The San Jose Sharks dropped their fourth game out of five in a nine game road trip as Red Wings Goalie Joey MacDonald made 31 saves in the Red Wings 3-2 victory Sunday afternoon at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. Goals from Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau plus 26 saves from a busy Antti Niemi could not prevent the Sharks from dropping their sixth game out of their last eight. In addition to that, the Sharks have only picked up five points in the standings in the last eight games in dropping their third straight one goal decision. With four games remaining on this extended road trip, the Sharks will really need to start digging deep to salvage what they can before returning home to the Shark Tank on February 28th.
The Sharks played a fairly decent game Sunday afternoon and were even dominant for some parts of the contest. Once again though, the “puck luck” just wasn’t with them thanks in part on a strong performance in goal by the Red Wings MacDonald who stole the show in place of the injured Jimmy Howard. The Sharks certainly had their chances and had a lot of pucks on net, however MacDonald was having none of it and was almost as solid as a steel door. The Sharks had beaten Detroit in the last five regular season meetings before today. With the win today the Red Wings also took their 23rd straight game at home as they battle Vancouver for the top seed in the Western Conference. As for the Sharks, the good news is that they are still third in the overall Western Conference Standings. The bad news is that their perch is a very precarious one at best as they only lead Phoenix by two points in the overall standings (the Coyotes are 7th in the Western Conference). Even worse, the Sharks are only five points north of falling below the eight seed overall. To say this next set of games this week for team teal being huge is quite the understatement.
Looking Back on a Hard Days’ Afternoon in Detroit:
Sharks Tight Start- The Sharks came out a little tight to start the game yet were able to match the intensity level of the red hot Red Wings. Niemi, who was peppered in his last start Thursday night in Tampa, was more focused Sunday and would make key saves throughout. One early key save for Niemi was denying Pavel Datsyuk at the doorstep of the Sharks goal crease as he tried to stuff the puck past Niemi after taking a feed pass from a Johan Franzen. Franzen jumped on a Sharks turnover and brought up back towards the net before passing it to Datsyuk. Moments later the Red Wings would find a way to get a puck past Niemi as they managed to keep the Sharks trapped inside of their own zone. A series of passes around the offensive zone would ultimately result in Henrik Zetterberg ending up with the puck on his stick. Zetterberg then drilled a back handed shot past Niemi to give Detroit a one goal lead. The goal was set up well as the Red Wings did what they do best, swarm around the puck. Niemi was screened out partly by teammate Collin White as the puck may have partly deflected off of his leg.
Though the Sharks would hold the Red Wings to just eight shots on goal, team teal could only put up six themselves as MacDonald’s work load was rather light at the beginning. However McDonald would get some serious challenges in the next period as the Sharks turned up the heat on Detroit. The Sharks would end the first period getting a break when the Red Wings’ Todd Bertuzzi would get whistled for goal interference as Detroit was bidding for a second goal. The Sharks would have a power play for 1:53 to start the second period.
Joey Under Pressure- Detroit’s penalty kill was huge to start the second period as the Sharks would be turned away despite launching four shots at MacDonald. A long shot from the point by Marleau as time was winding down in the Red Wings penalty bounced towards MacDonald who was able to do a pad save before the puck could cross the goal line. Team teal would continue to pressure the Detroit zone aided in part by back-to-back penalties to J Franzen, one for hooking and the other for boarding. Despite the two opportunities the Sharks still could not cash in despite their pressure in the Red Wings zone. As a matter of fact it would be Niemi on the other end of the ice that would be called upon to stop a point blank shot from Darren Helm as he had a short handed breakaway on the Sharks first power play. Even when the Sharks and Red Wings were at even strength, MacDonald continued to prove he was a strong NHL caliber goalie with a huge save on a Jason Demers breakaway earlier.
As the second power play closed out without the Sharks capitalizing on it, the Red Wings’ Justin Abdelkader took the rebound of a Dan Boyle shot on goal and raced down ice with it. Abdelkader once he crossed into the Sharks zone fed the puck to Drew Miller who them immediately sent it back over to Abdelkader. With the puck back on his stick, Abdelkader immediately put a shot on net towards Niemi. Although Niemi was able to save Abdelkader’s shot, the rebound came out straight to Miller who drilled the rubber biscuit into the Sharks goal. Just seconds after the Sharks failed to execute a power play despite some good chances, they found themselves down 2-0 in a building where two goals down is a steep hill to climb.
The Sharks though would yet get one more chance on a power play as Jonathan Ericsson was sent to the penalty box for interference. Again the Sharks would battle hard to get a puck past the stingy MacDonald. Late in the power play the Sharks would get their break when a puck that was in the air was batted by Couture to the top of the Red Wings goal. The puck would then bounce off of the net and Helm would try to swat it away with his glove hand. The pucked rolled down over the front of the goal where it hit the stick of Abdelkader and went into the goal. After a short review the Sharks goal was confirmed and team teal was back to within one with 5:27 remaining in the period. The Sharks though would only manage the one goal for the period despite out shooting the Red Wings 19-8 here.
Best Efforts Not Enough- The Sharks would seem to have the momentum on their side as the third period started, however the Red Wings would soon manage to tilt the ice back in their direction. Niemi would get a hard test this period and met the early challenges, including a huge save in a fast and furious sequence when he fought off a hard shot from the point by Nicklas Lidstrom and was able to get to the rather quirky rebound before Datsyuk was able to get there and poke it in. Just a moment later Michal Handzus would get ahold of a loose puck in the Sharks defensive zone and carry out to the neutral zone where he attempted to dump the puck to Torrey Mitchell. However the Red Wings Miller was able to intercept the pass before Mitchell could control it and took it back into the Sharks defensive zone. Once in the zone, Miller fed the puck over to Helm who drilled a slap shot that beat Niemi and gave the Red Wings a 3-1 lead with just under 13 minutes remaining.
The Wings seeming would take charge of the game from here and the Sharks looked as if they were losing traction. Niemi later would have to deal with Helm again but was able to make a save on Helm’s point blank attempt. As the period grew late Clowe and Abdelkader would get into a fight in the Red Wings defensive zone, with Clowe getting the best of the exchange in an attempt to light a late fire under team teal. Just seconds after the fight, the Sharks started to assert themselves again in the Wings zone and got a huge break when former Shark Ian White turned over the puck to Brent Burns. Burns immediately put a shot on goal that MacDonald saved but the puck remained loose. Marleau was around the crease and spotted the biscuit lying to MacDonald’s left and put it into the net to pull team teal to within one at 3-2 with 4:46 left to play. Though the Sharks would continue to sustain pressure, their luck and time would both run out.
Game Analysis- It is said that you will learn more from your defeats than from your victories. That statement though true to a larger extent does not mean you would want it to become habit forming. The Sharks for all of their efforts are just not getting the results they need to move up in the standings. If the Sharks are learning more from these defeats, then at 19 overall they should be Rhodes Scholars by now. In today’s game I truly do not feel as if the Sharks played bad, and in fact they played better today than in the previous two games put together. The effort was there, the luck again was not. The Sharks did play 60 minutes today, but it was not their best 60 minutes of the season for sure. The only way they are going to get out of this swoon is what they did when they briefly free fell a year ago in January, and that is to keep on playing…period. Detroit is a solid team and the Sharks seemingly were more up for this game than the others on this trip. The Sharks will not catch either Detroit or Vancouver in the Western Conference Standings, so their focus has to be the third seed. The Sharks next game is at Columbus on Tuesday, and right now all games even if they are against the so called cellar dwellers are no longer meaningless games. They all count, and the ones you lose to teams you should beat (aka Tampa Bay, Carolina) hurt a lot more than a loss to Detroit. If they lose to Columbus Tuesday, than maybe it may be time to either start worrying or just say “To heck with it, just wake me when the playoffs are here”…
GO SHARKS!!! LETS GET AFTER THOSE BLUE JACKETS!!!
The King Shark
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