Tuesday, May 01, 2007

4-30-07: Sharks 2, Red Wings 1

Notice how I conveniently skipped blogging the game the Sharks lost? This is part of my master plan to inspire them to win more. I figured they’d be so shamed by my refusal to talk about them that they’d have to come back with a better game, and behold! It worked! Obviously the entire fate of the series rests in my hands.

1. What did we learn from last game? Getting 2 very early goals and trying to hold that for the duration is not necessarily a perfect winning strategy. Also, that the people of Detroit are not in fact dead, they just don’t bother waking up until they’re confident of a win. But never mind that, because now we return to SJ, where the fans are consistently much more lively (by American standards, anyway), and the Sharks do know how to put on a good show for the hometown crowd. They were down in the first, looking thoroughly flat, power play going absolutely nowhere, and the Wings seeming quite determined to keep the momentum from the last game, irate Californians notwithstanding. But the beauty of the Shark’s style is that all they really need is one good shift to grab all the momentum back- once that top line digs in around the opposing net, something interesting is going to happen one way or another. The only good way to play them (as far as I can tell) is to try to keep the game moving up and down the ice and well off the boards. Easier said than done.

2. Break out your train-themed puns, because it’s time to heap copious praise on Cheechoo. In spite of my lack of writing, I’ve watched pretty much every game in the playoffs barring those that were at contradictory times, and Cheechoo’s game-winner tonight was easily my favorite goal thus far, not just stylish and timely, but interesting- it’s going to get a lot of replay in the coming days, and well worth watching a couple of times for the sheer elegance of it. Toss in a couple of excellent defensive plays, and I’ve got my choice for first star.

3. This is not to deride the contributions of the Sharkses collectively. Praise and props to Lolita, who held them in it through a pretty miserable first period. Of course, nobody needs to be told that Thornton is… well, I’m still trying to come up with words for what exactly it is that he does, but he definitely does it better than anyone else. And we are continuing to love pretty much everything about Grier, the man’s just a very clever player. They’ve got habibi Rivet playing mega minutes, paired with McLaren now, and while he’s not finding his point shot as effective against the Wings as it was versus the Preds, he’s looking great defensively- so much so that I’m starting to hear the occasional Habs-fan whisper that we should try to re-acquire him (Fickle, fickle Habistanis, let him stay with the Sharks. He should, if they’ve got the money and the interest- I doubt he’ll be very expensive, and really, he works so much better in their style than ours). Poor Marleau, though, the effort was there but not the results.

4. Apparently being from Newfoundland is only slightly less freakish to the hockey world than being from Japan, because every shift that Clowe gets on the ice the commentators feel compelled to remind us that he’s a Newfie. Really! He is! Isn’t that interesting? Fascinating! And Cleary is from Newfoundland as well! Amazing! It’s a MIRACLE! Fact is, I’m not sure why I’m supposed to be so excited about this. I’ve been watching a Newfoundlandish guy all season, and the analysts on RDS never seemed particularly excited about it. And, might I point out, that an early TSN poll found our Newfie to be more popular than either of those who actually made the playoffs. If he keeps playing like this, though, Clowe is going to change that in short order. 2 points in the game, 4 goals in the playoffs, and getting better every damn night.

5. Still, all things being equal, I’d be much happier if SJ could figure out what the hell is up with the power play. Detroit is giving them so many opportunities to practice it, so it’s a terrible shame not to make more of them, and especially to let so many pass with so few shots-on-goal.

So up 2-1 now, which is not as good as 3-0 but certainly better than all the other alternatives. Hopefully they make the best of their very advantageous home ice and head back to Detroit with the series in reach and the Wings backed into a corner- ‘cause we all know the Sharks have the edge when it comes to the corners. Detroit’s good, but they don’t seem to have anything that the Sharks can’t handle, and SJ’s size advantage seems to easily push them into taking penalties. Still, if the Sharks make the mistake of hanging back too much, they could readily find themselves going to 7 on this one. Let's not do that.

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