Red Helm Redemption: Wings 4 - Sharks 3 (Sharks lead 3-1)

"What? I was just celebrating with Jimmy. I wasn't going to do anything, I swear"

Do you know the way to San Jose? Because the Wings have a game there on Sunday night.

There are no real words that can explain the nervousness that goes with watching your team try to get a goal that will save their season. There are also no words to explain the euphoria that you experience once they get that goal.

The Wings got that elusive first goal when Todd Bertuzzi actually performed a spin-o-rama that worked around Dany Heatley, and his backhand went over Antti Niemi's glove and in. The Wings did the impossible (up to this point of the series) when Nicklas Lidstrom gave them their first 2-goal lead of the series. The Perfect Human unleashed a Perfect Slapshot that got by Niemi. Lidstrom then showed us all that he's not only the best at being a hockey defenseman, he's the best at everything else, as he batted a puck out of mid-air on the power play to give the Wings a 3-0 lead. Unfortunately, that lead was short-lived, as Logan Couture got a slight piece of a Ryane Clowe shot that got by Jimmy Howard short-side 10 seconds later.

Follow the jump for the rest of the highlights and the analysis.

In the second, the Sharks really started to take the play to the Wings, and their pressure paid off when Dan Boyle was left alone at the faceoff circle and ripped a shot over an out-stretched Jimmy Howard to get the Sharks within a goal. The biggest difference in the period were the three power plays the Wings failed to capitalize on. 

The Wings, like the fans, knew that a strong third period was necessary to keep their season alive, but it was the Sharks who came out the more desperate team. Ruslan Salei decided to go for a little skate, leaving Dany Heatley alone in front of Howard, and he made no mistake in wristing a shot by Howard's blocker. The Wings were on their heels for a good chunk of the third, but someone must have said something in the last TV timeout, because the Wings got the desperation back and spent the majority of the next 4 minutes in the Sharks' zone. After a number of chances, Patrick Eaves fed a gorgeous pass to Darren Helm, who had all day and an open net, and his goal sent the fans at the Joe into delirium. The Sharks came with the requisite pressure after that, but the Wings held them off and stayed alive.

ANALYSIS

  • The Wings came out with the desperation and strong play we thought they would, and that led to an early 3-0 lead. That was the team we've been waiting for to show up, and the team that would give the Sharks a run for their money. However, I got pretty tired of the "where was this team?" question that continued throughout the first period. If the Wings are going to continue to mount this comeback, they need to remember what they did in the first: smart outlet passes, strong puck support, a lot of shots and traffic in front of Niemi.
  • We've talked a lot about how this series has mirrored last year's WCSF between these teams, and the similarities kept coming when Bertuzzi opened the scoring (42 seconds earlier than he did last year). However, the Sharks were not going to roll over and allow the Wings to run up the score, and they fought back to tie the score at 3 early in the third. It was tough to stay positive, but despite the Sharks owning the second period and a good chunk of the third, the Wings were able to get the win.
  • Joe Thornton has been really, really good in this series, but that crap he pulled with pulling Zetterberg's stick right out of his hands is an example of why many people feel he will never lead a team to a Cup. Leaders don't take those kinds of penalties, especially in a game where the Sharks were still in it (3-1 at the time). If I'm an opposing scout, I'm taking notice of the fact that he can get frustrated and put a pest on him (hint hint, Vancouver). Having said that, the Sharks are a scary team and can't be counted out at any time (Thornton included). The Wings will need to learn that if they want to keep this series going.
  • Darren Helm was the forward who allowed Dan Boyle to get open and score the game-tying goal in Game 3, and it was his turnover that led to San Jose's first goal tonight (although that's a save that Jimmy Howard should make). Every single Wing fan loves Helm like they love themselves (probably), and no one is going to blame him for the Wings losing, but there was something poetic about him scoring the game winner. However, the beautiful play was by Patrick Eaves, showing the vision and patience with the puck that made him a first-round draft pick. If that line can chip in offensively, the Wings have a chance to keep this series going.
  • Nicklas Lidstrom, I know that you read this blog (why wouldn't you?), so I implore you: do not retire. Don't think about it. Don't consider it. The second that Ken Holland approaches you about your plans, sign a contract. Hell, sign a 2-year deal. You still have it (not that you ever lost it), but you need to continue to play hockey, because there are children being born right now that deserve to be able to say that they saw Nicklas Lidstrom play hockey.

I said before the game that I thought it was far more important for the Wings to win a tight, close game than it was to win a blowout. When a team gets destroyed in a game, it's a lot easier to shake off because the players say "it just wasn't our night". However, on a night like tonight, the Sharks threw everything they had at the Wings and came back to tie the game at 3, and the Wings were still able to find a way to win the game. This was important because it gives the Wings the confidence to know that they can indeed beat the Sharks even when the Sharks play well, and maybe, just maybe, it puts a little bit of doubt in the minds of the Sharks players. Remember, this is still a team that has not won a game in the Conference Finals since before the lockout; the Wings need to remind them of this and take advantage of some momentum.

I would like to compliment the fans at the Joe tonight. They were quiet for most of the second while the Sharks were taking over the game, but late in the third they were fantastic, cheering and screaming as loud as I've ever heard them. They went nuts after both of the Wings' third period penalties were killed off, and I believe the players fed off of that and that allowed them to take over the final 6 minutes of the game and send this series back to San Jose. People scoff at the "Hockeytown" moniker, but tonight proved the Wings have the best fans in the NHL.

See you Sunday.

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