WCSF Game 7: Sharks edge past Detroit Red Wings after closest playoff series in franchise history, Patrick Marleau makes statement to East Coast and Canadian critics with game winning and series clinching goal
Speak softly, and carry a hockey bag full of Stanley Cup Playoff game winning goals. After an off night earlier in the series, Sharks alternate captain Patrick Marleau came up big in only the second game 7 to be played on San Jose ice. In front of an animated sellout crowd, Marleau put his stamp on the awkward and clumsy mainstream media criticism directed at him with his 13th career playoff game winning goal, tied for 13th all-time in NHL Stanley Cup Playoff history.
Joe Thornton was able to score the first round series clincher against Los Angeles in overtime. Marleau did not get the opportunity for a sliding center ice celebration against Detroit, but he did provide a game winning goal that held up in regulation to eliminate the Red Wings with a 3-2 win. “It felt great, to be on the scoresheet, to be able to get the game winner, but we still have a long ways to go here and another month to play,” Marleau said after the game. “We are just going to get better.”
After building up a two goal lead and outshooting Detroit 17-11 in the first period, the Red Wings push came on strong late in the second and third periods. Henrik Zetterberg cut the Sharks lead to one in the second, converting a cross-ice pass from Filppula with Datsyuk on the doorstep. Marleau gave the Sharks their second 2-goal cushion of the game 12:13 into the third period, and San Jose needed all of it. On the play, Boyle nutmegged Brian Rafalski with a pass between the legs to a wide-open Devin Setoguchi on the left wing. Setoguchi made a slick move to corral the puck and shovel a quick shot on Jimmy Howard before the defense collapsed on him. The puck deflected by Howard, and Marleau swept it into the open net on the far side.
“It was big, it was definitely big. We would have liked to finish the series a little bit earlier, but it was a great series,” Marleau said of the game and series clinching goal. When asked about giving up a 3-games-to-0 lead, and the recent criticism heaped on him by reporters and former teammate Jeremy Roenick, Marleau noted that his focus was on the game in front of him. “You try to put it in the background… background noise, and just focus on what I can control,” Marleau said. “I still got better games ahead of me.”
“He has been battling, he just hasn’t been putting the puck in the net. He knows he has to be better,” Joe Thornton said of Marleau’s first point in the series. “I am sure that took a lot of weight off his shoulders. Now he is ready to go. Everybody in this whole Bay Area is pretty happy for him.”
Off the scoresheet, Marleau can be effective opening gaps with speed on the wing and with physical play in front of the net, but San Jose needs more of the game breaking offensive ability Pavel Datsyuk displayed on the other side of the ice. While Datsyuk and Zetterberg were able to settle their team down in critical moments and ratchet up the intensity when behind, the Sharks will need a Marleau firing on all cylinders if they want to escape the Western Conference gauntlet that leads to the Stanley Cup Finals. San Jose has all of 2 days off before facing the Presidents’ Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks.
“This year is no different than any other year. Patty, Jumbo, they become the lightning rods. When it doesn’t go well, people question them.” San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said of his regular season leading scorer. “For him to end up with the (game and series) winning goal is pretty special, for us and for him. I think the monkey will be off his back and he will be even that much better in the next series.”
Pavel Datsyuk almost single handedly brought the Red Wings back with the game on the line in the third period. Taking a pass from Brad Stuart with speed in the neutral zone, Datsyuk blew by a pair of forwards, and then went wide on 240-250 pound defenseman Douglas Murray. With Murray’s stick out in the shooting lane, and Joe Thornton’s stick coming in from behind on the back check, Datsyuk lifted a perfectly placed backhand high far-side. Too good. Playing against one of the best 2-way players in the league, sometimes you have to budget the number of goals a talent of his caliber is going to score.
As befitting the series, game 7 went down to the final seconds. On the final rush Henrik Zetterberg again hit Pavel Datsyuk in stride as he entered the zone with speed. The player who had taken over several earlier games in the series wound up on a rising slapshot from the wing, a shot that was juggled but held by Niemi. On the ensuing faceoff, Filppula won a clean draw back to Lidstrom who dumped it down low. Abdelkader forced a turnover by Vlasic, and Jonathan Ericsson pinched in and slid a pass back in front of the net. With Patrick Eaves alone on the doorstep, a late stick check by Patrick Marleau sent Eaves in one direction and the puck in another. Lidstrom and Eaves combined for another dump-in opportunity with 15 seconds left, and Darren Helm beat a pair of Sharks to the loose puck. Eaves was tied up by Vlasic as the puck was cleared. Game over.
The Sharks did not join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1975 Pittsburgh Penguins, or last year’s Boston Bruins as the only teams in NHL history to give up 3-0 series leads and lose in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Vancouver escaped that fate in the opening round against Chicago. Win or lose, the “playoff choker” label would not apply to San Jose in the second round. After earning 3 OT wins against a hardened Los Angeles defense in the first round, Detroit battled back from a 3-0 deficit on their own merits. As good as Vancouver is, San Jose and Detroit may have been the best two teams in the league this season. The Red Wings took it a game at a time, and almost pulled off the impossible. 6 of the 7 games played between Detroit and San Jose were 1-goal games, and the margin of error on any given night was the slimmest the Sharks have experienced in their 20 year history to date.
Game Notes: The Sharks coaching staff immediately started preparing for game 1 of the Western Conference Finals which begin in Vancouver on Sunday at 5PM. The matchup will feature two high powered offenses, and the top 2 seeds in the Western Conference. Devin Setoguchi’s first period power play goal was the Sharks first in 3+ games, after an 0-for-11 stretch. The San Jose penalty kill held Detroit scoreless on their last 12 man advantage opportunities over 3 games. According to head coach Mike Babcock, the Sharks finished with 5 power play goals in the series to Detroit’s 4, and that was the margin between winning and losing. Game 7 featured the loudest decibel reading of the playoffs to date inside HP Pavilion, 116.8 after Logan Couture’s first period goal.
Ryane Clowe returned Thursday night after missing game 6 with an undisclosed upper body injury. Clowe was physical early, and he rang a heavy first period wakeup shot off the mask of Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard. According to longtime one season ticket holder, Clowe would have to be missing an appendage not to be the ice for the series deciding game. While Clowe was able to return, Detroit’s Johan Franzen was not able to recover enough from an ankle injury to make it into the lineup. The Red Wings suffered furthur hits to the lineup when Todd Bertuzzi suffered an undiclosed injury in the first period, and checking winger Dan Cleary left the game after a blindside collision with teammate Jiri Hudler left him motionless on the ice. “I don’t want to make any excuses, but without (Cleary), without (Bertuzzi), without (Franzen), that is a chunk of a team right there. I thought our kids hung in there, we battled. I thought we had the better of the play,” Mike Babock said of the attrition his team suffered in the second round.
Henrik Zetterberg was also at less than 100% with a knee injury that was not fully healed. While Babcock complimented his play, at times Zetterberg’s hands and brain where ahead of where his legs could take him. That was costly in the third period when he tried a hestiation move to get around the forecheck of rookie Logan Couture. A Calder favorite as much for his defensive play as for his offensive play, Couture got a stick out in front of Zetterberg and picked off his breakout pass clean. Without even adjusting the puck on his blade, Couture fired a laser of a shot that beat goaltender Jimmy Howard high short side. The Sharks were looking to press the action at the start of the second and third periods, and a big part of their effectiveness was the work ethic on display by the third and fourth lines. With Wellwood-Pavelski-Mitchell and Ferriero-Nichol-Eager getting the puck deep and applying sustained pressure, it initially blunted the Red Wings comeback attempt until the puck possession push began late in each period.
A photo gallery from the game is available here.
[Update] Heroic effort by Ian White’s wife, Kyle Wellwood’s return to Vancouver and record TV ratings for Sharks – David Pollak’s Working the Corners blog.
CSNCalifornia reporting that TV ratings for last night’s game were far and away the best numbers put up for any Shark telecast on any of the regional sports networks that have carried the team’s games since day one. The Sharks-Red Wings Game 7 registered a 7.14 average, attracting approximately 180,000 households for the entire game. The peak rating occurred from 8:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., a 10.13 with over 256,000 households tuned in. The previous high for CSNCalifornia? Game 5 of the 2010 Western Conference Semifinals against Detroit, which posted a 6.57.
[Update2] Depleted Red Wings battle until the end, but lose to Sharks in Game 7 – Ansar Khan for Mlive.com.