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Five Thoughts: Sharks and Red Wings provide a Game 7 for the ages

May 13, 2011, 9:00 AM EDT

Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton Getty Images

A legendary Game 7 between Detroit and San Jose fills us with tremendous pride as hockey fans that we can get such nice things this late in the year. With two more rounds to go we can only hope there’s more great things to be had because after this most anything else could feel like a letdown.

1. Let’s give it up for Patrick Marleau for helping get the monkey off his back in in clutch games. Marleau’s goal in the third period proved to be the eventual game winner in San Jose’s 3-2  Game 7 win over Detroit thanks to Pavel Datsyuk‘s ridiculous late goal that cut San Jose’s lead from 3-1 to 3-2. It didn’t take too much effort for Marleau to earn the tap in on Devin Setoguchi‘s original shot, but sometimes that’s all it takes to get things rolling for you in a positive way.

While Jeremy Roenick was more than critical of Marleau after San Jose’s Game 5 loss to Detroit, Roenick was more than happy to praise Marleau’s effort in Game 7 and for good reason. While Marleau wasn’t an overwhelming presence with the shots on goal or forcing the offensive pressure, he was involved in the play on both ends of the ice. If there’s anything we’ve learned from Marleau’s past in the playoffs, expect him to be a major factor against Vancouver.

2. It’s about time we retired the “Joe Thornton is a choker” label, isn’t it? Thornton had quite the history in Boston for coming up short in the playoffs and not leading the Bruins to the Stanley Cup. His time in San Jose hasn’t proven to be much better since being dealt to the Sharks but in these playoffs, he’s been impressive. Through 13 playoff games, Thornton has 11 points (two goals, nine assists) including a great assist on Devin Setoguchi’s first period power play goal. Thornton’s offensive work hasn’t been the only thing of note for him though as his work shadowing both L.A. and Detroit’s top forwards has been stellar.

Thornton isn’t much regarded as a solid defensive center but in these playoffs he’s given headaches to both Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg while following them around the ice. We’ve advocated already this postseason to slow it down with the “playoff choker” label for Thornton and his play keeps making us feel good about that.

3. How about the work of Antti Niemi in the playoffs? He’s done some truly outstanding work and his efforts against Detroit in the second round have been other-worldly. Against Detroit he had just one game that you could hold against him in Game 5 where he gave up four goals on 22 shots. Aside from that, last year’s Stanley Cup winning goalie was solid allowing just 17 goals through seven games against Detroit with a .931 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against average. While the GAA isn’t mind blowing, that save percentage is. Niemi was tested quite a bit by the Red Wings and still found a way to come out on top of things. That kind of effort will be needed against Vancouver in the next round in a big way. Vancouver went 3-0-1 against San Jose this season.

4. Since this was just a Conference semifinal round many fans won’t be quick to remember how great this series was and just how dominant a player Pavel Datsyuk is. With all the bumps and bruises the Wings had in Game 7 with Dan Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi leaving the game with concussions, it’s scary to think what could’ve been had those players been able to play all along. Still, Datsyuk did his part to be a creative and dominant force all over the ice both offensively and defensively and came up with one of the prettiest goals you’ll see all playoffs in the third period in Game 7. Datsyuk is lauded rather often for his play but not generally brought up in the same context as Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin. It might be time to start adding another name to that list.

5. For as great as Antti Niemi was in this series, Jimmy Howard of Detroit was right there with him. The lack of solid backup goalie for the better part of the second half of the year didn’t affect Howard very much and while things were a bit hairy against Phoenix in the opening round, Howard looked outstanding throughout Detroit’s series with San Jose.  When the Sharks were able to put together shots in close Howard stood tall. Many fans wonder if Jimmy Howard is capable of being the tried and true starting goalie for the Detroit Red Wings. If this series and the regular season didn’t sell it to the skeptics, there’s little doubt that those fans will ever be satisfied with how things are. Jimmy Howard is here to stay in Detroit.

  1. dreadpiratesteve - May 13, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    Much love for the Sharks. That was a tough series to say the least. Showed a lot about who they are and who they are becoming. Don’t know if they beat Vancouver or not but they proved a lot to me.

    Much respect to the Wings. That is a phenomenal team and a phenomenal franchise. Babcock is the best coach in the league without question. Datsyuk may very well be the best player in the league. Hope Lidstrom goes for one more year.

    What a series. Both teams deserved to win. But the Sharks had more to prove and being a little younger they were a little hungrier for success. They had a lot a demons to exorcise and I think that lit a fire under them that was the reason for their eventual success. Congrats Detroit: You played a helluva series.

  2. bcjim - May 13, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    ***It’s about time we retired the “Joe Thornton is a choker” label, isn’t it?***

    No. Unless you want to replace it with “Shameless Diver”

    If they make the SCF then you may ask this again and I will reconsider. If they win it, you may unilaterally remove the label.

  3. dreadpiratesteve - May 13, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    Shameless diver? Don’t be stupid. It’s unbecoming.

    • bcjim - May 13, 2011 at 1:58 PM

      Pfft, you must have missed this…

      unless you mean he is ashamed of it.

  4. psousa1 - May 13, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Bruins – Sharks final would be a circus.

  5. jpelle82 - May 13, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    marleau still isn’t off the s*** list in my opinion. Big Joe did play out of his mind last night though. great game

    • dreadpiratesteve - May 13, 2011 at 3:02 PM

      Agreed. Marleau needs to do much, MUCH more to prove to me he’s not a complete and utter toolbox.

      Good play last night though.

  6. 66icefan - May 13, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    Im neither a sharks or redwings fan, just love good hockey and what a series. I couldn’t help but pull for the sharks with the versus game crew obviously in favor of the redwings, excluding hockey central who stayed pretty neutral. Pierre with his comments, slay the dragon, isn’t that two years in a row? I’m glad they didn’t fall to the hype and came out winners.

  7. dreadpiratesteve - May 13, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    Hilarious. You try to be a gracious winner and respectful of a worthy opponent and Detroit fans just can’t accept that. Yes, Thornton absolutely dove on that play. But it was one play. He got called for diving and everyone moves on. But you’d swear that Joe’s diving was the deciding factor in the series the way Wings fans talk. Not like they got beaten by a better team in a series that was remarkably well officiated.

    Boo Freaking Hoo

    • bcjim - May 13, 2011 at 7:31 PM

      Eh, I’m not a fan of either team, in fact I dislike both. It was a very entertaining series though that is true. I’m bummed there is no hockey on tonight.

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