Boarding Passes Please

Posted: May 11, 2011 in NHL

Can you say game 7? I’m not sure what these coaches are saying, or the players are drinking, but these playoffs are something to behold. Another series, not even the conference finals, will be decided by a game 7 in these 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs and I could not be more excited.

Last night the Detroit Red Wings managed a heroic effort on the ice, beating the San Jose Sharks 3-1 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit to even up their Western Conference semi-final series. In the process they not only sent the crowd into constant cheer and standing ovations, they sent the series back to San Jose for a deciding game 7 with the Sharks forgetting what to do when they smell blood.

Sharks defenseman Doug Murray said it best “”We put up an embarrassing effort. It’s nothing to do with X’s and O’s. It’s about whatever it takes to get yourself ready. We weren’t skating, we weren’t making quick plays, we weren’t doing anything right”(NHL.com). After watching most of that game I would say it was pretty embarrassing for a game 6 effort, not to take anything away from Detroit. The Red Wings were all over the ice last night. They found the puck like a fat kid at a Smartie party and refused to give it up.

But the defense is not the problem, or at least not the only the problem. Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, once again are seeing their post season production dip well below their regular season success, and it’s hurting them big time. Marleau has only 5 points this entire playoffs and not a single point in this series. “I think I’ve done some really good things…they haven’t showed up on the score sheet, but there’s another game to play”(REDWINGS.NHL.COM). Let’s hope for his sake he plays like it’s his last game he’s going to play, or the Sharks may be without one of their best offensive tools.

This attack on Marleau however does not excuse the Sharks other turtling offensive monster, Joe Thornton. As we seem to do every off-season, I have to comment on the captain’s lack of play in crucial situations. He may have 5 assists in the series, with three coming in the OT win in game three, but now he has only one point in the three deciding games. As the leader of this team with a strong resume of consistent top tier production, Sharks management has to be getting frustrated with their star.

“You work 82 games to get home ice for Game 7. Now, we’ve just got to make it work.” This is all true Mr. Thornton, you do work 82 games to get home ice for game 7. You also work 82 games to plan your attack, build chemistry with your teammates so that you don’t disappear in your team’s time of need. You work 82 games so that you don’t have to spend a sleepless night worrying about becoming infamous for allowing a convincing 3-0 series lead slip away when you had home ice advantage in that series. We all wondered what kind of history Joe would leave after he left Boston for what was to be greener pastures in San Jose, hopefully it will be the kind you talk fondly of.

Time for credit giving, and I give it all to the Red Wings, they played an energetic, up-tempo style last night fitting of their past championship teams. They made sure to remind everyone that they are still here, and they still have all the pieces they need to make another run at a championship. “It’ll be a fun game to go out there and play”(NHL.com) said Red Wings defenseman Niklas Lidstrom. Fun? You’re in a game 7, en route to one of the great playoff comebacks in history and you’re saying it’s going to be fun? That right there tells you why the Red Wings are different from all other teams. They’ve been there so many times before that now they look at these high pressure games as fun, and a chance just to play the game.

This victory started in the minds of the Red Wings players and their coaches well before the puck dropped last night. When asked about the team plane and the chance at one more flight, Babcock told reporter’s “”We’re getting on it…We plan to be flying back for Game 7.” That right there shows you the confidence that oozes from these players when their backs are against the wall. When you have a coach as strong minded as Babcock, and who believes in his player’s more than himself you’re bound to win a few.

After watching last night’s game I don’t see how San Jose can come back to win this series, but that’s why you play the games. Pavel Datsyuk was an animal out there and doing whatever he wanted, when he wanted with the puck. People talk about player’s having the puck on a string, but he literally seemed to have the puck glued to his stick. With several double shifts Datsyuk caused havoc all night for the Sharks. Whether he was dangling around the offensive zone waiting for his teammates to get open for a pass, or picking the pockets of almost every Shark’s player out there, they couldn’t keep him off the puck.

To lose in some convincing fashion, three games in a row nonetheless, you have to feel as though the Shark’s have tossed it in. The sharks looked like a team of 20 year olds playing in a men’s league, they were all over the ice all the time, never giving up on anything. They went for the hit, they passed to everyone, and they were patient, never seeming rushed.

If this game tells us anything these playoffs though, it’s that it tells us nothing. The Canucks faced the exact same situation but when they went home they were inspired, and took care of business on home ice. Now it’s the Sharks turn to take care of business at home, but not before the Red Wings do everything they can to crash the party.

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