NHL Playoffs 2011: San Jose Sharks Draw First Blood vs. Red Wings

Michael MrockCorrespondent IMay 1, 2011

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 29:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a save against the San Jose Sharks 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.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Red Wings vs. Sharks matchup has the look of a classic series.  Both teams are evenly matched in that the scoring can come from anywhere and both also have tough guys willing to drop the gloves.  Both coaches won their first Stanley Cup on the bench for Detroit in 2008.

Game 1 was only a 2-1 OT win for the Sharks, when the Sharks out-shot the Wings 46 to 25.  This was a good thing in that Jimmy Howard stopped a lot of shots and a bad thing in that the Sharks shouldn't be getting this many looks.  The Wings scorers did get their own shots off but having one slap shot by Nicklas Lidstrom in the first period and nothing else is not going to cut it against a team as deep as the Sharks.

True, Joe Pavelski's goal in the third period was of the fluky variety as he batted the rebound out of the air right next to Hoard.

Also, the overtime winner by Benn Ferriero was fluky since the puck was tipped off the stick of Brad Stuart, who launched his stick into the boards in frustration.  A goal that was tough to bear as the Wings killed a penalty that did not need to be four minutes.

Justin Abdelkader wasn't intending to clip Niclas Wallin in the face to begin with.  A four-minute penalty should only be called in cases where there is blood gushing and, in this case, there really wasn't.  Wallin was even smiling about it when he got to the bench.

It is never good for a ref to decide any match in the playoffs of any sport.  These games should only be decided by the players, and yet, the Wings killed a four-minute penalty in the playoffs.

For Game 2 the Wings cannot allow the Sharks to out-shoot them 2-to-1.  The Wings defense is too good to let the Sharks have so many chances.  The forwards will also have to chip in to cut down on the shots, whether by takeaways or blocking shots.

The physical play by the Wings was up to the task, as everyone took the time to introduce themselves to the Sharks.  However they had seven penalties to San Jose's four, which does put needless pressure on Howard, even if one of those penalties was called on him.

Howard played nearly flawlessly.  He has shown that in his second full year with the team that he is ready for playoff hockey.  To stop 44-of-46 shots is no easy task.  The two goals he gave up were flukes.  However he does need more support from the rest of the team to cut down on opponents' shots, and to watch where their sticks are so they don't redirect any more shots past him.

Also he will have to keep his cool as the roughing penalty by him is the only one Babcock will accept.  However, the Sharks will now make a point to be extra annoying to him to see if he will get called again.

The Wings therefore should respond in kind to Antti Niemi to test his patience by parking Tomas Holmstrom or Todd Bertuzzi in front of Niemi anytime they are in the Sharks zone to block his line of sight and get him unnerved.  They should also be going after anything that resembles a rebound from Niemi even if they don't see the puck and pelting him with a lot more shots than the 25 they did in Game 1.

Another strategy for the Wings might be bringing in Kris Draper or Mike Modano—both were scratched for Game 1.  They are two of the best faceoff guys the Wings have and are also two of the most experienced playoff guys as well.  Their leadership might give the Wings an edge as well.

Or even shaking things up to put Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk on separate lines, making it harder for the Sharks to counter with their own line combinations.  Regardless, Mike Babcock will have some tricks up his sleeve for Game 2.