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Marleau OT Winner Game 3

When I saw it live after tuning into the game during the 2nd intermission (I had class from 5-6:30), I was jumping out of my seat, clapping loudly, and pretty much being obnoxious to my roommates.  But it's been 2 hours since the Patrick Marleau overtime game winning goal in game 3, and I've had plenty of time to watch the replay over and over and over again, and I noticed a few little things that surprised me about that play.

First, Jimmy Howard.  I can't really say it's a surprise because he has shown mistakes throughout the series and even in the quarterfinals against the Coyotes.  But man did he overplay the option of Thornton shooting.  I don't think Jumbo even looked at the net long enough to suggest he was thinking of a shot.  First thing he does when he recovers the puck in the neutral zone?  Look across the ice and sees Patty streaking for the 2 on 1.  I mean, the moment he crosses the Detroit blue line he was only looking at 2 things: his stick and Marleau.  Maybe Howard was thinking pass too and his aggressive positioning was him coaxing the pass so he can dive across the moment the puck left Jumbo's stick (almost looked like that was the case because he was centimeters away from making a series saving stop), but it was that same positioning that cost the Wings the game.

Secondly, Brian Rafalski.  He was trying to signal to Ericsson to take Thornton on the back check, but that opened the passing lane.  The moment he sticks his left hand up, his right hand relaxes its grip on his stick, and Thornton picks that exact instance to thread the pass under Rafalski's stick to Marleau.  Judging by Rafalski's reaction (he almost tripped himself up readjusting to Marleau), he never expected the pass to come at that moment.  I mean, it's clear he wants to give the shot to Thornton because one, he's telling Lidstrom to take Joe Thornton and two, refer to the paragraph above.  So he's clearly playing the passing lane between Jumbo and Patty (like all defensemen should do in a 2 on 1 break), but when the pass comes he doesn't even twitch a muscle until the puck has already passed him.  His stick didn't move to try to deflect it, his body didn't adjust fast enough to block Patty's shot, and again, he almost lost his balance in reaction to it.  Odd to see that from a veteran like Rafalski.

Am I saying these Red Wing mistakes are what caused the game winning goal by Patty?  No, but they were a slight factor.  I mean, you still have to give props to Thornton.  As slow as he seemed, he was skating as hard as he could've into the offensive zone to maximize the 2 on 1, and what a beautiful tape to tape pass.  And of course, Patty shows that he is recovering from the flu nicely, as he set the pick for Thornton's goal in the third and he was going full-steam, vintage Patrick Marleau on the OT winner.  My whole point is that unless the Wings manage to do what only a handful of teams have been able to do in the history of the NHL, it's nice to see the Sharks playing like their lives depended on it but at the same time this doesn't look like the Detroit that has dominated in the past two decades.  They used to be so reliant on puck possession for its defensive purposes, but now they're more like the Blackhawks where they try to outscore their mistakes and rely on a single defensive pair to make up for shaky goal-tending and lack of depth on the blue line.

With all this said, I'm still smiling and spamming that replay button on the NHL.com highlights page.  "Look out!"  I was watching the Red Wings feed on Gamecenter, and both their commentator and the TSN announcer on the replay say that phrase the moment Thornton gets the puck.  Beautiful.

This item was created by a member of this blog's community and is not necessarily endorsed by Fear The Fin.

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