    GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 26:  Niclas Wallin #7 of the San Jose Sharks during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on March 26, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Sharks defeated the Coyotes 4-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    "Of course it is," says Wallin regarding the rivalry. "[Both teams] have played a few playoff series against each other and obviously we're pretty fresh from last year."

    Wallin and teammate Joe Thornton believe the skill does not factor into the series as much as the will to win.

    "Everybody has talent," says Thornton, "everybody is talented once you get down to the final eight, so I don't think anybody is more talented than the other team, it's just will and who wants to win more."

    "[The] thing with the star players is that if you see Datsyuk and Zetterberg, they're two of the hardest working players, too," says Wallin.

    "Obviously, they have skill and all that, but they work hard to use that skill, too."

Marc-Eduoard Vlasic

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    SAN JOSE, CA - MARCH 23:  Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 of the San Jose Sharks in action against the Calgary Flames at the HP Pavilion on March 23, 2011 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    "I think it's totally different," says Marc-Edouard Vlasic when asked to compare their rivalry to the Wings-Avalanche rivalry at the turn of the century.

    "I love playing them. I'm sure they like playing us. Coaches know each other from coaching together. It's just two good teams battling in the playoffs."

Patrick Marleau

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    Marleau believes it is the physical nature of the games between Colorado and Detroit that separate that rivalry from the one the Sharks have with the Wings.

    "There was some pretty bad hits, a lot of injuries, that upped their rivalry a little more than ours," he says, "but I think it's getting up there.

    "We don't have the dirty play that was in the series, but definitely there's big hits, there's big goals and all the makings of a good series."

Jason Demers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 19:  Jason Demers #60 of the San Jose Sharks and Alexei Ponikarovsky #27 of the Los Angeles Kings exchange words with each other after being separated by the referee in game three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the
    Harry How/Getty Images

    "It's a different one," says Demers, comparing both rivalries, "but it's started to ramp up since the last couple of years we're always lining up against them."

    Demers does not believe that their series win last year indicates that the Red Wings have relinquished their place atop the hockey hierarchy.

    "We played a really good series last year," he says, "but they were coming off a couple consecutive years of making it to the finals, so you could say they were a little tired."

    "This time around, it's going to be a lot more challenging," he adds. "We're two evenly-matched teams and we have a similar type of play...and it's just whoever does it better and works harder."

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