Shark-Infested Blogger

May 6, 2010 1:13 AM

San Jose Has More Mighty Joes than Detroit

Two Joes are better than one: The Detroit Red Wings have the famed Joe Louis Arena, but it turned out to be no match for the San Jose Sharks combination of Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton.

In addition to the mystique of one of the most storied buildings in the NHL--one the Sharks have won in only eight times in 44 tries--Detroit has one of the best bluelines to match up against the opposition. Coach Mike Babcock sent out his prime pair of Niklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski to shut down Pavelski's line often in Game Three, and held the blossoming superstar to one assist.

4552963642_86e3d9ee42.jpgHowever, it turns out that when the opposition finally has the sense to put the best defensive matchups against the "DR. J" line (Devin, Ryane, and Joe), the Burger Line (Jumbo-Heater-Patty) is able to produce.

After getting only one goal and seven assists collectively in the opening round, the Big Three have stepped up against Detroit. Both Dany Heatley and Thornton have five points through three games. Patrick Marleau may have only one point in two games, but it was the game winning goal in overtime of Game Three.

The Sharks have been hearing for years about their lack of resilience. About their inability to get scoring from more than one line. About their stars not playing their best in the biggest games.

And that is just from me. One other accusation I have made: San Jose gets complacent, lacks killer instinct, and cannot close.

They could easily have let up losing 3-1 almost 80 percent of the way through the game with a 2-0 series lead, but they showed a lack of quit and an abundance of killer instinct. To a man, they still contend that the fourth win will be the hardest to get.

In this series, they have outscored Detroit 5-1 in the third period, and hold a 42-25 edge in shots in the final period. And the Big Three is responsible for three of those goals, showing the stars are coming through.

In other words, as the game wanes, it is their opponents that wane along with the clock. The vaunted closers, two-time defending conference champions, the team with more Stanley Cup championships over the last 15 seasons than any other (four).

But the Sharks are exploiting three of their chief advantages: goaltending, youth and size.

By the final stanza, the smaller, older Red Wings are worn down and no longer faster than their opponents and have to resort to pre-lockout hockey--interference, hooking, and tripping. In this series, the referees are calling that tighter than they probably should be, but the reason the Wings are being called for almost twice the penalties is they are the ones pushing the boundaries along those lines.

And then there is the goalie play: After a series in which he was phenomenal but outplayed by his counterpart, Evgeni Nabokov has been average but just good enough to out-perform Calder Trophy finalist Jimmy Howard.

Nabby has given up three goals in all three games with a save percentage of .899. He has been the recipient of one more hard-luck goal off the foot of Douglas Murray, and has not given up a soft or even questionable goal while making several impressive saves.

His counterpart gave up a soft goal that tied the score, has given up four goals in all three games, and has a save percentage of .886. He has probably made a couple more acrobatic saves than Nabby, but clearly does not have the positioning the veteran does.

The Sharks have the chance to do the unthinkable Thursday, 4:30 pm PDT: SWEEP THE RED WINGS! And they had better close this out in one of the next two games, or they will let Joe Louis get up off the mat.

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