“To Win or Not to Win?” That was the question.
Martin Havlat said “Win”, and scored two goals including the game winner in overtime as the San Jose Sharks defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in another hard fought battle against their classic conference rival at The Shark Tank. The Sharks gave the Red Wings all they could handle, and vice versa as the two rivals put on a strong show that was certainly worth the price of admission. Havlat’s game winning goal came as the Sharks were reasserting their forecheck in the overtime and created quite a scrum around the Detroit goal. With Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard out of position having fallen forward, Havlat’s recovery of Justin Braun’s attempt to jam the puck in the net and put it up into the Wings goal celebrated the return of an ingredient the Sharks have missed for most of the season.
The Sharks with this hard earned victory climb back into the 8th position in the Western Conference Standings. Team teal leaps over Phoenix in the overall standings and trails Dallas by one point (83-82) for the top of the Pacific Division and the number three seeding in the west. Antti Niemi again had a challenging night in the net however came up with 26 saves and for the most part did a decent job in holding down the fort. Meanwhile the Red Wings goalie Howard had a strong effort himself making 32 saves, and keeping the Sharks off of the scoreboard in the second and third periods. The win also for now seems to be a revitalizing victory for the Sharks who have been in search of some mojo in their game for the better part of the last seven weeks. If Havlat can bring that along with his lunch bucket and hard hat each night, and stay healthy, this will be the “shot in the arm” team teal has needed for a while.
Recapping Another Saturday Night at the Shark Tank:
Little Joe, Big Jump- The Sharks have made a recent habit of getting on the scoreboard early and had done so in two of the last three games going into this contest. Joe Pavelski apparently thought tonight would be a good night to make that three out of the last four games as he staked team teal to a 1-0 lead just 48 seconds into the contest. Pavelski was the beneficiary of the Sharks getting an early forecheck going as he received a perfect feed pass from Captain Joe Thornton who was near the Red Wings goal. Pavelski moved in and his first close range shot was stopped by Howard. Logan Couture however was close enough to Howard to sweep away the puck from the Red Wings net minder and get it back to Pavelski, who’s second shot did not miss.
As the game would move along Howard as the case with most strong goalies shook off the early Sharks tally and went on to snuff out team teal scoring attempts including a hard slap shot from Havlat and a tip in attempt by Couture from a Dan Boyle slap shot. Niemi meanwhile would get a good number of pucks thrown his way as well as former Shark Ian While launched a couple of shots his way. Niemi was also able to successfully turn away bids by Henrik Zetterberg, Todd Bertuzzi, Brendan Smith, and Darren Helm who all challenged the team teal net minder at points during the period.
A Good Havlat Starting- With 1:45 to go in the first period, Patrick Marleau stole the puck from the Red Wings White in the neutral zone and quickly passed the rubber biscuit over to Havlat who had a good jump on the play. Once Havlat made it into the slot, he launched a slap shot that beat Howard to his right to give team teal a 2-0 lead. Havlat was by himself and had just enough time to drill the shot perfectly and where he wanted it to go. Later in the post game press conference, Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan commented ”He’s [Havlat] such an important part of our hockey club and I don’t think we even realize yet how much of an impact he can have.” ** The Shark Tank was abuzz with the prospect that the Sharks were going to put together a strong game.
“Catch 13″- The good feeling and buzz around the tank for the Sharks Nation unfortunately would last about as long chicken in a hen house guarded by the local neighborhood fox. The Red Wings took the face off and immediately started a strong forecheck in the Sharks defensive zone. Just as it looked as if Pavelski was going to be able to clear the puck out of the Sharks defensive zone, Niklas Kronwall stole the rubber biscuit back and got it over to Pavel Datsyuk. With Thornton defending against him, Datsyuk was able to change directions while retaining possession of the puck, then launch a quick wrister from the left point that somehow got over Niemi’s right shoulder and into the net.
It was the perfect shot on goal and honestly Niemi really had little chance against it. It was that good of a shot. Patrick Roy may be the only person on the planet that could stop that shot, and it would have given him a hard time too. As the period ended, Detroit had quickly cut the deficit back to one at 2-1, with Datsyuk’s goal coming just 23 seconds after Havlat’s goal.
Strong Play, Opportunities Missed- The second period saw a good deal of action as both teams would get their share of chances, with the Red Wings having several chances to tie the game while the Sharks had a number of opportunities to expand on their lead. The Sharks would out shoot the Red Wings 12-11 in the second period (after being out shot 9-8 in the first period). The Sharks seemed to get the better of the overall chances. One of those chances came early on when the Sharks had the Wings net surrounded and Benn Ferriero made it to Howard’s door step near the goal crease alongside Andrew Dejardens. Brad Winchester’s wrap around attempt was blocked by Howard who again had trouble locking down the puck. Dejardens could not get the puck in the net on the rebound and Ferriero could not help as he was horse collared out of the play by the Red Wings’ Drew Miller (of course no interference call was made). Later in the period Daniel Winnik almost gave team teal a two goal lead as he just barely missed a wide open net.
The Red Wings later in the period would get a power play opportunity but the Sharks defense stiffened up and held Detroit to a single shot on goal by White. Early in the power play, White actually had another shot on goal that hit the left post (those for some reason don’t count in the stats). The Sharks did have some decent cracks on the net against Howard who remained tough and kept the Wings in the game. Solid shots from Ryane Clowe, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Pavelski and Havlat were all turned away. Late in the period the Sharks had a power play opportunity with 1:50 remaining in the period when Valtteri Filppula was called for holding. Despite the man advantage (which carried over for the first 10 seconds of the third period) the Sharks could not do much with it as the Wings had gotten very tough defensively and held team teal without a shot on goal. In fact, Niemi made a huge save on Helm’s short handed attempt as time expired in the period.
Tightening Up- This hotly contested game moved into the third period with each team seeing more scoring chances. The Sharks got a strong chance barely five minutes into the third period as on a breakaway attempt Pavelski would be denied by Howard twice in the same sequence of shots. Howard’s saves would prove to be crucial to Detroit’s chances as they soon benefited on a Sharks neutral zone turn over. As Vlasic tried to clear a loose puck out of the Sharks zone with 11:45 remaining in the third period, Detroit’s Filppula intercepted the clearing attempt in the neutral zone and carried the puck up ice. Once in the point area he buried a puck that was too quick for Niemi and the Sharks suddenly now found themselves knotted at 2-2.
The teams would go on to exchange scoring chances with both net minders answering their challenges. Though the Sharks would out shoot the Red Wings 10-7 in the period, they still had difficulty getting anything by Howard as Detroit would force overtime. Both Clowe and Burns took some final solid shots at Howard who continued to protect his net and keep the Red Wings in the game with still a chance for a win.
Not Winging It in Overtime- The Sharks momentum which returned just before the third period had ended carried over into the overtime period as team teal was all over the puck and seemingly determined to find a winning goal somewhere in this five minute final stretch. With 1:45 remaining in the extra frame, Dominic Moore would lead a charge into the Red Wings defensive zone. Moore was able to get a perfect feed pass to Braun who drilled a slap shot that Howard saved. Despite Howard’s save, the rebound came loose and created a huge scramble in front of the Detroit goal. Spying the play was Havlat who was able to clean up a loose puck that came back to Braun who was unable to jam into the net. As Havlat got control of the rubber biscuit, Howard was out of position and was not able to regain his feet as teammate Justin Abdelkader fell on top of him. With the puck on his stick, Havlat flipped the biscuit into the basket and with that the Sharks secured a win and the two points they desperately needed to come away with. Meanwhile Abdelkader was awarded a pin on Howard who he had taken down “Full Nelson”.
Game Analysis- Even for the casual hockey fan, this was an entertaining game which ended up being broadcast coast to coast on the NBC Sports Net (carrying the Sharks broadcast). The Sharks did enough things “well enough”. The Red Wings as usual were tough even with some players out with injuries. With Detroit, the game is never over until either the clock reads all zeros or the last goal is scored in the overtime. The Sharks were fortunate enough to get it and do so in a key moment of this season to date. Havlat if he can stay healthy (knock on wood or the nearest substitute of…), he is the type of player that can help carry a team as far as it will go. If the Sharks build on this one and create whirlwind momentum from it, the Pacific Division and the number three seed in the Western Conference playoff picture is there’s for the taking.
The Sharks getting the first goal is certainly a key and they seem to be realizing the earlier they can get it the better off they’ll be. Pavelski scoring the first goal of the night early was the result of him staying focused on the play and the puck. Havlat showed that when given the opportunity and being well warmed up can be a fairly decent sniper who can both score and pass. This was a team effort, and that’s always the requirement to beat the Detroit Red Wings. Without an opposing team effort, the Wings usually will close a game fast and quick. They will rarely get blown out. However, if a team hangs around just long enough, they can be a royal pain for the Red Wings. It really did not matter that the Wings gained a point in the standings tonight, what mattered was the Sharks getting two standings points. The return of Havlat will only benefit this team providing the rest of this group takes the lead from this strong veteran’s presence.
In my truncated 15 game Sharks schedule which started with the game at Edmonton on March 12th, the Sharks are 3-0-1 for 7 points. They need a minimum of 20 points (95 total) to have a good shot at the post season, and they have gone from 75 to now 82. The Sharks need at least six more wins, however I hope they don’t stop there. I’ll go as far as to say eight more wins, and they should be able to nail down the Pacific Division and that all important third seed which would allow them to avoid St Louis unless the two teams met in the Western Conference Finals. There’s still a way to go, however if you are the Sharks, the time to get hot is now.
As in RIGHT NOW!!!
GO SHARKS…BEAT THE HATED DUCKS!!!
The King Shark
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**source for quote-www.sjsharks.com & Twitter