Sharks Gameday: For The First Time in Awhile
|33-21-6, 72 points||37-16-6, 80 points |
|4th in Western Conference ||2nd in Western Conference |
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Tonight's game means a little more than just two points.
Throughout the greater part of 2011 there's been a huge focus on obtaining as many points as possible. Games like Columbus, where the Sharks were outplayed for the vast majority of the night and yet managed to somehow get enough goals to win, didn't matter as much on a broad level. The inconsistencies in the Sharks game were allowable considering the circumstances. Two points reigned over all. A limp forecheck or extended stays in the defensive zone brushed aside in favor of those ever precious standings points.
Blown third period leads in Florida and New Jersey? Painful yes, a representation of the troubles seen throughout the year. High shot totals, lack of payoff, lose a game in the final frame. But in the midst of a Sharks winning streak that saw them taking points at a furious pace, these games were quickly forgotten. A vestige of the team's previous inadequacies, a brief glimpse back at those trying times that plagued San Jose for much of their 2010-2011 season. It was a harsh reminder of a frustrated past. It was a mere pebble in the road of a 13-2-1 run.
Since the Sharks emerged from their six game losing streak they have been tested. Western Conference rivals beaten, points obtained, a rise from 12th to 4th in a matter of a month. Teams like Boston, Anaheim, Phoenix, Nashville, Washington, Los Angeles, all worthwhile opponents, all measures of skill. A good crop of teams, decidedly above average, important players, justifiable concern heading into the tilt.
However, since January 20th when San Jose headed into Vancouver and came away with a riveting 2-1 victory, no team has approached the level we will see tonight.
The Detroit Red Wings. The name itself says it all, demands attention. And as San Jose plows headfirst into Tinfoiltown to kick off a tough little three game road trip, everything seems to be coming to a head.
The Wings, winners of their last five, are poised for yet another deep playoff run. The names on the roster go without mentioning, the man behind the bench needs no introduction. It's a group that matches up superbly with the Sharks at nearly every position, one that has, is, and will likely always be the ultimate litmus test. Toss a little Joe Louis Arena into the mix and you've got yourself a bonafide party that's set to kick a few teeth in on its way through the front door. These are the types of games you circle on the calendar three minutes after its released.
And with both teams playing excellent hockey right now, there's no doubt both organizations feel the same way.
Tonight is a test to see just how far the Sharks have come since January 13th. It's a celebration of hockey at its finest level, a preview of the type of games we will see in April.
Buckle up. The NHL doesn't get any better than this.
Prediction: Sharks win 4-3. Goals by White, Marleau, Clowe, and Boyle. In San Jose, a variation of a hat trick is when umbrellas are thrown onto the ice on a rainy night after a three goal performance. In Detroit, a variation of a hat trick is when tinfoil headwear is thrown onto the ice after a Tomas Holmstrom goal is waived off.