As the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings head into Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinal series tonight at the Joe Louis Arena, both teams will be looking to play their best hockey of the playoffs as one faces elimination, while the other looks to sweep their opponent in four games.
The Sharks head in with a 3-0 stranglehold on the series after two impressive comeback wins and one narrow 2-1 win in Game 2.
Many expected Detroit to win the series, but San Jose has certainly proven its worth as legitimate cup contenders as the Wings have given them a tough test by keeping the games within one goal throughout the second round.
With a 4-0 record on the road so far in the post-season, there is no reason the Sharks couldn’t finish the series tonight if they continue to play the way they have. If they do, it will be the first time in franchise history the Sharks will have swept an opponent in the playoffs.
The Red Wings find themselves in the same predicament as they were in at this time last season against San Jose, where they ended up winning Game 4 only to have the Sharks close the series in Game 5. You can bet Detroit will be looking to improve on last year’s results and come out with more urgency than seen in the first three games.
As San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle told the press in an interview this week, the first five minutes of the game will be crucial.
Although San Jose struggled on the power play against the Los Angeles Kings, in the second round series they have notched 4 power play goals to the Detroit’s 3, so the Wings will need to tighten up and find production from their usually forceful power play unit if they have a shard of hope in extending the series.
Jimmy Howard has been nothing short of exceptional for this team, but the big difference comes in the solid match-up of Joe Thornton and Pavel Datsyuk.
Thornton’s defensive play has improved immensely and his line has been successful in keeping both the power play and Datsyuk’s menacing line at bay. He and Zetterberg have managed just one goal each, while Franzen and Holmstrom haven’t been overly effective either.
To boot, Detroit’s secondary hasn’t done much to help out with offensive production, which is essential against a deep Sharks team that is getting scoring from both the big guns and role players.
The series point leaders are as follows:
Lidstrom: 2G, 1A
Datsyuk: 1G, 2A,
Zetterberg: 1G, 2A
Boyle: 1G, 3A
Pavelski: 1G, 1A
Couture, Clowe: 2A
The game begins at 7 p.m. ET on VS, TSN and RIS.