The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/05/11 at 08:03 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings’ 4-3 overtime loss and 3-0 series deficit to the San Jose Sharks are the worst kind of deja vu for the team and its fans. A year to the day that a mentally and physically spent Red Wings team dropped the third of a 5-game series to the Sharks by a relatively slim margin—via another 4-3 OT loss—a deeper team with a bit more health, young players who took steps forward either in the regular season or playoffs and a raw rookie goalie turned near-MVP continue to find themselves unable to defeat the Sharks, albeit by a razor-thin margin this time around.
The end result, however, remains the same: unless the Wings can pull of a miracle, they’ll be shaking the hands of a Sharks team that seems to have an edge in terms of confidence and plain old puck luck before engaging in yet another too-long summer full of questions and possible roster revisions. Is there small consolation in the fact that, deflections off the Wings’ own players’ sticks and baseball-style bunting aside, the Wings could very well be leading the series? You bet, but consolation only helps when you’re winning, and are down 3-0.
If you’re a Wings fan, now’s the time to peel yourself off the ledge, believe in the tall tale that the Wings are telling themselves about being able to rally and pull off a miraculous comeback starting on Friday and know that there’s at least one Wings game left, a game in which the team will leave it all on the ice. If you’re a Sharks fan, or a member of the media, like the Hockey News’ Ken Campbell, you’re booking tickets for Vancouver, because you believe that the Sharks have learned from the lessons of playoff past. Sharks coach Todd McLellan suggested that the Sharks didn’t even play all that well on Wednesday:
“We didn’t have enough polish and we didn’t have enough players, quite frankly,” McLellan said. “We got away with one and we have to be better.”
If this series continues to play out as astonishingly similar to last year as it has, the Sharks better heed that advice. It was a year ago to the day that the Sharks took a similar 3-0 stranglehold on the series against the Wings after coming back from a third period deficit to win 4-3 in overtime in Game 3. But two days later, the Red Wings staved off elimination by completely dominating the Sharks in a 7-1 win in Game 4.
“There’s no reason to keep this series going,” said Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, who tied the score late in the third period with his first goal of the playoffs. “We came out flat in the last series against L.A. when we had a chance to finish them off. Nothing good can come from having to finish this series. We have to finish it when we can.”
Boyle indeed has a point there. If the Sharks can sweep the Red Wings, that means they will have made it through the first two rounds in just 10 games and the lower mileage on their bodies will come in handy, particularly with the possibility the Nashville-Vancouver series is a long one and the two conference semifinals in the East both possibly being won in sweeps. (One could argue, though, that the Philadelphia Flyers have the Boston Bruins exactly where they want them at the moment.) Even if the Sharks come up short in Game 4 Friday night, it’s almost impossible to envision them not winning this series. The Red Wings are proud and willing, but the fact is they are depressingly unable against a Sharks team that is bigger, faster, stronger and more equipped to win big games.
Wait a minute, did I just write that? Yup. And if the Sharks continue to play the way they have, a lot of people will begin to believe it. When games go into overtime, though, you have to think the Sharks look around their dressing room and feel pretty good about their chances. They have a lot of talented players who can end the game in an instant and with every overtime win, their confidence in tight games continues to snowbank.
“We like our team,” Boyle said. “We like what we have. We like our goalie, we like our D-men and we like our forwards. We like what we have here and I like the character, too. Guys are doing a lot of things to find ways.”
Joe Thornton agreed, as he told the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch (another Sharks believer)...
“We’re just very, very comfortable,” said Sharks’ captain Joe Thornton, who had three assists, including one on the winning goal. “Our locker-room is really calm. We just take some deep breaths and we feel we’ve got so many gifted players that can end games at any time. We were lucky to get in overtime (Wednesday), but when we do, we’re perfect in overtime so far this year.”
Boyle, who contributed with two-point effort, said the Sharks are playing with determination.
“We’re just finding ways to win,” said Boyle. “This was their best game of the series by far. They gave us a good push and we were lucky a few times. But, you’ve got to find a way to win these games. Years from now, we’re not going to remember how it was won, just that we won. We were strong in all areas.”
And you probably find the tale that Devin Setoguchi told the press after his hat trick goal amusing, as Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Ray Ratto did:
Devin Setoguchi and Logan Couture spent a bit of the locker room time before the overtime period of San Jose’s 4-3 Game 3 win over Detroit bartering potential game-winning celebrations with each other. Setoguchi won.
“Well, if you really want to know, I looked over at Logan Couture and I said, ‘You better get (the game-winning goal) before I do, because I’ve already got my celebration ready to go.’” Setoguchi said after beating Jimmy Howard for the third time, 9:21 into overtime.“And he said, ‘So do I.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m going to go pull the (Cristiano) Ronaldo double-knee.’ And he said, ‘That was mine.’ So I said, ‘Well, I’ll try to beat you to it then.’ So it was kind of weird that it happened that way.”
Couture’s lawyers will be in touch. So will a lot of other Sharks and their supporters who will acknowledge that Setoguchi poached his team through a game in which they weren’t really the better team the majority of the time. Nobody remembers the celebration though, not even Ronaldo himself, if that helps. Setoguchi was kissed by God on this night, to the point where he could simply come on the ice and head for a soft spot on the Red Wings’ defensive coverage and have the puck magically appear on his tape
Which is exactly how he scored the game-winner and put the Sharks within a game of sweeping the Red Wings and within three games of scaring themselves half to death. He found an open place, Joe Thornton, who had done the heavy work carrying and chipping and retrieving the puck through all three zones, found him, and he beat the Detroit goalie low and clean.
“I saw Jumbo curl up the wall. Usually when he does that, he always looks to the middle for the quick pop play and for the shot, and I got it. (Wing center Henrik) Zetterberg was in the slot, just kind of right there, so I just tried to get it through his legs or by him quickly, and snuck one right past him (Howard). I don’t know why it happens that way sometimes,” he said. “Sometimes you work and work and things just sort of happen for you.
Before that happened—and Setoguchi didn’t “sneak one” by Howard, it was tipped accidentally by Henrik Zetterberg’s stick—Setoguchi had to sit through a penalty which he insisted he didn’t earn, as the Sharks’ website noted:
Before he could score the game winner, Setoguchi had to sweat out two minutes in the penalty box as he was given a questionable call where he was actually the one who was taken down. Nonetheless, the emotions were flying during the alone time.
“You’re not really thinking, you’re just saying ‘don’t score, don’t score, don’t score, don’t score, over and over in your head,” Setoguchi said. “To get the goal after taking the penalty and sitting there for two minutes was a good feeling.”
San Jose had surrendered two power play tallies to Detroit, but they were clutch when the penalty kill was called upon in the extra session.
“Props to our penalty kill, they did a great job on that power play,” Setoguchi said. “They are so lethal, it’s a tough job to contain them.”
Todd Bertuzzi would argue that Setoguchi grabbed him before Bertuzzi grabbed back, but the Wings, who went 2-for-4 on the power play, didn’t score, and it came back to bite ‘em.
Dan Boyle was equally amused by the fact that his game-tying goal managed to find the net, as he told the Mercury News’s David Pollak:
It was Boyle’s goal with 4:08 remaining in the third period that enabled the Sharks to extend the game beyond 60 minutes. And it was set up by a no-look pass from Kyle Wellwood as he headed to the corner with Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson draped over his back.
“I was just making an area pass over there and hoping to find somebody, and it ended up going right on his tape,” Wellwood said.
Did the Sharks forward sense Boyle or anybody else was there to take the pass?
“Just guessing, I guess,” said Wellwood. “I wouldn’t do it unless we were down by a goal with a couple minutes left. You don’t like to throw it without looking.”
The Sharks were outplayed by Detroit for much of the game as the Red Wings succeeded in their pregame plan to spend more time in the offensive zone. That didn’t change in overtime as San Jose was outshot 7-3, with one of those Red Wing shots coming while Setoguchi was serving a questionable holding penalty after getting entangled against the boards with Detroit forward Todd Bertuzzi.
“There’s no doubt they had better scoring opportunities in the overtime period,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “Our goaltender had to make a couple tremendous saves. We took a holding penalty that wasn’t very good. We needed that one opportunity, and I’m glad we ended it when we did.”
So Boyle was able to muse upon his team’s maturation to USA Today’s Kevin Allen...
“Our PK has been terrible all year,” Boyle said. “Arguably the biggest penalty kill we’ve had all year. It was a terrible call, I thought. We killed a huge power play and then win it. … Maybe that’s the evolution of our team, I don’t know, but we’re finding ways to win. We were lucky to get in overtime tonight.”
Thornton wasn’t sure where Setoguchi came from, but he spotted him with no coverage.
“I knew he had the hot hand, so I thought I’d better get it to him,” Thornton said. “I think he surprised Howard with his shot.”
McLellan did wag his finger at Setoguchi’s penchant for taking penalties, as the Detroit Free Press’s George Sipple noted…
“We’ll have to deal with that, but he’s got a tremendous trigger, puts himself in situations where he can shoot the puck, and he’s got a couple of very good players playing with him,” McLellan said.
And while the Mercury News’s Mark Purdy was somewhat circumspect about the Sharks’ victory…
“In overtime I’m not sure we were the better team,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “Our goaltender made some good saves, and we were opportunistic when we finally did get that chance.”
The Sharks are in terrific shape heading toward Friday night’s Game 4. But, man, did they have to fight and slog their way through a hard-knuckle Red Wings effort to get there. The historic odds now say that Detroit has just a 1.8 percent chance to come back and win the series. Throughout the NHL’s 84-year history, only three teams have accomplished that feat. But the Chicago Blackhawks nearly did it in the previous round, falling behind 3-0 to Vancouver and stretching the series to seven games before losing. Best, then, to finish off the Red Wings sooner rather than later. Last year in the same situation, the Sharks dropped Game 4 to Detroit in a 7-1 stinker, then won Game 5 at HP Pavilion to close out the series. No guarantee that it can happen again.
“We got away with one tonight,” McLellan said. “We’ll have to be better.”
And McLellan urged caution while speaking to Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Ratto...
San Jose has never swept a series, and is 0-1 in the only other 3-0 game they ever played, here in Detroit a year ago. Not just 0-1, but 0-1 by losing 7-1.
“We’ve tried very hard as a coaching staff to eliminate and separate last year’s series from this year’s,” head coach Todd McLellan said. “There will be a lot made out of the same date (May 4), overtime, and all that kind of stuff. It is completely irrelevant in my opinion. And I hope it is because we took one hell of a lickin’ in Game 4 last year.”
The Sharks are also halfway to equaling an overtime record…
The Sharks have won five of the 20 overtime games so far in these playoffs, six short of the record currently held by Montreal in 1993. In fact, the Habs were 10-1 in those 11 overtimes (San Jose is 5-0), and it marks the last time Montreal carried the Stanley Cup.
Which they touched upon while speaking to the Sharks’ website’s staff...
“If we get five more overtime wins, that would be something special,” Captain Joe Thornton said.
Before finding it utterly amusing that they defeated the Wings by the exact same tally as the Sharks did on May 4th, 2010…
“I think all the guys would be lying if they said they didn’t think about that a bit, especially when you’re on the bench and you’re down 3-2,” Clowe said. “You’re looking for that shot and Boyler’s had about six looks like that and it was only a matter of time before it went in. It crossed our mind when we got in the dressing room, let’s do it again.”
And while the Sharks kind-of-sort-of toed their coach’s line regarding the game…
“They played well,” Thornton said. “They outshot us for a little bit and their power play was very, very good tonight. We knew they were going to come out and play strong and they did. They are a very tough team to beat here in Detroit.”
“It was their best night (of the series) and probably not ours,” Boyle said. “We still found a way to win. The power play came up huge and the penalty kill, that was a big kill in overtime. Our penalty kill finds a way.”
“They probably outplayed us a little bit and were harder in the areas we were in Games 1 and 2,” Ryane Clowe said. “You’re not going to play a perfect series.”
“You never know what’s going to happen,” [Antti] Niemi said. “I think we were able to keep the pressure up so they didn’t have too many really good open chances. It’s been great, we’ve been able to step our game at the most important moments.”
And Thornton praised enemy-turned-teammate Niemi’s 38-save performance while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan…
“You learn a lot about a guy’s work ethic, and it’s just spectacular,” Thornton said. “He’s a tremendous goalie.He’s the backbone of this team (and) gives us a ton of confidence, knowing that we can win game 2-1 or 1-0.”
They all but puffed out their chests and did an, ahem, rooster’s strut while speaking about their composure to NHL.com’s Dave Lozo...
“I think with the depth up front, we’re more comfortable late in games when you’re down one goal because we feel like we can get it any time,” Thornton said.”
“You can’t panic. There’s too many of us old guys in here who’ve been in that situation,” Boyle said. “You have to elevate your play. But no, there’s no sense of panic.”
There wasn’t any panic in Setoguchi, who not only took a penalty in overtime but was also in the penalty box for Datsyuk’s power-play goal. Setoguchi and Sharks showed a been-there, done-that attitude, because, well, they’ve been there and they’ve done that.
“When you’ve been in situations before, it’s just experience,” Setoguchi said. “We have guys here now this year that have been in that position last year. You’re less nervous, you’re more calm, you’ve got more poise. It definitely helps out.”
And Ryane Clowe all but declared the lack of deference by the media disrespectful (dunno if he’s noticed that the NHL’s press corps lavish the Sharks, Canucks, Capitals, Penguins and Blackhawks with more gushy-mushy praise-dripping-from-their-keyboards praise than they do the Wings), as duly noted by an willing-to-oblige Pierre LeBrun from ESPN:
“It’s funny before the series because people talked about how Detroit had a better team, they were more hungry, they weren’t beat up this time; we didn’t get a lot of credit before the series,” Clowe said. “Obviously the series is far from over yet, but I think the experience and leadership is finally shining through right now. It’s crazy that we’re in the exact same position here once again.”
Coach Mike Babcock’s Wings, meanwhile, deserve a better fate than being down 3-0. They played their best game of the series Wednesday night, and all three games have been decided by one goal. But that’s just the thing, right? When the Wings were winning their four Stanley Cups over the past two decades, they were the team managing to win by a goal.
“The third period, to me, we were a bit careful,” Babcock said.
The Wings sat on a 3-2 lead in the third period instead of continuing to press with what had been their best forecheck and offensive zone pressure of the series in the opening two periods. But San Jose took over in the third period, outshooting the Wings 16-8.
“They’re finding a way; that’s what good teams do,” Babcock said of the Sharks.
It’s as if Joe Thornton figuratively as well as literally looked down his nose at NHL.com’s Lozo when he answered the following question:
Q: Will Game 4 see Detroit bring even more pressure for you guys?
A: Absolutely. They’re a proud, proud group over there. They’re going to fight you. They don’t want to get swept. We got to be ready for them.
Cue the Sporting News’s Craig Custance, suggesting that, “Teams can change—and the Sharks are living proof”:
[Sharks GM Doug] Wilson kept the stars that were heavily criticized, like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, and surrounded them with Clowes, Pavelskis and Coutures. The group has molded into the perfect mix of talent and grit. One that is thriving when the pressure is highest. And really, it’s almost strange to say that about the Sharks. But it’s not strange to hear these words from Pavelski. Not anymore.
“When it was crunch time,” he said, “we got the job done.”
The transformation can happen.
Cue TSN’s Ray Ferraro, too, via the Mercury News’s Pollak, who notes that Dany Heatley was fine after getting “Kronwalled”:
“I think they’re more aware that there is a long way to go, and they’ve won six games and they need 10 more,” he said. “In the past, I think they’ve lost being on task—like when you were a school kid, they told you to stay on task. They’ve lost the task. This year,” he continued, “I think it’s just more realization that we need everybody, that I’m not going to score every night, I don’t care who scores. If we get to the next round, that’s a good thing. That’s what it looks like to me. And I think it’s pretty clear.”
If you wish to read Puck Daddy’s 3 star selection, which spotlights Setoguchi, Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon’s take on the game or The Hockey News’s take, which suggests that it’s “ye olde size and strengthe” that’s coming into play, that’s fine.
As I’m a partisan Wings fan, however, I can’t read much more of it without throwing my laptop (which would derail the blogging thing), so we’ll shift focus to the Red Wings’ side of the story via an ugly stat from the AP’s Larry Lage (who also points out that a few octopi were thrown onto the ice, presumably by fans who don’t mind a disorderly conduct charge on their criminal record)...
The Sharks’ last seven wins in the postseason against Detroit have been by one goal. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs have done that, beating the Montreal Canadiens by a goal in seven straight victories from the 1947 to 1959 playoffs, according to STATS, LLC.
Who noted that the team most likely to have to spend the next season or two trying to be known as something more than, “The Sharks’ stepping stone and/or speed bump” chose to embrace the usual 1.8% chance of success’s worth of cliches after the game:
“We know what we have to do or it’s over,” Red Wings star Nicklas Lidstrom said.
The storied franchise has history - and a hot team - working against it. Just three teams in NHL history, including Philadelphia last year, have won a series after trailing 0-3.
“I’m going to spend no time worrying about the series,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re going to spend our time preparing for one game.”
The Wings hope to jinx Antti Niemi in a specific statistical category, as DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose noted…
Nobody has ever won back-to-back Stanley Cup titles with two different teams. However, Niemi, who won a Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks last spring, is playing like he could be the first. He has made 119 saves on 124 shots – that’s a .960 save percentage – against the Wings. Niemi was also helped out by his teammates, who blocked 24 shots, including seven by defenseman Douglas Murray.
Later on, the Wings finally put a puck past Niemi, tying the game at 1-1, with 22-seconds left in the first period. With Niemi and Boyle sprawled in the crease, Nicklas Lidstrom took a between-the-legs pass from Henrik Zetterberg and fired a shot from the slot over the Sharks’ fallen pair. The goal was the 29th power-play goal in Lidstrom’s legendary postseason career, tying the Wings’ captain with Mario Lemieux for fifth-place in NHL playoff history.
And then there’s this:
In their history, the Wings are 0-10 in best-of-seven playoff series when they start in a 0-3 hole. They have been swept eight times.
Let’s stick with the Wings’ website for a moment, as Jeff Sanford reports that NIklas Kronwall’s hit on Dany Heatley didn’t do any lasting damage…
“He’s fine,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of Heatley. “He came back. It was a hell of a hit. It took a lot of courage to pick himself up and get off the ice. He came back and played admirably.”
Kronwall’s big hit could be construed as a bit of revenge for the Wings D-man. Late in the second period of Sunday’s game, Heatley knocked Kronwall off his feet in Detroit’s zone before Kronwall could see him coming. Kronwall didn’t look too shook up on the play, but it undoubtedly lingered in the defenseman’s memory. And it’s hard to imagine that Kronwall wasn’t reminded of that very hit when he had Heatley in his crosshairs in Game 3.
The hit came as Heatley was chasing down a loose puck in the San Jose zone. He had his head down as he approached the puck. Kronwall raced past the blue line at full speed and connected with the unsuspecting Heatley, upending the Sharks forward and laying him out on the ice — an image that’s prime for ending up on a poster someday. Heatley stayed down for a few moments before getting up on his knees, thinking twice about skating away too soon. Play was stopped for the downed Heatley.
Of the Red Wings’ players, most did their best to say the right things to the media, but Jimmy Howard chose not to hold his temper (though shaking a Gatorade bottle kept Henrik Zetterberg from telling an encroaching cavalcade of microphones from getting the hell out of his face). Howard missed Setoguchi’s second goal when Setoguchi fanned on the puck (so it rolled off his blade and into the far corner), could only get the tip of his trapper on Dan Boyle’s game-tying goal, and watched Setoguchi’s gamer trickle off Henrik Zetterberg’s stick and past his blocker, and so a goaltender who battled his way to 34 saves and has served as the Wings’ backbone player not named Lidstrom, Datsyuk or Zetterberg felt that a 3-0 deficit means there’s no time left for mincing words, as NHL.com’s Brian Hedger noted:
“I thought we deserved to win,” Howard said. “Point blank, I thought we deserved to win. It’s playoff hockey. It happens. What can I say? It’s tough.”
It’s also hard to stomach for a team that was convinced it would take this game and make it a new series after dropping the first two games in San Jose – both by 2-1 margins with Game 1 also an overtime loss. On the one hand, it’s domination. On the other hand, it’s just a bounce here or a rebound there between being a completely different scenario.
“It just shows how fine of a line it is between both teams and it could go either way,” said Howard, who got his glove on Dan Boyle’s game-tying goal with 4:08 left in the third but couldn’t hold it. “They’re just finding a way to win.”
Just as frustrating as Boyle’s goal was the game-winner by Setoguchi, who had a hat trick and placed the Wings precariously in the Sharks’ jaws for a second-straight postseason – all in one fell swoop. Setoguchi fired it off the rush from the right circle shortly after San Jose’s Antti Niemi came up big at the other end to help kill off a Detroit power play in OT.
“Knuckled,” Howard said of the puck. “It flipped up on his stick when he shot it and it came in flipping end over end. Those are tough to read.”
Howard suggested that he and his teammates will take a defiant attitude into Friday’s game…
“Why not us?” Howard shot back, when asked what kind of approach the Wings needed to take for Game 4 on Friday. “That’s the mentality I think we have to have is, ‘Why not?’ Just work for one. You got to work for your bounces. We’ve got to continue to keep going and hopefully the tide will turn, because right now they continue to work and work and work and they’re finding a way.”
Brad Stuart could only remain quiet and blunt while he spoke about the Wings’ situation to the Ottawa Sun’s Garrioch...
“We’ve put ourselves in a big hole,” said Wings defenceman Brad Stuart. “We’re just looking at desperation games now. We’ve got to win. We had a good effort, but when you have the lead in the third period you’ve got to hold onto it and we didn’t. That’s the bottom line. You’re going to find yourselves in those situtations night in and night out in the playoffs. The team that can get it done is going to win. We haven’t done that.”
But there was an additional sentence which Stuart uttered to the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell,and it says it all:
“We haven’t found a way to win those games,” Detroit defenceman Brad Stuart said. “This time of year, it’s what it’s all about, giving what you have to when it’s on the line in the third period. We didn’t do it. It’s two years in a row now. Exact same thing, very disappointing.”
The Wings hid no disdain for their inability to kill the Sharks’ power plays while speaking to Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji (and as Game 4 and a possible Game 5 would air on national TV, you’re gonna have to hope that the Wings get to Game 6 or 7 if you want to hear Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond call a Wings game again before September):
The Wings rank 15th out of 16 playoff teams on the penalty kill, allowing 10 goals on 33 opportunities for a 69.7 percentage.
“That’s one area obviously that they’ve been way better than us,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We have to come up with something to prevent that from happening because right now, it seems like they’re real taking advantage of it. If we would have had a better PK tonight, the outcome would have been different.”
Stuart said the Sharks have had all the “puck luck” on their side.
“They’re getting in the zone, I think, a little too easy on us and you look at the two goals tonight—unlucky plays,” Stuart said. “A play that should go around the glass and to the blue line hits the glass, comes right back out front. The other one, he misses a shot and it somehow finds its way into the net. They’re getting in the zone and setting up well. But to me, it’s been unlucky bounces, unfortunate.”
They weren’t happy with their finish, either, as the Detroit News’s Chris McCosky noted:
“I thought, to me, it looked like we got a little careful in the third period,” coach Mike Babcock said.
That’s putting it mildly. The Sharks peppered 18 of their 38 shots at goalie Jimmy Howard in the final 10 minutes of the third. Howard was strong, but the Sharks finally got one past him, a blast by Dan Boyle, with 4:08 left.
“We talked about not backing in during the second intermission,” captain Nick Lidstrom said. “We talked about keep going after them if we could, but they were coming after us with everything they had.”
And then there was Jonathan Ericsson, who told the Detroit Free Press’s Helene St. James that he was certain the Wings would prevail in overtime, but finished at a -2—as did Brian Rafalski, who’s apparently nursing a sore knee—and found himself exposed on the Sharks’ game-winning goal:
“I thought we had it going there in overtime,” defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “We were really wearing on their D and their forwards, and they were getting tired down in their own end. We had a lot of chances, but the puck didn’t want to bounce our way. They had one, not even a really good scoring chance, and they capitalized.”
The Wings outshot San Jose, 7-3, in overtime, but one bullish shift by Joe Thornton made the difference for the Sharks. He got the puck in his own zone and rushed up the right side, turning around Ericsson and finding Devin Setoguchi as he came on during a shift change. Setoguchi sent the puck stickside on Jimmy Howard.
Ericsson explained the play to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“By the time (Thornton) laid the puck behind me, I didn’t really know where the puck was,” Ericsson said. “I turned inside to make sure he didn’t get inside on me. Mule (Johan Franzen) was coming, too, and we both kind of had a little bit of pressure on him. I think we had five guys back in the D-zone and they had two.”
The Wings got caught staring at Thornton, however, and in the end, Zetterberg accidentally tipped the puck by his own goalie.
As such, the Wings didn’t duck for cover regarding the reasons why they lost:
“It is frustrating,” Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart said. “We certainly were doing the things we wanted to do. Again they find a way to win. That’s what it’s all about this time of year. They’ve just been better at that than we have. I wish I could give you a great explanation. It just comes down to they’ve gotten timely goals and we haven’t.”
“We didn’t score enough goals to win the game, simple as that,” the Red Wings’ Niklas Kronwall said. “We had momentum going (in overtime), we had chances, we just couldn’t bear down.”
And while Kronwall put things bluntly while speaking to the CBC’s series blogger...
“Of course you can’t be in a tougher spot, being down 3-0,” Kronwall said. “Not a lot of teams have made it back.”
The Wings also believe that their margin for error—or success—really is razor thin…
“In a one-goal game, one little mistake can decide a game and thats what were seeing so far,” Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.
Wings coach Mike Babcock credited the Sharks for unearthing a route to victory on a night when it appeared they would finish second best.
“They’re finding a way,” Babcock said. “That’s what good teams do. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially when you’re down 2-0. We tilted the rink pretty good. We had a lot of opportunities.”
And Kronwall told the Free Press’s Helene St. James that the Wings aren’t afraid of being swept by the team that defeated Detroit in five games a year ago:
“I don’t think anybody’s thinking about that,” Niklas Kronwall said. “This year’s a new year, we’re still in the same situation. Right now we just have to try to put this behind us and rest up and be ready to go on Friday.”
“We’re close,” Lidstrom said. “We’re right there with them. It’s just a matter of paying attention to details, coverage in our own zone, and all the games have been so close. A one-goal game, one little mistake can decide a game—and that’s what we’re seeing so far.”
Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he thought his team didn’t skate particularly well, didn’t have enough guys going. But they were going when they needed it most, in the third period, when they outshot the Wings, 16-8.
“That’s the way sports are sometimes,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “You battle and you create chances and then all of a sudden they get one and they score. We just gotta react to this and come back and play a good Game 4.”
Zetterberg continued, rather insistently, while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
“We need to focus on the next game,” Zetterberg said. “That’s all we can do here. We need to win one game, the next one at home and then go down (to San Jose) and play a good road game.”
But I don’t need to tell you how devastating Wednesday night’s loss was, nor do I need to tell you that Detroit’s sports columnists believe that the series is over, too. The Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo suggests as much…
The Red Wings didn’t take advantage of a power-play opportunity in the overtime. Devin Setoguchi stuck it to the Red Wings not long afterward, scoring the game-winning goal for the Sharks. It is a profound disappointment for the Red Wings and their fans. The expectation every year is to win the Stanley Cup. That was especially true this season. But the season essentially ended Wednesday. The Red Wings chances of rallying against the Sharks are slim or none - and leaning strongly toward none.
“The teams are so evenly matched, it’s a bounce or a break here or there,“ San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. “They went our way tonight.”
Thing is, they always go the Sharks’ way in the playoffs vs. the Red Wings. Well, at least the last two years. The Red Wings have now lost seven one-goal games to San Jose the last two springs in the Western Conference semifinals.
“They’re finding a way. That’s what good teams do,” Babcock said. “When you win a series with four one-goal wins, you don’t think it’s that tight, only that you found a way to win.”
The Red Wings can save some face Friday. But that’s about it. Seems sudden, but it is that inevitable.
The Detroit News’s Terry Foster agrees…
The Wings can sting and move like bees like they did in the first period; they outhit the Sharks 17-3 during one stretch. But they cannot stun the Sharks, who are about to make easy prey of them.
Whether it is blind luck or good fortune, the Sharks endure. The Wings showed grit and determination in grabbing a 3-2 lead late in the game. But the Sharks are relentless. They are pest that won’t go away. And the bigger and more-physical team appears to be wearing down the Wings.
In a series where a coin flip has decided all three games, you cannot expect the Wings to roll heads in four straight games. They might win Friday at home, but this series won’t go much further. The Sharks are the better team. The Sharks are the more-fortunate team. They are also the team with Devin Setoguchi, who scored three goals, including the winner in overtime.
The Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski offers a similar assessment, albeit with a little more decorum than Foster, who goes on to describe the Wings’ flaws as about to be pored over like “blemishes and zits.” Wojnowski suggests that the Wings simply can’t shake their pursuer...
The Red Wings were intent on shaking off the nerves, banging from the opening faceoff. The problem was, there’s still the little issue of putting the puck in the net. Oh, and that piddlin’ penalty problem too. Sure enough, the Sharks struck first on the power play, with Setoguchi slamming in a rebound, and suddenly the Joe was full of nervous persons.
The Red Wings kept hitting and Datsyuk kept skating and hitting, and really, that’s all they can do against their frustrating nemesis, just try to hang in. Zetterberg missed the first-round sweep of the Coyotes with a knee injury, and it wasn’t until the third period of Game 2 in San Jose that he really began to move.
Not enough help Before the Red Wings could be lit, Zetterberg had to be lit, and he was. Datsyuk had shown it all series, but the other forwards — Johan Franzen, Todd Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary — still haven’t matched the Sharks’ production.
When Patrick Eaves scored on a rebound off the hustle of Darren Helm, the Red Wings briefly led 2-1. If energy and hope were to return after back-to-back 2-1 losses in San Jose, this was where and when it had to happen, no questions asked, no excuses offered. It happened for a while, but not long enough. Could the misery actually happen again against the Sharks, in almost the exact same way? It could, and it is.
Ahead 3-2 after a significantly better second period than it played in San Jose, Detroit lost some momentum in the third. The Wings were outshot, 16-8, in the period, and they gave up the tying goal, by Dan Boyle. With seven 20-goal scorers and an accomplished defense, the Sharks are now established as a team the Wings can’t defeat in a game, let alone in a playoff series.
Barring a miraculous comeback, general manager Ken Holland and Babcock might spend much of the coming offseason discussing how the Wings can play more in the way of the Sharks next year. San Jose is now 11-2 in its last 13 games against Detroit.
The Detroit News’s John Niyo offered a Jimmy Howard-centered perspective...
Which team was better Wednesday night? The team that won, or the team that didn’t?
“We deserved to win,” Howard said. “Point-blank, I thought we deserved to win.”
And Howard, who entered the game with a .952 save percentage in this series, knows that hardly matters now, with the Wings facing a mountain only a few teams in NHL history have managed to climb.
“You’ve got to work for your bounces,” Howard said, trying his best to shrug off the defeat. “So we’ve got to just continue to keep going, and hopefully the tide will turn. “Why not us? That’s the mentality that you have to have. Why not?”
Well, that’s playoff hockey for you, in a nutshell. The Wings are left asking questions, because the Sharks have all the answers.
It should come as no surprise that the Detroit Free Press’s “Evil Drew Sharp II,” Michael Rosenberg, takes it over the top while talking about Setoguchi’s 2-2 goal (and the italics are his, not mine):
And 50 seconds later, San Jose hit a home run on a strikeout. It was ridiculous. Setoguchi took a mighty whack at the puck, barely touched it, and Howard braced for the cannonball and missed the butterfly. The puck trickled into the net. The game was tied at 2, and Howard’s most glaring flaws were on display for the whole hockey-watching world to see: He does not have eyes in the back of his head, and he struggles to anticipate the supernatural. I can only conclude that if ghosts ever sneak up behind Howard, he is going to get a serious wedgie.
That, however, is a problem for another day. What matters now is that even after all that, the Wings still should have won. They took the lead late in the second period when Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg simply Datsyuked and Zetterberged their way around San Jose goalie Antti Niemi.
Then they got a little tight and gave up that tying goal, and that just made the finish more excruciating. They dominated overtime, got a fortunate whistle from the refs ... and lost. Now they are down, 3-0, in the series, and when you fall behind, 3-0, you are like an unwelcome houseguest. People are too polite to ask you to leave, but they look at their watches and yawn a lot.
Get ready for an awkward couple of days. The Red Wings won’t take the hint and just leave, and I can’t fault them for that. But they’re looking up at an 89-degree hill right now, and the hill is greased, and their hands are tied to their feet and they can’t even see the top.
Now I know as much as anybody that the Wings’ climb is very literally vertical right now, and that the wall is sheer, but I’m a Wings fan, so I’m going to do my best to enjoy the fact that there’s one more game left, hope that Nicklas Lidstrom believes that there’s another season left in his legs—and I believe that he does—and just go from there for now. I’ll try and call in a favor on Friday (more on that after Friday’s game), and from there, I’ll allow DetroitRedWings.com’s Michael Caples to offer a few intriguing stats from his “Breakdown”...
36: Hits by the Wings. The Sharks had 20.
24: Shots the Sharks blocked in Game 3. The Wings blocked 11.
13: Takeaways by the Wings, while the Sharks only had 5.
Hockeytown Hero: The duo nicknamed ‘The Eurotwins’ led the Wings’ offense Wednesday night. Datsyuk and Zetterberg were the catalysts for two of Detroit’s three goals, with Datsyuk scoring on a feed from his friend late in the second period. They combined for 45:35 worth of ice-time, three points, and six shots. Both played substantial time on the power play and the penalty kill, and were the Wings’ biggest threats on offense.
And I’d prefer to let the players and coach have the last words, via the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
Mike Babcock, “I’m going to spend no time worrying about the series. We’re going to spend our time preparing for one game. (Coming back from a 3-0 deficit has) been done three times in NHL history. It was done last year by Philly.”
Howard, “You gotta work for your bounces. We’ve got to continue to keep going and hopefully the tide will turn because right now they continue to work and work and work and they’re finding a way. We just have to continue to work hard and hopefully it will turn.”
MLive’s Ansar Khan...
“Well, we’re close. We’re right there with them,” Lidstrom said. “It’s just a matter of paying attention to details, coverage in our own zone and all the games have been so close. A one-goal game, one little mistake can decide a game—and that’s what we’re seeing so far.”
Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said he doesn’t feel like the Sharks have his team’s number. And he wasn’t thinking about last year when his team had a 3-2 lead in the second intermission.
“I don’t think anybody’s thinking about that,” Kronwall said. “This year’s a new year, we’re still in the same situation. Right now we just have to try to put this behind us and rest up and be ready to go on Friday (for Game 4). We still believe in what we have in here. I thought tonight we took one step forward and hopefully we can come out with an even better effort on Friday.”
“I think (Wednesday) was our best game,” Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “We just got to stick with it and do the little things right and we’re going to end up winning it. We all feel like we can do it. We just have to come together here and do things right and things are going to come our way.”
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun...
“You don’t think about what happened last year,” said Lidstrom. “This is a new season, a new playoffs and we know what we have to do in Game 4. We have to go out there and just win one game to force this into another game. We know what’s at hand. You have to break it down and not look at the big picture.”
“I think we did a lot of good things,” said Zetterberg. “I think they did a lot of good things, too. But they scored more goals than we did. Couldn’t really find a way to stop them on their power play. They scored a few goals there.”
What is it going to take to beat these Sharks?
“If we knew, I think we would change that,” said Zetterberg. “They’re good players and when you give them room, they execute when they have their chances. I think our power play was pretty good, too, today. Most of the time, that’s what decides series like this, and when it’s a tight game, it’s the special teams that need to be good.”
And Lidstrom himself, who engaged in a Q and A with NHL.com’s Brian Hedger:
Q: It’s a big hole you’re in, but it looks like anything is possible nowadays. Is that what you have to cling to?
A: We just have to get ready for that next game. We know what we have to do. Otherwise it’s over. The mentality is just going in there and winning one game, just winning that Game 4.
That’s all the Wings, or their fans, can hope for.
Highlights: ESPN posted a 3-minute highlight clip which includes analysis from Mathtew Barnaby;
TSN posted a 2:33 highlight clip;
Sportsnet posted a 2:14 highlight clip;
The CBC posted a 2:20 highlight clip;
Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area posted a 3-minute highlight clip;
And NHL.com’s highlight clip is narrated by TSN’s announcers:
Post-game: TSN posted Ray Ferraro’s on-ice interview with Devin Setoguchi, Steve Kouleas and Craig Button gush about the Sharks’ play without the puck, and post-game comments from Setoguchi, Ryane Clowe and Dan Boyle, Todd McLellan’s six-minute post-game presser and Mike Babcock’s post-game presser;
Fox Sports Detroit, which may have aired its last game of the 2010-2011 season, posted Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s take on the game and interviews with Nicklas Lidstrom, Jimmy Howard and Henrik Zetterberg, as well as a snippet of Mike Babcock’s post-game presser
WXYZ posted Tom Leyden’s post-game report, which includes comments from Mike Babcock, Jimmy Howard, Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg:
The Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell posted a clip of Zetterberg speaking to the media. If you hear a shaking sound, Leyden revealed on Twitter that it was Zetterberg shaking the Gatorade bottle in his hand, angrily:
The Detroit News posted clips of Lidstrom, Zetterberg and Howard’s comments:
And the Red Wings’ website posted clips of Babcock’s presser….
Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Brad Stuart’s comments:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 32-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 49-image gallery;
The Mercury News embedded a 51-image Flash gallery in its recap;
Yahoo Sports posted a 42-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 16-image gallery;
There are some Reuters images in Daylife’s photo gallery;
The CBC posted a 9-image gallery in its recap;
Shots 41-38 Detroit overall, breaking down as 12-11 Detroit in the 1st period, 14-8 Detroit in the 2nd period, 16-8 San Jose in the 3rd period and 7-3 Detroit in OT.
The Wings went 2-for-4 in 6:38 of PP time; the Sharks went 2-for-4 in 5:35 of PP time.
Howard stopped 34 of 38; Niemi stopped 38 of 41.
The Wings’ goals: Lidstrom (2) from Zetterberg (1) and Holmstrom (4);
Eaves (3) from Helm (3) and Draper (1);
Datsyuk (3) from Zetterberg (2) and Lidstrom (3).
The 3 stars, per Pierre LeBrun, are Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Devin Setoguchi.
Faceoffs 35-31 San Jose (47% won by Detroit);
Blocked shots 24-11 San Jose;
Missed shots 16-11 Detroit (total attempts 81-60 Detroit);
Hits 36-20 Detroit;
Giveaways 9-4 Detroit;
Takeaways 13-5 Detroit.
Faceoffs Datsyuk went 13-and-6 (68%); Zetterberg went 6-and-10 (38%); Filppula went 5-and-6 (45%); Draper went 2-and-2 (50%); Helm went 2-and-2 (50%); Abdelkader went 1-and-3 (25%); Eaves went 0-and-2; Franzen went 0-and-2; Cleary went 1-and-1; Hudler went 1-and-1.
Shots: Datsyuk, Salei and Hudler co-led the team with 5 shots; Ericsson had 4; Abdelkader, Rafalski and Holmstrom had 3; Lidstrom, Eaves, Stuart, Bertuz
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.