Patrick Marleau and the San Jose Sharks responded in perhaps the greatest game in franchise history, dispatching the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7. After three consecutive failures to close out the series, and allowing the Red Wings to tie, the San Jose Sharks found a way to win in their most crucial hour.
Not many people gave San Jose a shot to win, especially after a poor Game 6 performance and with their leading playoff scorer injured.
Against all the odds, as they have multiple times this season, San Jose rose up to the challenge in Game 7 and won.
The Sharks now advance to their second consecutive Western Conference Finals in two years, to face a rested Vancouver Canucks.
The fourth line finally stepped up to play in Game 7, and played a physical game while eliminating the mistakes. After being a huge liability for most of the playoffs, this line responded as we discussed in our prediction article.
Ben Eager made his second straight start and his playoff experience and skating was the difference for the Sharks fourth line tonight.
The Sharks third line is playing as it has since the second half of the regular season, and had an outstanding Game 7. The chemistry in this line has consistently generated scoring chances and is much more effective as a group, and Clowe’s return allowed the third line to be a factor.
Outside of Torrey Mitchell’s careless slashing penalty with five minutes left in the game, this line could do no wrong in Game 7.
Boiler had himself one hell of a playoff game against the Red Wings, logging 27 minutes of ice time and dominated. Laying the huge hit on Tomas Holmstrom in the crease, or his pass through a defenders legs on his backhand to setup the Marleau goal, he made the play all night.
He now has 11 points (2g, 9a) this postseason, and is leading the way for the Sharks blueline.
The Sharks wasted no time establishing the tempo on the penalty kill tonight, putting the clamps down the dangerous Red Wing power play early and often.
Holding the Wings without a shot for the Vlasic tripping, and the huge kill at the end of the game, the Sharks penalty killers came up big. Attacking the Red Wings power play, the Sharks pressed the action at the point and had a glorious chance short-handed odd-man rush late in the first period.
Niemi recorded 38 saves for the Sharks, many of the miraculous variety, especially against a late Red Wings rally in the third period. Yet another Shark with some question marks after losing three straight potential clinching games, Niemi again stood on his head.
The team played much better in support of Niemi, although quite a few defensive miscues had Antti saving the day as usual.
As well as the San Jose penalty kill worked tonight, Antti Niemi was the true killer—stopping several Red Wing scoring chances up close.
Pavel Datsyuk was a one-man wrecking machine most of this series, but Niemi was the answer when the Sharks could not solve him.
Datsyuk’s goal in the third period was just impossible to stop as a goaltender; you just don’t expect that kind of shot to the opposite corner from Datsyuk’s backhand.
Niemi came up with several big saves on Datsyuk shortly thereafter, including the slapshot in the closing seconds of the game.
Joe Thornton has heard all the critics and “experts” but his play this season might be his coming-out party in the postseason.
His overtime game-winner against the Kings excluded, this was perhaps one of his greatest complete team performances as a Shark. His play on the penalty kill was exemplary, leading the shorthanded break with Heatley, but it would be nice to see Jumbo shoot a bit more.
As we discussed in the prediction article, Thornton again had his way against the Red Wings in the faceoff circle, going 9-for-15. Logging 22 minutes of ice time, Jumbo triple-shifted to close out the game to ensure victory.
He now has 11 points in his last 11 postseason games, and could be one of the biggest stories of redemption for the San Jose Sharks.
Irony? Or poetic justice? Against the Detroit Red Wings, and another familiar No. 19 who was an offensive dynamo who had to adapt his play before winning a championship? It can't be that easy right?
After being attacked by Jeremy Roenick, Patrick Marleau answered his critics with an excellent performance in Game 7. Playing hard on the boards with controlled aggression, and going to the greasy areas of the ice, paid off for Marleau.
He truly was the straw that stirred the drink tonight, instead of the foam along for the ride.
Scoring arguably the greatest goal in franchise history, Patrick Marleau has silenced his critics and delivered when the lights were harshest.
"For him to end up with the winning goal was pretty special for our team and for him," coach Todd McLellan said. "I think the monkey may be off his back for the next series. ... He was a difference maker tonight."
Playing great two-way hockey and making plays with his body and speed, Marleau answered his critics with his play. His season just may personify the Sharks story of redemption this year.
For the second straight season, Patrick Marleau has sent the Detroit Red Wings home by scoring the series clinching goal.
Wonder what Jeremy Roenick thinks of that?
San Jose will be able to rest before taking on the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
And really, should it be any other opponent for the San Jose Sharks this season? Wouldn't the best team in the Western Conference be the most natural choice? When you take into account the lack of a Stanley Cup in either of the franchises, it just makes the series matchup almost too perfect for words.
Like the Sharks, Vancouver narrowly escaped the claws of history by pulling off the overtime Game 7 win against the Blackhawks after blowing the 3-0 lead.
Vancouver boasts a deep roster and a goalie familiar to the ex-Blackhawks on the team—Kyle Wellwood knows a thing or two about his former teammates as well.
Incredible hockey is still ahead but, for at least one night, the Sharks and their fanbase can enjoy one of the biggest wins in franchise lore.
How far will the Sharks season of redemption go?