Special teams play the likely turning point in game five

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 02: Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings lies down on the ice to make a save during their game against the San Joses Sharks in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 2, 2010 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

With San Jose taking a 3-1 series lead into tonight's game against Detroit, it's worthwhile to take a closer look at how we have come to this point. Both teams have been very competitive at even strength, and as we mentioned in the preview of game three last week, there wasn't a whole lot separating the teams besides timely goals and special teams.

Since game four was such a blowout I've decided not to even touch upon it-- I highly doubt we'll see either of these teams win by six goals tonight, and would probably take that one step further by saying it will be the largest margin of victory in a game once the entire 2010 playoffs come to a close.

Games 1-3

GM #
Team EV Shots EV goals
EV chances PP OPPS
PP Shots
PP Goals
PP Chances
1 San Jose
2 13 6 7 2 9
3 15 5 4 0 1
2 San Jose
2 13 10 20 2 10

2 14 4 6 1 4
3 San Jose
4 17 6 7 0 5
3 23 2 2 0 1
TOT San Jose
69 8 43 22 34 4 24

76 8 52 11 12 1 6
-7 E -9 +11 +22 +3 +18

A note on the scoring chances data you see here-- the NHL doesn't officially compile this statistic, but Derek Zona of The Copper & Blue has done an excellent job of tracking all opportunities throughout the postseason. Thanks to him for supplying us with that data.

So what does this show us? Well, what we already kind of knew. Both of these clubs are elite and competitive, teams who know what it takes to win hockey games. The Red Wings have carried the play ever so slightly at even strength, but each individual game hasn't been astronomical by any means-- both teams have essentially played each other straight up at five on five.

The key tonight for San Jose will be to capitalize on their power play opportunities like they did during the first two games at home. Whether it be by moving their feet in the offensive zone to force Detroit to take a penalty and avoid giving up a scoring chance, tiring them out by continuing to lay on the body and use the low cycle that has been effective, or exploiting mismatches through the last change, winning the special teams battle is probably going to determine who walks out of HP Pavilion with a win under their belt.

The Sharks PK has been excellent at home. Same goes for the power play. Both are good signs heading into tonight.

In other news, Brad Stuart will be a gametime decision, and I'm assuming Brett Lebda would get the tap if Stuart does not play.


Go Sharks.

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