Well sooner or later, reality had to set in. And it finally did for the Sharks. That reality check was delivered by the Red Wings, who baited the Sharks with quick puck movement and a multitude of shots towards Evgeni Nabokov, in a 6-0 thrashing of San Jose.
Detroit goaltender Ty Conklin didn't have to fend away many Sharks chances from the middle of the opening period onward, as the Sharks weren't able to mount any offensive threat for the remainder of game.
After dominating the play for the first ten minutes of action, the Sharks found nothing to show for it. And despite out-shooting the Red Wings 9-7 in the opening period, the Sharks found themselves down 2-0 at intermission.
And in that opening period, it didn't help that their No. 1 goaltender was off his game. Nabokov let in the opening goal of the game at 14:31 of the first on a relatively simple wrist shot by Johan Franzen. In fact, Nabokov swiped at it with the glove and looked foolish coming up empty as the shot slipped by him and into the net.
Detroit took a 2-0 lead less than two minutes later when Pavel Datsyuk cut across the middle of the Sharks zone and snapped a wrist shot through Nabokov's five-hole. Although there was a partial screen, it was probably another one the Sharks goaltender wishes he had back.
The second period didn't go any better for the Sharks. After they killed off the remaining 65 seconds of Christian Ehrhoff's first period penalty, they went right back on the penalty kill only a little over a minute after Ehrhoff's penalty had expired.
This time the refs didn't exactly give the Sharks a break, as Jonathan Cheechoo was called for a phantom holding call that by far, was one of the worst calls all season.
Even though the Sharks were able to kill off Cheechoo's minor and ironically didn't allow a single power-play goal the entire game, the momentum stayed on the side of Detroit.
And a little over the halfway point of the game, Marian Hossa jumped onto the ice and took a feed from Pavel Datsyuk in between the circles, and snapped a wrist shot past Nabokov for a 3-0 lead.
With the way the Sharks were playing, Hossa's goal effectively put the game away. But just for good measure, the Red Wings finished off the sluggish Sharks with three more goals in the final 20 minutes.
Valtteri Filppula cashed in with his fifth goal of the season at 7:25, Pavel Datsyuk scored his second of the game at 12:29, and former Shark defenseman Brad Stuart scored his first goal of the year, scoring against his former club at 16:29 of the third.
Red Wings net-minder Ty Conlkin turned away all 24 shots he faced. The only few acrobatic saves he needed to make came in the game's opening ten minutes of action. Through the final two periods, the Sharks weren't able to muster much of an offensive presence against the Detroit defense.
The Sharks were playing the second game of back-to-backs and third game in four nights. Perhaps this was the reason that San Jose was not moving their feet for the final two-and-a-half periods, as the Red Wings dictated the flow of the game.
However Sharks' forward Ryan Clowe said otherwise after the game, claiming, "We can use the excuse that we had three games in four nights, but that’s just an excuse." He went on to say it was "embarrassing to play these guys…like we’re happy with ourselves".
I can't imagine that the Sharks were purposefully taking any shifts off against the defending Stanley Cup Champs, but the excuse of three games in four nights is a valid one.
The tides were flipped when the Sharks beat Detroit back in San Jose in late October. So as hockey fans, we haven't really seen the best these two teams can offer in a head-to-head match-up.
But as for this past Thursday night's game, the Red Wings showed Sharks that they still have a lot of work to do if they want to be in Detroit's position as defending champs.
Sharks Coach Todd McLellan said the Red Wings "just flat out...were better in every situation." He noted that his team needs to "realize that we’ve still got some work to do".
Sooner or later, the high the Sharks were riding had to come to an end. It may be beneficial in the long run to go through some adversity at this point in the season, so they can learn from it and finish out the second half of the season even stronger than the way they started.
Besides, one bad game in December doesn't matter. The Sharks have a bigger goal, which is to be playing their best hockey come April and May, and preferably into June.
Sharks ought to take this game into account, but put the thrashing in the back of their minds as fuel for the next time they see the Red Wings, which will be in January.
But for now, San Jose needs to forget about Thursday's performance and move on. It was just one game and they are still seven points in front of Detroit for first-place in the NHL.
Sharks welcomed back Joe Pavelski and Jonathan Cheechoo back into the lineup Thursday, but were without Milan Michalek, and still without Jeremy Roenick and Torrey Mitchell who are on IR.