- A few bullet point notes from the San Jose Sharks 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday night:
- The Sharks won their third straight game at Joe Louis Arena, a building where they had built up a 5-26-1-3 record prior to Tuesday night, and swept the regular season series at Detroit for the first time in franchise history. While the Colorado Avalanche shutout afforded San Jose the opportunity to briefly look ahead in the schedule, Detroit allowed the Sharks a specific look at a potential playoff obstacle should they qualify for the postseason. The Red Wings are on pace for their 11th straight 100 point season, their 15th 100 point season over the last 18 years. The Sharks were on pace for 96 points as of last week, but they could be edging their way towards their 5th straight 100 points season, their 6th in 7 years. FSN Detroit noted the Detroit Red Wings break down their schedule into 10-game segments. Ken Holland wanted his team to earn 12-13 points in each segment, allowing for 100+ point season and an easier qualification for the playoffs. This year the team has obliged him: (1-10: 7-2-1, 11-20: 7-2-1, 21-30: 6-3-1, 31-40: 5-3-2, 41-50: 6-3-1, 51-60: 6-4-0). Former San Jose Sharks head coach Darryl Sutter used to break the schedule down into 5-game segments to closely examine trends. Using Holland’s 10 game analysis, the Sharks have been improving as the season progressed: (1-10: 5-4-1, 11-20: 5-2-3, 21-30: 5-4-1, 31-40: 6-4-0, 41-50: 4-5-1, 51-60: 8-2-0, 61: 1-0)
- Coming off his NHL first star of the week performance, Antti Niemi made the save of the game late in the third period on Johan Franzen (video above). Down 4-2, Henrik Zetterberg scored a one-timer on the power play to bring the game within a goal at 18:09. Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock pulled Jimmy Howard for an extra attacker with 38.5 seconds left. Nicklas Lidstrom fired a point shot that deflected off of traffic in front of Niemi. As a pair of Sharks defenseman collapsed around Dan Cleary, Johan Franzen cut in from the side to gather the loose puck. Franzen swept the puck around Dan Boyle and on goal. With fans already cheering in the stands, Niemi used a desperation pad extension to smother the low shot. Niemi stopped 35 of 38 shots against to earn his 21st win of the season, and was particularly strong in the first and third periods. Niemi locked down the crease on early scoring opportunities by Draper, Datsyuk and Helm, as the Wings outshot the Sharks 9-1 in the first half of the opening period.
- Joe Thornton scored the 300th goal of his career 19:52 into the first period. “(In front of the net) is where we are going to score goals,” Thornton told Comcast Sportsnet California. “Danny did a good job getting it past the first four guys. I happened to beat Stuart out of the corner, then it went off my stick into the back of the net.” Detroit had killed off a 4-minute high sticking double minor on Jonathan Ericsson, who got his stick up to the face of Logan Couture, as well as an extended 5-on-3 when Nicklas Lidstrom took another high sticking penalty at the side of the net. A third holding call on Hudler set up the Sharks power play. Dany Heatley won a puck battle in the corner before moving the puck to Boyle on the point. A point shot deflected off traffic, off of Pavelski’s stick and sat to the right of Jimmy Howard. Thornton beat Stuart to lift a backhand into the net for his 300th. “(Thornton’s goal) was just one of those ones where it’s like playing ‘Plinko’ on ‘The Price is Right.’ It bounced off everyone and just happened to land right on Joe’s stick,” Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard said. Thornton registered a game high 6 shots on goal, with one missed shot and one blocked shot. 130 of Thornton’s 300 goals have come as a San Jose Shark, 5th best in franchise history.
- San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak noted that each of the Jonathan Ericsson and Nicklas Lidstrom high sticks on Logan Couture in the first period caused seperate cuts on his chin. Each cut was an inch long, requiring 4 stitches. While Ericcsson was given a 4 minute double minor, Lidstrom received only 2. “The ref didn’t take time to look at it carefully. He thought it was the same cut,” Couture told Pollak. “He still thought it was the same cut. After it got stitched up. I don’t know how you can’t see that.” Couture posted a rather grisly photo of his chin on twitter after the game, two souvenirs from the toughest building the Sharks have ever played in. For some reason Couture did not get the memo on Detroit. In 3 career games at Joe Louis Arena dating back to November 5th last season, Couture has scored 3 goals and 2 assists in 3 games. In that span the Sharks registered a 2-0-1 record. Couture also added a goal at the Joe in the third game of the 2010 WCSF series.
- Devin Setoguchi built on his first career hat trick on Saturday night with a pair of goals on the road against Detroit. Joe Thornton earned a primary assist on each. Sharks head coach Todd McLellan pointed to Setoguchi’s complete game, not just his goal scoring, as one of the reasons for his recent hot streak, “It’s everything that leads up to the goal,” McLellan told the media in Detroit. “It’s the fact that he’s involved physically, that he’s in on the forecheck, that he stays in battles, that his shift length’s right, that he’s working back defensively, I can go on and on. Then it ends with a goal.” He compared that to Setoguchi’s performance earlier. “Sometimes in his case, earlier in the year you want it to start with a goal and then do everything else after. Credit to him for turning it around.” The 24-year old has scored 10 goals in his last 13 games, after registering 7 in his previous 39. He is clicking after being re-united with linemate Joe Thornton. “Jumbo has the ability to find them. They have clicked before and they have some chemistry,” McLellan said. Setoguchi’s first goal came with 17 seconds left in the second period. Thornton carried the puck into the zone, then carried the rebound of Couture’s shot/pass behind the net. Thornton hit a driving Setoguchi with a hard pass out in front, and #16 got enough of his blade on the puck to send it into the back of the net before his body followed him in. A hard shove by Bertuzzi helped Setoguchi into the back of the net. Setoguchi’s second goal came on a simlar play to one he scored against Colorado. Backing out in the slot to be the third man high on the forecheck, Setoguchi ripped a hard one-timer past Howard on a nice feed by Thornton. “We know how much we like to come in here and get a win, they are such a good team,” Setoguchi said of the rare victory at Joe Louis Arena. On his recent success after struggling earlier in the year, Setoguchi replied, “hockey is a weird game, sometimes you don’t deserve to score, and sometimes you do and don’t.”
- The Sharks mixed and matched lines trying to look for chemistry throughout the game against Detroit. In the first period, Clowe-Wellwood-Couture and Mitchell-McCarthy-Mayers were put on the ice, while Pavelski was used on the power play and with Eager-Wellwood and Heatley-Clowe. In the second period, Clowe-Pavelski-Heatley and Wellwood-Couture-Eager lines were used early, and Heatley-Marleau-Clowe and Mitchell-Pavelski-Eager lines were used late. In the Third Couture-Thornton-Setoguchi and Mitchell-Pavelski-Eager were prominent. The forward and defensive combinations allowed head coach Todd McLellan to experiment in order to find players who were gelling, but the ice time was also more evenly spread across the board than it was earlier in the season. “It was a very intense game both ways, a lot of battles in the crease area, a lot of board battles as well,” San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said. “I think when you play against that team, you at least need to win 50% of them. We found a way later on to do it, certainly not earlier.”
- Both teams combined for 81 total shots on goal. After Detroit started the first outshooting San Jose 9-1, the Sharks finished with an 18-10 first period lead based on a pair of minor penalties, and a double minor that lead to an extended 5-on-3. San Jose scored its lone PP goal in the first, and registered 13 shots on the power play in the period. “The bottom line is they made more plays in the end, so you got to give them credit,” Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told the media. “I don’t think either team planned on giving up (43 and 38) shots, that’s not how you probably want to play. But there were lots of plays made, there was good speed.” End-to-end action in the third period caused many fans to rise out of their seats. Breakaways by Setoguchi and Bertuzzi were followed by a near miss by Heatley and Marleau on a 2-on-1. Playoff intensity is somewhat of an overused term, but Tuesday night was a notch or two higher than playoff intensity, reaching near elimination game levels. The type of play where one mistake on the ice could end it all.
- Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic returned from a one game absence. Kent Huskins (bumps and bruises), Scott Nichol (upper body) and Justin Braun were scratches. Detroit forward Patrick Eaves was injured checking Joe Pavelski behind the net in the second period. Eaves immediately left the ice, and he will reportedly be out at least a week according to Mlive’s Ansar Khan. In addition in a pair of cuts to the face suffered by Logan Couture, defenseman Dan Boyle also scarily took a skate blade to the nose. Hudler fell akwardly, and as he lost his balance his skate caught Boyle up high. Boyle went to the bench for repairs, but did not leave the game.
[Update] Red Wings-Sharks wrap-up: Sharp like a spork – The Malik Report.