2011 NHL Playoffs: Detroit Red Wings Sink San Jose Sharks, 3-1, Force Game 7
Someone must have forgot to tell the Sharks skaters, as they carelessly let yet another lead, yet another game slip through their hands.
Stopping the trend of blown leads in the semifinals was a must for San Jose, having dropped Game 4 and 5 in such manner.
Coming off their first two-game slide this postseason, the Sharks had quite a few question marks heading into their third consecutive attempt to advance.
Without their leading scorer in Ryane Clowe, question marks over Niemi, and a media storm surrounding Patrick Marleau the Sharks went belly-up.
HP Pavilion will hold the final game of the series, as Game 7 promises to be a sure one with emotions running high on both sides.
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Several changes took place to both lineups, with Johan Franzen out for Detroit and Ryane Clowe out for San Jose.
Head coach Todd McLellan rolled out the new top line of Thornton-Couture-Setoguchi, as Patrick Marleau headed up the new second line of Mitchell-Heatley. Benn Ferriero took Mitchell’s spot on the third line alongside Pavelski and Wellwood.
Just a few minutes into the first period Douglas Murray delivered a huge hit to Cleary alongside the boards, and Cleary headed off the ice shortly thereafter.
San Jose knew Detroit would come out flying, and the Red Wings didn’t disappoint as they stormed the Sharks zone. Just halfway through the first period, the Wings were pouring on the heat with 13 shots opposed to San Jose’s two.
At 9:18 the ever-dangerous third line just barely missed as Benn Ferriero got a breakaway chance, only to be stoned by Howard. With the scoring chance, Ferriero gave the Sharks just their third shot on net in the first period.
San Jose would not be able to capitalize on a Kronwall holding penalty at 5:41, putting the Sharks at 0-8 with the man advantage in their last two games.
The first period ended with Niemi stealing the show for San Jose, stopping all 18 shots in the period and coming up big at the right time.
Early in the second period, the Sharks fourth line again attempted to give the game away, turning the puck over as Drew Miller barely missed the open net.
Just a few minutes later, following the Datsyuk penalty Dan Boyle got caught too deep in the zone, leading to an odd man rush down the ice. Boyle made amends for his mistake, tracking down Helm before he could get a shot off on Niemi.
The Sharks looked much improved in the first half of the second period, but the Red Wings slowly and surely started turning the tables on San Jose.
Halfway through the second period, the Red Wings took the task to the Sharks and pressed play deep in the Sharks zone.
At the end of the second period, the Red Wings had pretty much dominated the Sharks outshooting San Jose 32-13.
The third period started with a clear need for the Sharks to respond, they had been dominated for the better part of 2 periods and looked lifeless.
At 3:54, Logan Couture provided just that with the Sharks in a mid-change, giving them the odd line combination of Mitchell-Couture-Heatley. Batting the puck on the rebound, Couture nets his fifth goal of the postseason on the initial shot from Dany Heatley.
Just a few seconds after a near goal by Pavelski and the Sharks third line, Detroit ties the game on the Zetterberg tip in at 10:38 that found it’s way past Niemi.
The tally gave the Red Wings renewed focus, as they added to the lead just two minutes later at 12:32 on Filppula’s goal.
Darren Helm adds the empty-net goal to pad the Red Wing lead, defeating the Sharks and completing the remarkable comeback from the 0-3 deficit.
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Let’s face it, without the stellar goaltending of Antti Niemi the Sharks could have easily seen a repeat of Game 4 last year at the Joe.
You aren’t going to win many games giving up 32 shots after two periods, and Niemi was spectacular in Game 6.
The second period in and of itself was sheer brilliance, especially on the last second flurry from the Red Wings and Holmstrom.
He’s hurt and still the best player on the ice this series, he continues to have his way in the Sharks zone and doesn’t look to be slowing anytime soon.
Taking just eight faceoffs tonight with a bad wrist, he's still dominating the puck possession battle in the San Jose zone.
Defensive Zone Issues
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This continues to be a lingering problem, if the Sharks weren’t blowing their assignments, they were turning the puck over on the breakout. Communication needs to improve as these mistakes cannot carry over to Game 7.
Niclas Wallin felt that his minus-3 performance in Game 6 needed some improving upon, as he coughed the puck over several times late.
Zetterberg chance late in the first period, Datsyuk halfway through the second, San Jose can’t continue to rely on Niemi to save them through these mistakes.
The second Detroit goal is the fourth of the series where a forward takes the puck deep before feeding the trailing high man.
Kronwall’s slap shot was as uncontested as it comes, and at even strength that just shouldn’t happen.
Bottom line? San Jose got dominated on the road and allowed yet another disastrous three goal third period. You aren't going to win many games playing like that, let alone championships.
What Didn't Work
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I don’t know if Todd McLellan was trying to protect Marleau from the Roenick negativity, but his line changes were disasterous.
This second line looked horrible in the first period, took several double shifts at the wrong time before McLellan moved Patrick back to the first line.
After kick-starting the dormant power play against the Red Wings in the first three games, the Sharks have fallen back into bad habits.
Against a penalty-kill unit in the Detroit Red Wings that ranked 16th during the playoffs, San Jose has stumbled over themselves in their last 10 power plays.
Neutral zone turnovers
More cute passing, more turnovers and stalled breakouts as the Sharks continued their boneheaded play despite the setting and poor ice conditions.
It’s hard to get any kind of sustained offense when your first pass out of your zone ends up on a Red Wing stick.
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Rallying with yet another three goal flurry in the third period, the Red Wings become the eight team in NHL history to force a Game 7 after falling behind 0-3.
Armed with a prime chance to quiet their critics once and for all, the Sharks have now added fuel onto the fire by allowing Detroit to storm back.
This team didn’t look anything like a championship caliber team tonight, outside of Antti Niemi and anything close to this kind of performance will get them eliminated.
With the weight of history now heaped upon the Sharks shoulders, San Jose now prepares for Game 7 at HP on Thursday.
As bad as they looked in Game 6, the Sharks still have home ice advantage but will need to play their desperate road game to win in Game 7.
Words hold little meaning to this profound situation, San Jose must rebound in the most important game of the season.
Either way, San Jose will wake up Friday morning having validated their position as Stanley Cup Contenders, or making Jeremy Roenick seem like a prophet.
Here's to Game 7, and victory No. 8 of 16.