Sharks Gameday: It's All About The Details



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Abel To Yzerman

With all of the similarities between this year's and last year's series against the Detroit Red Wings, there should be no surprise that today brings with it the same feelings as May 8th, 2010.

And while the similarities are a perfect example of the storytelling nature a writing gig eventually resembles (after all, these are things only the general public and writers are really concerned with-- players are only focused on winning their next game), it does seem relevant to provide an example of what we were saying a year ago:

To say this is a must-win likely does a disservice to the lead San Jose built during their first three games of play-- I expected the battle to rage on to a minimum of seven meetings, with the potential for nine (eleven? thirteen?) games falling somewhere in between freezing Mike Ricci's body for a future playoff run and having an Orange Out at HP Pavilion. In other words, well within the realm of reason despite their seemingly ludicrous nature.

But when looking at the events that would transpire after tonight should the Sharks fail to win, it's hard to say the road would be much easier. Joe Louis Arena still carries an air of mystique despite the comeback in game three, and it's disregard for hospitality was on full display two days ago. A very tough place to play, a team who is one win away from crawling back from the dead, the potential to force an elimination game? Not what the doctor ordered. At least not my doctor.

Game seven would obviously be a madhouse. The Sharks would have failed to capitalize on three opportunities to close out the series, with the Red Wings ecstatic at the thought of completing a phenomenal comeback of historical proportions. It would be a dance with the devil. A series victory still attainable obviously, but the emotional margin for error? Razor-thin. The tension in the building would be enough to make a man go gray in three hours.

>> Sharks Gameday: Home Cookin'

To be honest, that just about sums up the general vibe going into this one as well. A must-win is a disservice to what San Jose has accomplished this postseason considering they would still have two games to close Detroit out. Joe Louis Arena, despite some pretty compelling evidence to the contrary (FTF's managing editor did write this article before the series after all), still isn't a place that is screaming for a pressure-free game six. And if it goes the distance to game seven? Yeah, madhouse. Certifiable One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest type stuff.

Again, tonight probably isn't a must-win for San Jose. They've been aces on the road this postseason, staged an excellent comeback against Detroit in game four, and have carried the play for the majority of this series. I think the majority of everyone outside the locker room expected the Sharks to be in HP Pavilion tonight for game five, and in that respect, everything is going according to "plan."

But with Nashville pushing Vancouver to six games, closing out Detroit as early as possible has benefits other than just advancing to the Western Conference Finals for the second straight year in a row. There are some intangible benefits here as well.

In terms of improvement, San Jose really struggled with clearing their zone on Friday night. Detroit was very aggressive with pinching down the walls and keeping pucks in, resulting in some good scoring chances for the Wings (Helm's game-winner was a product of the Sharks inability to get a clear). Outside of that however, game four was pretty similar to the first three in how it played out except this time the roles were reversed-- San Jose played a pretty good game outside of the first ten minutes, but Detroit was just a little bit better in every single area. They went harder to the net, were better in the neutral zone, had a little more jump when skating, and got more traffic in front of Niemi.

If the Sharks are going to win tonight, polishing up the edges is where their greatest opportunity lies. The product as a whole was just little less refined around the edges on Friday, but the core of what they're trying to do was still present.

It's a game of details. And sometimes the smallest ones make all the difference.

Prediction: Sharks smack history in the face and win 4-0. Goals by Pavelski (x2), Clowe, and Demers.