Just when the Western Conference (and NHL for that matter) thought the San Jose Sharks could not improve any more than they already have, it appears as though you can add Dany Heatley to the “returning to top form” list of players for the Teal Juggernaut.
Yup, we’re a better team than even a week ago. Sorry.
Dany Heatley was the best player on the ice last night as the San Jose Sharks dispatched yet another victim, this time the Detroit Red Wings in a final of 3-1. The winger had been mired in a modest slump over the past five games, but last night looked every bit the part of a guy that used to bag goals with the same frequency Monta Ellis searches “tattoo parlor” on his phone’s Google Maps.
Though possibly losing a step and maybe some of the flash that defined his early career, Heatley still possesses that innate psychic sense for where the puck is going and knows how best to position himself when his game is on.
A perfect example of that was on his first goal that opened up the scoring last night. Patrick Marleau circled behind the net with the puck and all way around to the point before dropping it to Joe Pavelski. With Heatley taking sticks to the back and posting up in front of the Red Wings’ net, Pavs fired the puck in which Detroit netminder Joe McDonald made the initial stop on, but couldn’t secure.
With the puck bouncing all around amidst a crush of teal and red bodies, Heatley repeatedly jabbed his stick at the loose biscuit until it was in. Although, it looked more like a guy trying to knock an alligator out of his boat, his whacks more than did the job and Heatley’s persistence finally paid off putting the Sharks up 1-0.
Detroit answered with their usual park Tomas Holmstrom in front of the net like a big blue and yellow Swedish garbage truck, and then watch him deflect the shot in…which as a Sharks fan, I might have seen about 500 times. It’s ugly, plodding, predictable and also unstoppable and totally effective. The Wings had their equalizer and the game was tied at 1.
Speaking of the big Swedish sopbil, the Sharks found themselves on the power play early in the second period after Holmstrom cheated by using his stick in a hooking manner and was whistled for it.
In any event, if Pavelski’s last shot on goal might have been a set play to Heatley in front, this next one definitely was. On the PP now, Pavs fired the puck a little to the left of keeper McDonald, where true to his flawless positioning, Heatley was perfectly parked. Heater received the puck and deftly deflected the pass/shot right into the back of the net. The Sharks had answered and the score now read San Jose 2-1.
Sometimes when a team is on a roll like the Sharks are (17 wins in their last 20 now), all the luck seems cosmically tilted by the heavens above in its favor. Patrick Marleau‘s goal last night to make it a 3-1 score was this statement in microcosm. I’m not even sure you can say it was his goal, I know that it’s officially his, but I’ve watched it now eight times and I still can’t figure out exactly what happened.
The puck is cleared by the Sharks and Patty hustles down to try to beat out the icing, racing with the Wings’ Jonathan Ericsson (yes, he’s Swedish as well), Wings netminder McDonald comes up to swipe at it with his stick and the next thing you know it’s in the back of the Red Wings net. Whatever, when you’re rolling you just high five your buddies and move on.
For the record, the Swedish brood on the Red Wings (they have 6) were a collective minus-5 last night. I only mention that to illustrate the following point to any people remaining who might decry the Sharks’ chances and late season renaissance as a run of pure luck that won’t hold up.
Yes, San Jose has been on the receiving end of a few lucky bounces, calls and heart stopping close wins over their current winning streak…
However, to take the further leap and downplay the Sharks true threat as a playoff team based on these fortuitous bounces is faulty and shortsighted. They are the real deal right now, are getting tier-1 contributions from everybody…from the guy who tapes up the sticks all they way up to Antti Niemi and the coaching of Todd McLellan.
It is, for the lack of a better word all clicking and all legit.
But, if you insist on subscribing to the anti-Sharks lobby espousing “luck” and “aberration”, you will also need to agree that if this same rhetorical method was applied to the Red Wings performance last night, you would have to come to only one conclusion…
People in Sweden suck at hockey.