NHL Playoffs 2011: 5 Keys to Victory for San Jose Sharks in Game 2 vs. Red Wings

John PhenAnalyst IIIMay 1, 2011

NHL Playoffs 2011: 5 Keys to Victory for San Jose Sharks in Game 2 vs. Red Wings

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    SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 29:  Brad Stuart #23 and Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings dive to stop a shot by Ryane Clowe #29 of the San Jose Sharks in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The San Jose Sharks head into the pivotal Game 2 showdown against the Detroit Red Wings with a golden chance to put Detroit behind the eight ball. Benn Ferriero’s overtime goal at 7:03 gave the Sharks another rare Game 1 win, and now gives San Jose the upper hand.

    With experts, fans and pundits alike remarking at how rested the revenge-minded Red Wings were, the first period didn’t look like a Detroit team hungry for redemption. The talk was that this year is different, this team was different and they would exact revenge against a slow-starting Sharks team with issues at home.

    Instead the Sharks took the play to the Red Wings, and dominated the Detroit depth through several long stretches.

    As we discussed in our San Jose-Detroit preview, any “rust” factor doesn’t figure to last past the first game. Detroit has leadership to spare, so the Sharks must ward against any type of letdown early to prevent the Wings from starting quickly.

    Here are five crucial keys to taking a 2-0 lead back to Joe Louis Arena, and recording win six of 16.

Defense First

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    SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 29:  Jason Demers #60 of the San Jose Sharks and Darren Helm #43 of the Detroit Red Wings go for the puck in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on April 29, 2011 in Sa
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    San Jose had been flat-out horrible in the first period entering Game 1, and its renewed focus to playing from their zone outward, paid off.

    Holding the Red Wings to just eight shots in the first period, the Sharks did a solid job taking care of rebounds and protecting the high-percentage shooting areas.

    Despite losing 10-of-15 faceoffs in the first period, the Sharks managed to limit the Detroit chances and gave Niemi the support he hadn’t seen in the early going against LA.

    Dan Boyle had a great game to kick off this series, and he looked in fine form while playing against some of the most dangerous skaters in the NHL. Consistent in his own zone, breaking up Detroit chances and winning more than his fair share of battles against the Detroit top line, Boiler looks like he's back.

    Ian White continues to impress, logging 22 minutes and giving the Sharks some much-needed movement from the blue line. He had some ugly double shifts in the first half of the third period though, and got caught during some sustained Detroit surges.

Goaltending

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    SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 29:  Niclas Wallin #7 and Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks stop the puck during their game against the Detroit Red Wings in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Although Niemi was not heavily tested, he made the key saves to get the Sharks through some defensive zone errors as he's done all year.

    Getting off on the right foot against Detroit in Game 1 was crucial to Antti, after a subpar showing against LA.

    Putting up 24 saves in the win, Niemi will most certainly have his chance to shine against the Red Wings in Game 2. Despite enjoying stronger support from the team in front of him, the Sharks still committed 11 defensive zone turnovers and must tighten up in their own zone.

    Jimmy Howard was surprisingly good against the Sharks in Game 1, after San Jose rang up 12 goals in three games against him this year.

    San Jose excelled at pushing play back into the Detroit zone, especially in the dominant second period.

    While Howard came up with some huge saves, his save total is a tad overblown through some poor San Jose shot selection. Still though, the game could have easily been out of reach if not for the efforts of the Red Wings netminder.

    Howard was superhuman in Game 1, but if the Sharks can continue to apply the kind of pressure they did he’ll be hard-pressed to keep it up.

Keep Up the Forecheck

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    SAN JOSE, CA - MARCH 3: Ryane Clowe #29 and Logan Couture #39 of the San Jose Sharks looks to get the puck away from Valtteri Filppula #51 of the Detroit Red Wings in the second period of an NHL hockey game at the HP Pavilion on March 3, 2011 in San Jose,
    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    San Jose needs to continue its strong play in the attacking zone, and stay clear of the penalty box as they did in Game 1.

    In a reversal of roles, San Jose actually forced turnovers by playing an aggressive forecheck and creating some uncharacteristic Detroit errors. Keeping the Red Wings hemmed into their zone, and breaking up their superb transition game kept the Sharks swarming Howard all night.

    San Jose’s bigger forwards did a great job at keeping the puck alive along the boards and taking the body on the forecheck, a great sign should this series go the distance.

    Detroit had no answer in the second period, where San Jose out-shot the visitors 17-3 halfway through the frame and at one point had 15 straight. The Couture-Clowe-Heatley line was dominant in this period, and the Sharks third line followed suit against the Red Wings.

    A lot was made of the fourth lines for both teams, but they struggled to find their way a bit in Game 1. Ben Eager made his return in Game 1, but saw just one shift in the third period after logging just three minutes in first and second.

Special Teams

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    SAN JOSE, CA - MARCH 3: Joey MacDonald #31 of the Detroit Red Wings gets some help defending his goal from teammate Niklas Kronwall #55 against the San Jose Sharks in the second period of an NHL hockey game at the HP Pavilion on March 3, 2011 in San Jose,
    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    The Sharks drew six man advantages, while only giving the Red Wings two shots at the power play. While some like to believe in some sort of dark conspiracy, the Sharks are drawing undisciplined penalties through puck possession and hard work.

    Converting on their fourth attempt when Joe Pavelski tied the game by batting the puck out of midair at 10:22 of the third, the Sharks seem to be finding their way on the man advantage.

    Both teams boast exemplary special teams units, and both have fallen on harder times in the postseason. 

    Detroit inexplicably struggled shorthanded against the Coyotes, and are taking about four more minutes in penalties than they did in the regular season.

    The Sharks are still plenty bad with the man advantage, but Game 1 against the Red Wings looked like a much different team than the one we saw against LA. 

    Both teams are trying to reverse some ugly trends in this department in order to move on to the next round, and this series will hinge on who is successful.

Forget About Game 1

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    SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 29:  The San Jose Sharks celebrate after they beat the Detroit Red Wings in overtime in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on April 29, 2011 in San Jose, California.
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    We all knew this was going to be a hellacious series, and it certainly won’t get any easier than it did for San Jose in Game 1. Detroit didn’t look interested in playing early on, and although they surged back in the game it wasn't enough to overcome the Sharks pressure.

    In the end, it's just win No. 5 and it figures to be a long series with Detroit ready to fight for its life in Game 2.

    San Jose hasn’t been immune to the letdown performance, as the entire Los Angeles series has certainly taught us. However unlike the Kings, this Red Wing team will not fail to seize upon any letdown, and the Sharks must guard against any kind of drop-off.

    With the teams so evenly matched, their style of play so similarly set, execution is the name of the game. And if San Jose wants to make a deep run, it has got to stop taking a half-step backwards after every leap forward.

    The Sharks played as complete a game as we’ve seen this postseason, but it’s highly unlikely to expect a repeat performance from Detroit.

    San Jose must come into Game 2 with a fresh slate, and execute its game plan against the Red Wings as it has done all year.

    A difficult challenge lies ahead on Sunday, and San Jose must show up with its best effort to take the 2-0 series lead back to the Joe.

    Go Sharks!