NHL Playoffs 2011: Red Wings vs. Sharks, Game 6—The Hockeytown Comeback

Michael MrockCorrespondent IMay 10, 2011

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 08:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a save during their game against the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 8, 2011 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Now as the lone remaining series in the conference semifinals, Detroit vs. San Jose will have extra attention.  The two most evenly matched teams in this year's playoffs have put on an epic performance.  Every game in the series between the two teams have been decided by one goal.

Game 6 brings the series back to Hockeytown as Detroit furthers its attempt at a legendary comeback.  San Jose was up 3-0 on Detroit prior to Game 4. After the weekend Detroit won two in a row to make the series 2-3. 

The crowd in Detroit will be quite intense.  The magic of Justin Verlander's no-hitter from Saturday will already have the fans excited.  Combine that with Detroit bringing the series back home, makes Joe Louis Arena not the safest of waters for San Jose.

It would have been easy for Detroit to have given up over this weekend.  They blew a 3-0 lead in Game 4 to hold on to win 4-3 and came back from a 3-1 deficit in Game 6 to win also by the score of 4-3.  Bu they are not in the business of giving up.

Being down 3-0, did not seem to faze Babcock as he pulled Detroit back from the brink.  There was no goalie controversy as Babcock kept his faith in Jimmy Howard.  Howard has been the best player in this series.

Howard has given up some shots, but he has stopped a lot more from a lot of angles, players and not always between the pipes at the JLA.  The "Howard" chants in San Jose have not fazed Howard but seemed to strengthen his resolve as he faced such a talented lineup.  

Such as in Game 5 where he stopped 39 shots out 42 total for the win.  San Jose was firing from all angles and it only made Howard more confident in only his second season in the league.

He will have to keep this focus on task as the series moves to Detroit for Game 6.  The fans will be pulling for him and will engage in their own "Annti Niemi" chants to attempt to get under his nemesis's skin at the other end of the ice.  

However, Howard will also need the rest of his team to keep the series going.  Detroit has the deepest team in these playoffs.  Which has been a gift considering how the injuries have been a factor.

Johan Franzen is still recovering from being checked into the boards by Shane Doan in Game 2 in the prior series.  His ankle flared up in Game 5 and kept him on the bench during most of the third period.  Does this mean the debut of Mike Modano?

Modano did take over for Franzen in the prior series in Game 4.  He is the most rested of the forwards that they can reasonably turn to.  He is not expected to do it all but like Kris Draper, his experienced center play will direct traffic when he is on the ice.

Jiri Hudler was replaced in Game 5 by Drew Miller.  Miller did not get an Ovechtrick but did not make himself a weakness on both sides of the ice.  He will still play in Game 6 while Hudler will remain a healthy scratch.

Considering Jeremy Roenick's scathing comments on his former teammate Patrick Marleau following Game 6, that both Marleau is gutless and has no heart.  Therefore it is good that Babcock kept Hudler out of the lineup.  However, it is also hoped for that those comments do not wake up Marleau. 

Pavel Datsyuk has been Detroit's best forward in these playoffs.  He has scored at least a point in every game of the series.  His stick handling is what set up the game-winning goal by Tomas Holmstrom.  However, he does have a hand injury that kept him out of a great deal of the faceoffs on Sunday night.

It is doubtful that this injury will hamper Datsyuk.  He, even at 80 percent, is better than most players fully healthy.  Detroit has a ton of forwards who can hold their own on the faceoff.  But with the quick calls for a violation by the refs, Datsyuk will probably have to do some of them.

Henrik Zetterberg thankfully has shown the resolve to recover from his knee injury prior to the start of the playoffs to alleviate a lot of the work of Datsyuk.  He has great faceoff skills and his own leadership has been a great help to strengthen the chemistry of the team.

The other main forward presence that has greatly contributed in this series has been Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Todd Bertuzzi.  They are all talented at getting goals, but it is their physical play that is taking the bigger toll on San Jose. 

Getting hit by these guys is like getting bit by mosquitoes the size of people.  They are not hitting to just hit, they checking to make sure that other guy is dreading the next time they are on the ice. 

Plus Helm has the kind of speed that has been asset in out-skating everyone to loose pucks. He is also a serious threat on a breakaway.

The defensive play of Nicklas Lidstrom has been nothing short of spectacular.  He is scoring goals as if he is 31 as opposed to his current age of 41.  He has been Joe Thornton's biggest roadblock. 

His leadership has shown the influence of Steve Yzerman.  He has his team believing in each other and in themselves.  Not so much in a overconfident sense, but in a non-discouraged way.

Not every team could win a game after losing a 3-0 lead followed by winning the next game down 3-1 going into the third period of a game that could end their season.  Lidstrom has kept this team together to pull off these last two victories.

His biggest help on the defensive side has been Niklas Kronwall.  So far Kronwall has drilled Dany Heatley and Ryane Clowe in open ice.  It would be nice if he could deliver the same hit to Thornton.  Consider Thornton is still recovering from his vicious slash by Franzen in Game 5, he may not be fully healthy.

The depth of the Wings in Game 6 will be the other factor.  Players like Holmstrom, Dan Cleary, Drew Miller, Brian Rafalski, Jonathan Ericsson and  Brad Stuart will have to continue to hamper San Jose at every chance they can.

Detroit has a lot going for them as they prepare to face San Jose back at Joe Louis Arena.  They have the talent, leadership and coaching to make this game something they can win.  Even if they are able to build a lead, they cannot turn off the gas for one second. 

The power play for Detroit has been a concern all throughout these playoffs.  If they get a power play, Detroit really needs to score.  Of the 13 goals Detroit has scored in this series, only four of them have been on the power play.  This is not a great stat when they have had 16 power plays to work with. 

They will have to be more aggressive but not too much to give up a short-handed rush to the other end.  They will also have to cut out the offsetting penalties.  They have six of them in this series.  They have to turn the other cheek on this situations.

The discipline by the Wings will also need to be in check.  They do not need to give up anymore stupid penalties.  San Jose is too good to be given any advantage they do not need.

The X-factor will be the Detroit fans.  This is one of the biggest games the Wings have had in these 20 straight years of playoffs.  These fans will be on their feet giving whatever they have to let the team know they are behind them. 

If Detroit builds a lead, they will be cheering.  If Detroit is behind, they will also be cheering.  They are not going to let the JLA be quiet for one second regardless.

Game 6 will be Detroit's for the taking.  They have proven they have what it takes.  It is now time for them to then take this game and force the series to go back to San Jose.  The comeback will continue.

Detroit:  4

Goals: Lidstrom, Bertuzzi, Cleary and Helm.

San Jose:  2

Goals: Clowe and Setoguchi.


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