At first it looked like Detroit had sprung the perfect road game tonight at HP Pavilion. By the third, though, the genius of head coach Todd McLellan had come to bear: the Sharks were playing the perfect road game. At home.
Indeed, they would bend, but not break in their 4-3 win, taking a 2-0 lead in the conference semi-final series.
It was the tale of two Joes; sharing similar playoff beards, but playing vastly different games. In the end, though, the two Joes came through.
Joe Thornton finally delivered with a solid, albeit not dominating, performance. He was gritty when need be. And carried the puck using his big butt and size to shield opponents. Thankfully he was kicked out of the face-off circle though in the first period. Marleau stepped in, won the draw, which lead to a Pavelski goal.
No Ordinary Joe.
Joe Pavelski is skating in the clouds. Or so he must think. Everything he is doing out there in the playoffs—9 goals, are you kidding me?—must feel like the starriest of NHL dream. The kind every twelve year-old has, playing pond hockey in the park up in Ottawa or Nepean.
The real surprise of the game was that the Red Wings lost their cool, and demonstrated uncharacteristic, sloppy discipline in the third. For Motor City fans, that’s too bad. They were controlling the game in the second period when the Sharks appeared to fade completely as a team. Tired, like a heavyweight, struggling against the ropes. Then the penalty parade started. The distraction. And ultimately the loss.
Then again, as I mentioned earlier, you could might even think this was a little rope-a-dope. Possibly a perfect road game by SJ.
When Detroit gets traffic in front of Nabokov, the probability of scoring goes up exponentially. Holmstrom was impressive in this regard.
Pavelski is channeling his inner Denis Savard. Where are these dipsy-doodles and shark spin-o-rama passes coming from? (Big Joe, not so fortunate though in his give away at the San Jose blue line that led to a Detroit goal)
The 3 amigos are back: Marleau was physical and present. Heatley was motivated and attacking the net. Thornton was butt shielding, and possessing.
What’s with the calls? A few bad calls appeared to even out. Heatley was checked into goalie Howard by Brad Stuart (who had a monster game for the red and white) and subsequently called for interference. Bertuzzi, I hate to say it, also received a bad call when he was called for holding in the third period. That’s a reputation call, no doubt. But should not be called in the playoffs. Let them play!
It’s too early by all means to think San Jose has control. After all the series is headed back to Original Six territory. And with that home town crowd, and the octopi, anything can happen. Datsyuk, though, needs some help pronto.
Defensively, the sometimes maligned (at least by me earlier in the Avalanche series) Murray had a solid game.
Rob Blake did not play well.
Couture was rewarded for his fine play in the first game with an opening shift or two (I’m not sure he had more than one shift with the top guys?) with Thornton and Marleau.
I like the Sharks staggered depth of experience and age: superstars Marleau/Thornton/Heatley. Followed by Pavelski (although we all know it’s now his playoff team!)/Setoguchi/Mitchell. Then youngsters such as Couture/McGinn/Huskins (Ottawa!). It appears playoff ready: when one line faulters, the others step in.
Malhotra again played another solid “role” game. Very well done.
I’m not sure what Pavelski is making this year—time for some salary Google-ing—but you can bet his agent is already assembling the paperwork for a fat re-negotiation.
On to Detroit.