Sharks-Red Wings: Special Teams Fail San Jose

In my preview of this game, I showed how the Sharks had the better special teams because while their power play was second to the Red Wings’, their penalty kill was much better. That wasn’t the way it played out Wednesday night, and the result was a 4-1 humbling at the hands of Detroit.

San Jose seemed to be responding to a bad hit on the opening shift from Daniel Cleary on Joe Thornton with physical play. Unfortunately, that play led to San Jose taking nine penalties and giving Detroit seven power plays.

(Incidentally, it was a bad call giving Cleary only a boarding minor, when the relatively high hit from behind clearly warranted a major and probably a match penalty. There also were two times the officials blew the play dead on a loose puck in front of Detroit goalie Ty Conklin. a reason they need to revisit those quick whistles, and a San Jose goal call on the ice was reversed when I do not think it was conclusive by any stretch. On the other hand, it probably was not called correctly on the ice in the first place and there were two Sharks penalties not called, so San Jose has insufficient cause for complaint.)

Detroit also uncharacteristically had eight penalties of their own—they are the second-least penalized team in the league—and gave the Sharks seven power plays, as well. But the team that was supposedly challenged on the penalty kill kept pace with the opposing power play, scoring a short-handed goal to match the power play goal surrendered. They also cashed in twice against one of the league’s best penalty kills.

Things were bad very quickly for the Sharks, and the Wings played too well to recover. Less than seven minutes into the game, Johan Franzen got the puck to Niklas Kronwall in the Detroit zone, and he advanced it into the offensive zone by himself. As the Sharks penalty kill tried to poke check the puck out of the zone, it came to Marian Hossa, who let go a wrister from just below the faceoff dot on Nabby’s glove side, beating him to the far side for the 1-0 lead.

With under four minutes left in the first, Ville Leino shot a loose puck from a Kris Draper shot in from the point, and it bounced away to Kirk Maltby in almost the same spot Hossa scored from. His attempt bounced into the air, and Leino came down and swatted the puck out of the air before it hit the ice to the open net side.

Thus, despite out-shooting the Wings 12-7, the Sharks started the second period down 2-0. The next 20 minutes began worse than the first.

On a Sharks power play, the puck went off the netting and the officials missed it. This allowed the Sharks to remain on the attack, and should have helped them. Instead, Draper blocked a shot that bounced out of the zone, and Henrik Zetterberg poke checked it away from Christian Ehrhoff for a breakaway. Ehrhoff recovered nicely to force takeway the breakaway shot, so Z just stopped and spun back to the forehand, beating Nabby to the far side for the shorthanded goal and 3-0 lead.

But just over two minutes later, on the power play, Joe Pavelski won the faceoff back to Dan Boyle, who shot it toward the net off a defender. It bounced back to him, he passed it across to Milan Michalek on the opposite point, who loaded up Ehrhoff on the point in the middle for the big one-timer through a Ryan Clowe screen; 3-1 Detroit.

That was it on the scoring until the last three minutes, when a second Sharks penalty had given Detroit a five-on-three. You are not going to kill many of those against this team, and this one showed the intelligence of the Wings. Pavel Datsyuk got a hold of a rebound, passed to Z on the halfboards, who did a give-and-go with Brian Rafalski, then took the puck behind Nabby. Instead of coming around to the other side, he doubled back and stuffed it in behind the unsuspecting goaltender.

I had predicted a Detroit victory in part because they needed this game more. San Jose can still hold their head up after the loss because only they have finished the match-ups among the Big Three in the league with a winning record, and they are without a loss at home. In fact, it is probably better in the long run that the game was lost because it keeps both Boston and Detroit close enough that the Sharks will be pushed right up until the playoffs.

But the way in which they lost this game is distrubing in the following ways:

  1. Ty Conklin has been strong in his three games, going 2-1 while turning away 85 of 90 shots (.944 save percentage), and I am guessing by the time the Sharks and Wings face each other in the playoffs, Detroit will have settled on Ty in net.
  2. Marian Hossa left the game early, meaning neither the Wings best open ice scorer nor its best net-crashing scorer (Tomas Holmstrom, out with injury) played a full game.
  3. The Sharks are taking a lot of penalties of late, and that is not a recipe for success against the Wings.
  4. When  you have the second best power play and cannot outscore the third worst penalty kill, that is a problem.

The Sharks out-hit the Red Wings 28-21, out-shot them 35-33, and blocked 13 shots to the Wings’ 10. However, Detroit had seven takeaways to the Sharks one, and won the faceoff battle 31-24 (56.4 percent).

My three stars:

  1. Henrik Zetterberg scored the last two goals, one on the power play, one on the penalty kill, and finished +1.
  2. Kris Draper may have said he was over the dirty hit Claude Lemieux put on him in 1996, but he seemed to be playing inspired hockey. He was +2, had two assists, and won seven of nine faceoffs (77.8 percent).
  3. Ty Conklin turned away 34 of 35 shots (.971 save percentage) to keep the Sharks from ever getting into this game.

The Sharks have a chance, however, to ensure they go at least .500 on the road trip with a win Thursday night in Ottawa at 4:30pm PST. Due to the immediate turn-around, I will not be doing a preview of this game; suffice to say that even a tired Sharks team with a back-up goalie (hopefully—since he is one of the best it would be foolish to wear down Nabby further) should beat the fourth-worst team in the league.

The Hockey Writers


Comments are closed.