Sharks battle hard, fall short against Detroit
Say what you will about the slumping Sharks right now, but you can't call their commitment level into question.
Joe Pavelski, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Colin White all took injuries blocking shots, and though the Sharks looked as if they might be putting a comeback together, they couldn't score a crucial third goal on Joey MacDonald, who was fantastic for Detroit.
The critics are likely to come out in full force after the Sharks were unable to really wound another "backup" goalie, but MacDonald truly was amazing in nets for Detroit. San Jose's shot selection was superb, but the Wings' MacDonald moved the pads well down below and kicked away chance after chance that looked like it would find twine.
Henrik Zetterberg, Drew Miller and Darren Helm scored for the Red Wings, but Antti Niemi played a very good game as well, coming up huge on a few shots that could have tilted the game even more in Detroit's favor. It was Niemi's first ever regular season loss in Detroit, but the Sharks inability to score deserves most of the blame for this one, even though MacDonald did his part in stopping many great chances.
So what is there to take from this game for San Jose, now a team who has lost six of their last eight contests? First, in this writer's opinion, it's not time to worry too much. San Jose is still ninth in goals for and eighth in goals against in the NHL, both solid indicators that is is a good team capable of making a deep run in the playoffs.
However, despite those solid overall numbers, the Sharks are slipping in the standings. With just 69 points, they lead the Pacific and sit in third in the conference, but are just two points ahead of the streaking Phoenix Coyotes and four points up on the Los Angeles Kings. Granted, the Sharks do have two games in hand on both of those squads, but the once solid lead in the Pacific is now looking a bit more shaky.
Again, though, I'm not worried. I look at the way that the Sharks competed against the Wings this morning, in the midst of a season-long nine-game road trip, and see a team who is still one of the best in all of hockey. They did this without Martin Havlat, and missing Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Joe Pavelski and Colin White for a decent portion of the third.
Thankfully, it appears as if Pavelski is fine (he played a bit in the third) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who looked more bloodied than hurt, shouldn't be out too long. Martin Havlat began skating again today, and should be ready by mid-March. Still, though, as we've said the last few days, Doug Wilson must be looking to upgrade his forward group soon.
The Sharks may be losing, but I'm not worried about them yet. The way they played today tells me that they'll be just fine, even if they might need a few tweaks.