The Detroit Red Wings, at one point down 3-0 in its series against San Jose, have forced a decisive Game 7 with a 3-1 victory last night at Joe Louis Arena.
Finally…the Red Wings were able to put together 60 full minutes of solid play from all ends of the ice. Jimmy Howard was solid in goaltending again, only letting in one fluky goal between the pads from Logan Couture, otherwise, his goaltending was out of this world. The defense was very consistent at systematically clearing pucks out of the zone. In fact, the Sharks only managed to come up with about 2 minutes worth of sustained pressure during 5-on-5 play - in the immediate moments following Couture’s goal. The Wings stood tall, and pushed the momentum back up ice. Antii Niemi was by far the best player for the Sharks. Despite the loss, he only let in 2 goals on 44 shots he faced. He gave the team in front of him every opportunity to put the Wings away, but he was really hung out to dry. The Sharks’ attackers only mustered 25 shots on Jimmy Howard.
Mike Modano saw action last night, stepping in for the hobbling Johan Franzen. In my opinion, it’s about time. Modano was in excellent shape last night, and his game play showed it. He registered 3 shots on goal on 4 attempts, had 3 hits, and was 67% on 9 face-off opportunities. Pretty good numbers for under 10 minutes of ice time. I do hope we see more of him in Game 7 and (hopefully) beyond. He’s 40 years old, in the Playoffs with a very competitive team, and in the last year of his career. No more excuses, no second chances, and he knows it. You don’t get to be the greatest American-born player by just getting lucky. Let the big dog eat…
Danny Cleary and Valtteri Filppula also provided a lot of hard work and grind in Game 6, while only Filppula made the scoresheet. Cleary had a beautiful chance on a breakaway in the second period only to be denied by the goal post. He beat Antii Niemi clean and had about 4 feet of open net, but just couldn’t bury it. Later in the second, a centering pass from Henrik Zetterbeg found Cleary right in front of the net, but Cleary fanned on the attempt. Had Cleary connected on those or any of his other opportunities, the game would not nearly have been as close as it was. It could have been a hat-trick kinda night for him, but he was just a hair off at every turn. Still though, he played an incredible game.
I’m running out of superlatives…anybody have a Thesaurus?
I am glad that Filppula managed to score. He’s just been a workhorse, particularly in the last two games. He’s really stepped up for the Red Wings and his game-winning goal is another proud trophy for the young forward.
For most of the night, the Sharks appeared on their heels, a bit taken aback by the energy of the Red Wings team, not to mention the Joe Louis Arena crowd. Despite the inflated ticket prices, it’s as if the fans were treated to a bonus game, and they lived it up. It was loud, raucous, and crazy, just the way a playoff crowd should be. An empty-net goal by Darren Helm blew the roof off the place, and sealed the Sharks’ fate for good in Game 6.
Ryane Clowe sat out for the Sharks with what was reported to be an upper body injury. They made sure to confirm that it was not attributed to the hit from Niklas Kronwall in Game 5. Rumors were even floating around of the popular “flu-like symptoms” before the official press release. He’s been San Jose’s leading point-getting in the playoffs this year and the Sharks definitely missed him. The interesting thing is that San Jose downplayed any severity of his injury, but not only did he not play in Game 6, he didn’t even make the trip from California. To me that suggests immediate doctors’ appointments and check-ups. I think we’ve seen the last of Clowe this series, but the Sharks remain hopeful.
Going forward, the Red Wings have obtained immeasurable momentum in this series, and it’s as if the Sharks are the ones facing elimination at the hands of a superior team, despite the series being tied at 3 games apiece. The Red Wings are in another dimension of mentality right now and they’ll keep bringing it Thursday night at HP Pavilion, spurred on even more by the scent of an historic comeback matched by only three other teams in hockey history.
Meanwhile, Vancouver waits and watches to see who they will play this weekend in the Western Conference Finals. If I were the Canucks, I’d want the Sharks to win. Neither team would get any substantial rest before the series began, but should the Sharks win, it’ll be a tiring and exhausting victory, and a nagging voice in their heads will continually badger them about how that series should have been won a week ago. On the other hand, if Detroit wins, they’ll cap an amazing comeback and put their spirits into orbit. The adrenaline rush will cut through any pain or soreness from a 4-game comeback, and they’ll also be a little relieved to be able to once again play smart and reserved, without as much desperation.
But I am not the Canucks….
…I’m a Red Wings fan!