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Five Thoughts: Detroit is making life miserable on San Jose

May 11, 2011, 9:00 AM EDT

Niklas Kronwall, Valtteri Filppula AP

It’s probably for the best if you’re a San Jose fan that you read with caution as things are getting really awkward for the Sharks. They’ll have to find a way to inspire their inner Vancouver Canucks to prevent from being the fourth NHL team to ever get bounced out of the playoffs in a seven game series after leading the 3-0 at one point.

1. The heart of a champion is a dangerous thing. Vancouver got a taste of it in the first round in dealing with Chicago. Old demons that popped up there were eventually vanquished in overtime of Game 7 after the Canucks blew a 3-0 series lead. Now the Sharks get to try to do the same on Thursday night at home against the Red Wings. If there is a team in these playoffs that you absolutely cannot give life to when they’re down it’s the Detroit Red Wings.

Where other teams get down in the dumps after giving up a goal, these Wings don’t do anything of the sort. They rally, they fight back, they lay the big hit, the find a way to score the big goal. With San Jose’s temperamental nature now a major factor it can’t be stressed enough how badly the Sharks will need to get out to hot start and jump on Jimmy Howard early in Game 7.
Planning it and doing it are two entirely different things, however, and Detroit has been decidedly better than San Jose over the last four periods of play. This series has been very close all along but now Detroit is showing that killer instinct we’ve seen from them in the past.

2. Enough can’t be stated about what a difference Niklas Kronwall has been for the Wings. The last few seasons he’s battled injuries, defensive lapses in favor of making a statement hit, and grief for playing a reckless sort of game. Now he’s taken to playing alongside Swedish countryman Nicklas Lidstrom and he’s playing a smarter brand of hockey. Yes, the hits are still coming (just ask Ryane Clowe) but gone are the days of the defensively liable hit and in this new era for Kronwall he’s adding plenty of offense as well.

It was his big shot that Henrik Zetterberg tipped to get Game 6 tied up and he’s scored other goals in these playoffs. Generally when you’re thinking of offense from the Detroit blue line you’re thinking of Lidstrom. Now Kronwall is a factor that opponents have to account for on both ends of the ice.

3. Now what does San Jose do? They’ve had three shots to end Detroit’s season and now it comes down to a Game 7 where virtually anything can happen. It’s not the position that Todd McLellan wanted to see his team in and he seemed almost despondent during the post game press conference. He knows better than most how the Red Wings operate after being an assistant to Mike Babcock.

Still, all the inside knowledge in the world can’t help you if the players aren’t executing well enough to win and that’s where he’s stuck now. It’s not a comforting place for a head coach to be in as there’s no amount of riot act-reading or coddling possible that can snap a team out of a funk like this. The Sharks have to go back to the active pressure they laid out in the series’ first three games and go from there. Everyone’s got to be all in on it though and therein lies the trick.

4. The disappointing play from a pair of San Jose’s biggest stars while they’ve been slumping has been noticeable. We all have heard plenty about Patrick Marleau thanks to Jeremy Roenick’s most unkind but honest words in taking him down a peg but Dany Heatley‘s been off his game as well. Whether he’s got a nagging injury throwing off his style of play or not he looked especially bad last night to the point his frustrations are showing on all shifts.

One particular shift saw Heatley get defended off and had the puck taken away from him. Rather than haul around the net and chase down the defender now skating away with the puck, Heatley flopped out in front of Jimmy Howard in an odd fashion only to get up and glare at the official to seemingly beg for a call. While Heatley should be happy the referee didn’t decide to use him as an example of diving, losing his cool after getting his pocket picked and then trying to make amends by giving up on the play to hit the ice has to make Todd McLellan want to pull his hair out. To say that Heatley and Marleau need to step it up in Game 7 is a no-brainer.

5. Speaking of dumb plays, two games in a row now Justin Abdelkader has taken a bad penalty in the waning minutes of the game. He’s been fortunate that Detroit’s killed off those penalties to prevent giving up a killer tying goal late in the game, but you have to wonder if those kinds of bad mistakes are going to cost him a start in Game 7. You can’t afford to have calls going against you and Abdelkader pushing the envelope two games in a row with selfish penalties could earn him a seat in the press box for the final game of the series. Detroit can always fall back on Kris Draper if need be to take his spot in the lineup. Detroit’s playing with fire late in games needlessly but for now Abdelkader is doing enough of the other things right to keep Babcock’s faith in him.

  1. zestypickles - May 11, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    Clowe gone has nothing to do with hit? sure….

    Bettman’s pooping his pants right now, one of the darling non-hockey market teams once again succumbing to the winged wheel.

    I would be very afraid, SJ fans. Very afraid. (and no matter what happens in game 7, SJ and #19 will forever be known as choke jobs)

    • abrienza428 - May 11, 2011 at 10:27 AM

      Even if #19 has a big game, the Sharks win game 7, and they go on to win the Cup?

    • Forest Ridge - May 11, 2011 at 12:18 PM

      you’re an idiot….have you even watched a game or you busy watching vampire diaries

      • abrienza428 - May 11, 2011 at 12:29 PM

        What is that?

    • kalzone55 - May 14, 2011 at 11:32 PM

      so detroit burns down… now all that is left is for the bald detroit cheerleader ( p.m) is to loose his season forever ! u know the between the benches bald pigeon who sings how detroit is sooo professional , ohhh the most professional team…. on the golf course. nbc get rid of that moron. i change the channel when he talks . kalzone

    • kalzone55 - May 14, 2011 at 11:34 PM

      u were saying da loser

  2. polegojim - May 11, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    The killer instinct is crucial. The big boys for Detroit are showing it, teaching it, SKATING it for their younger guys. It is contagious.

    15 current Red Wings have won the Cup – once you taste it, you never forget. It defines you.

    Don’t sell the Sharks short, they’ll be sharpening their skates and teeth for Thursday.

    With blood in the water, the Wings will be circling.

  3. dreadpiratesteve - May 11, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    If this monumental collapse continues and the Sharks lose Game 7. Wholesale changes have to be on the horizon. Starting with everyone’s favorite no show: #12.

    Enough is enough. Unless Marleau has 4 consecutive “Overchtricks” there’s not much the guy can do to prove to me that he’s little more than an overpayed choke artist.

    “No one ever got better at hockey by bowling. More Practice for you!”

    Shaking my head…

    • polegojim - May 11, 2011 at 7:05 PM

      Steve – the Sharks have all the makings of a Stanley Cup Champion. It may sound strange, but they may have TOO much. Sometimes too many stars on the ice creates a spectator syndrome.

      That’s why you can actually see a team improve when a ‘star’ falls. Frankly – outside of a few moments, Hossa was a playoff bust for the Wings….no….he was a waste.

      Lose Marleau, I agree. Heatley? Thornton? Both have a chance to prove if they’re ‘liabilities disguised as assets’ tomorrow night.

      Will be a great game.

  4. jpelle82 - May 11, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    what a great game last night. niemi kept the sharks in it, couldve been a lot worse

    • jmartin5372 - May 11, 2011 at 5:35 PM

      How could have it been worse? A loss is a loss, whether it was 3-1 or 10-1.

      • polegojim - May 11, 2011 at 7:07 PM

        One is a loss… the other is a dismantling embarrassment resembling emasculation.

        At 3-1, you at least got to keep your testicles.

        That’s a big difference!

  5. Ryan Karhut - May 11, 2011 at 11:46 AM

    This series should have been long over and it’s tough to not point the finger at the Sharks captain who continues to struggle to produce in the post-season.

    San Jose Sharks – Stop Pissing Me Off!:

  6. hockeybiasdotcom - May 11, 2011 at 11:09 PM

    What a great series! Both teams playing well in close scoring games – love it! Here’s a few ‘Kronwalling’ incidents for your viewing pleasure: Ouch!

  7. killabri - May 11, 2011 at 11:53 PM

    I am expecting a great game tomorrow night as many, many reputations are on the line on the San Jose bench. The Sharks’ recent playoff failures have been well documented, and the team has earned a label as choke artists from most fans. Rest assured, ALL the pressure is squarely on their shoulders to shed that tomorrow night, specifically the two constants during the time where they acquired this reputation: Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Bottom line: Those two are huge reasons why the Sharks got here, and they’ll be huge reasons that they move on… or don’t. Life isn’t always fair, and once fans and people get a perception about you it many times will become reality. Tomorrow night will go a long, long way towards cementing that reputation or beginning the process of removing it.

    Here’s to a great game tomorrow night. There truly is nothing like Game 7 in the NHL playoffs.

  8. tommytd - May 12, 2011 at 6:21 AM

    I’ll take an original six over an expansion team any time!

  9. cshearing - May 12, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    I had a laugh when the media was crowing that Thornton had overcome that choking label by scoring the OT winner…against the Kings in Round 1. How’s that looking now?

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