Another year, another team fumbling a 3-0 series lead and having to face the music with a spot in the conference finals on the line in a Game 7 at home. That’s the position the San Jose Sharks find themselves in after falling to the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 in Game 6 from Joe Louis Arena.
A wild and exciting affair saw the teams head to the third period knotted up at 0-0 after seeing stellar goaltending performances from both Antti Niemi and Jimmy Howard, the third period is where business picked up in a big way.
The Sharks were first to strike as Logan Couture was able to squeeze one through Jimmy Howard’s legs just 3:54 into the period. The goal gave the Sharks a lift as they struggled keeping up with the Red Wings all game long, a game that saw them get outshot 42-24 in the end. The Wings, much like they’ve shown all playoffs long, came right back.
At 10:38 of the period, Niklas Kronwall would rip a shot from the point that Henrik Zetterberg would get a tip on in front of Niemi to make the puck dive past the goalie and into the net to tie the game at 1-1. Just under two minutes later, the Wings would push action again back up the ice and with the defense flowing to Pavel Datsyuk, he hit a streaking Valtteri Filppula who beat a scrambling Niemi to put the Wings ahead 2-1.
Unlike in past Sharks games, however, the push back after the Wings’ goals wasn’t immediate and suffocating. Instead the Red Wings still found ways to control play. Another late penalty by Justin Abdelkader with 6:36 to play would give the Sharks an opportunity to even things up, but they couldn’t cash in. Darren Helm added an empty net goal to provide the series with its first two goal victory.
Detroit’s play in this game without Johan Franzen and Kris Draper as Mike Modano and Jiri Hudler in their stead was their first truly dominant effort of the series. Having it come in Game 6 should be a very disturbing development for the Sharks. The Sharks have had every reason to end this series immediately. Not finishing off a veteran and playoff-tested team like Detroit means trouble and now the Sharks have it in bunches because Detroit is firing on all cylinders.
Game 7 is like Thunderdome. Throw out anything that’s happened already and just sit back and enjoy the mayhem. We’re not about to go playing sports psychologist here and trying to figure out what the Sharks glitches might be. The point here is that they’re being outplayed by the Wings and badly. As good as the Sharks were earlier in this series the Wings are just as good now and they’re getting great play from everyone. Datsyuk continues to amaze, Zetterberg is playing great, Dan Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi are playing well on their wings, and most of all, Jimmy Howard is playing out of his mind.
Things are lining up against the Sharks right now but Game 7 can erase all of the bad memories fast. A lucky bounce, a good break, a key penalty, anything can swing one game. Expect that both teams will come out on fire as the Sharks want to avoid the most embarrassing collapse in their team’s playoff history while the Red Wings would love to make some positive memories of their own against the Sharks in historic manner.