With the Detroit Red Wings winning Game 4, 4-3 against San Jose, they have made it a series. Normally, a statement like that seems far-fetched. However, the Red Wing are annually seen as the best team in hockey.
Therefore, by coming alive on Friday, San Jose has taken notice. Detroit put up the goals and cranked up the aggression with their backs against the wall.
Todd Bertuzzi's wicked back-hand in the 1st period and Darren Helm's game-winner late in the 3rd revealed the team's depth. Both of these workhorses have been checking more during the series. Now as this new "grind line" is lighting up the lamp, San Jose cannot just make their lineups based on whenever Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are on the ice.
Captain Nicklas Lidstrom's two goals proved why he is one of the greatest defenseman to ever play in the NHL. He didn't just score at the age of 41, but did so during a game when someone had to carry this team on his back. He is the only one keeping pace with the Shark's Joe Thornton.
Jimmy Howard, in only his second year of playoffs, has shown a great deal of poise. Not many goalies could endure game after game of one-goal losses due to deflections off of his teammates' sticks. He pulled it together to hold on for the victory. True, a shut-out from him would help, but the talent of these two teams makes that hard.
Still, the play of Jiri Hudler is a concern. He is supposed to be a talented scorer but he has done nothing for Detroit. He looks out of position on defense. San Jose's second goal in the game by Danny Boyle was because Hudler didn't watch Boyle as he skated past.
The call for Mike Modano to take over for Hudler must be heard. He is one of the greatest forwards in the game and that kind of experience makes him a better option out there.
He is still an asset on face-offs. He still has a scorer's touch, not just for goals but also for getting his teammates in position to score. He even brings speed that makes him a threat, regardless of what he does with the puck.
This call is Mike Babcock's decision. He knows stuff he will not tell anyone and he has earned the right to keep it secret. No need to tell the opposition anything they can use.
Regarding Game 5, there is no reason for it not to be close. These teams are near mirror images of each other. However, Detroit is starting to wake up.
Even though San Jose has last change for the game, Detroit will be setting the pace. Bertuzzi, Helm and Justin Abdelkader will be the x-factors. They provide great physical presence and are more of a concern now with their shots lighting the lamp.
It is not to say that Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Lidstrom are not important. They are the heart and leadership of the team. However, the top lines will focus on them. The Bertuzzi-Helm-Abdelakder combination will force San Jose to make adjustments.
Howard has been as good as he can be for this series. The team believes in him and so do the fans. He will have his work cut out for him in a loud Shark Tank. But he won't be alone.
It is time for the Detroit Red Wings to bring the series back home Tuesday night. They have the talent, poise and experience to do so. One game at a time and it starts with Game 5.
Red Wings - 4 OT
Goals: Helm, Lidstrom, Kronwall and Datsyuk
Sharks - 3
Goals: Setoguchi, Clowe, Thornton