Friday, May 13, 2011

Recap: Sharks 3, Red Wings 2

Sharks win series 4-3. The series was truly an instant classic, and I bet will stand not only as the definitive moment when the Sharks "arrived" but also as one of the best series of all time. Seriously.

My thoughts:
  • The Sharks generated lots of chances. The Sharks' special teams were great. Joe Thornton was a beast. Patrick Marleau was a beast.
  • Antti Niemi is good enough. I think he was caught cheating in some respect on Datsyuk's goal, and his rebound control wasn't terrific, but he continues to be a solid goalie on that first shot. With the way San Jose's defense is playing, that's all they need.
  • Devin Setoguchi is clutch.
  • Logan Couture is the real deal. And on Henrik Zetterberg, no less. He'll have his hands full next round (especially since Dany Heatley requires soft minutes, which don't exist against Vancouver), but I think he can handle it, especially if Clowe is healthy enough to play alright. 
  • Clowe didn't look all that banged up tonight.
  • I think having Cleary not get Steckel'd by Hudler and having Bertuzzi would've gotten Detroit that game-tying goal late in the third, but likely just delayed the inevitable, much like Chicago-Vancouver Game 7.
  • Joe Thornton was a stud at both ends of the ice. At his best, he doesn't look like he's trying all that hard, until you see him blazing (well, skating fast) through neutral ice and shielding the puck from one defender after another...even winning a board battle against Pavel Datsyuk.
  • Speaking of Datsyuk, there isn't a better hockey player at the moment. He probably has difficulty simply lifting his stick, yet he goes out there and makes things happen. That being said, he and Zetterberg clearly weren't 100%, as they lacked an extra gear and got beaten (granted, by Thornton, but Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Lidstrom rarely get beaten).
  • Dan Boyle and Douglas Murray make an awesome pairing. I still hate Boyle for his slewfoot on Semin at the Olympics, but he was a total stud, and Murray, though not all that fast, is pretty sound positionally and at a minimum cancels the body of the attacker.
  • Niklas Kronwall is almost ready to take the reins from Nicklas Lidstrom, and not get embarrassed in the process. Kronwall was playing solid hockey against the toughs this season, and was Detroit's best defenseman in this game when not playing against Thornton (who tore him to shreds...granted, Kronwall was playing with Ruslan Salei). 
  • Lidstrom was kind of invisible, surprisingly. That's good in the defensive end, as his on-ice coverage was great (as usual), but offensively he seemed to just be trying and not getting much done. Detroit was generating offense off the forecheck and cycle, not so much from the blueline.
  • Brian Rafalski is rapidly declining. He's getting hemmed in his own zone a bit much and his coverage on the rush is a bit shaky. I didn't think he did a bad job on Marleau's goal--the play by Boyle to thread the needle was on Boyle and not Rafalski--but he got caught looking a bit too much for my liking
  • Filppula is not the next Datsyuk, as the Red Wings have long been raising him, but he's a pretty good hockey player on his good nights, and this was one of those nights.

The Sharks' power play was generating tons of chances all night, and it drew first blood, as Joe Thornton sent a pass from the goal line across the slot to Devin Setoguchi, whose one-timer beat Jimmy Howard. Later in the first, Logan Couture chased Henrik Zetterberg around his net, peeled off a bit and had the good fortune of Zetterberg's flubbed pass landing right on his stick, and Couture rifled a wrister over Howard's glove to make it 2-0. Zetterberg got that goal back in the 2nd, as the Sharks got too cute on the rush. Dany Heatley made a drop pass for Ryane Clowe, who got tied up with a Red Wings player, and Detroit's forwards quickly regrouped for a three-on-two, and Zetterberg put a backhander past Niemi. In the third, Logan Couture on a 2-on-1 hit the post, but Patrick Marleau on a 3-on-2 deposited the rebound of a Devin Setoguchi shot for a 3-1 lead. Pavel Datsyuk had a long backhander go off of Douglas Murray's stick and fool Niemi, and the Wings had several goalmouth scramble chances late in the game, but the Sharks hung on.

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