Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Sharks' 2-0 lead not safe

Categories: SJS vs. DET

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San Jose Sharks defenceman Niclas Wallin, left, celebrates his go-ahead goal with teammate Ian White against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press) San Jose Sharks defenceman Niclas Wallin, left, celebrates his go-ahead goal with teammate Ian White against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

THE SAN JOSE VIEW

In the last five years, 14 teams playing in the second round or deeper have won the first two games of a series at home. Ten have survived. That's not exactly an overwhelming percentage.

The team that turned that stat around is San Jose, which gagged a 2-0 lead in the '06 conference semifinals against Edmonton; before that, 63 of the previous 67 had gone to the team that got the good start.

Thus, the Sharks are properly wary of what comes next in this series, even after putting up its best performance of the post-season in a 2-1 win over Detroit Sunday.

"We know how good they are," defenceman Ian White said, "and we know they're only going to be better in their building, so we can't let up. In fact, we have to be better."

Other than having to kill six minutes of penalty time in the first 10 minutes, though, the Sharks essentially had their way with Detroit.

From the third minute of the second period to the end, San Jose scored the go-ahead goal from Niclas Wallin (White had scored five minutes into the game to give San Jose a 1-0 lead), out shot the Wings 19-5 and won twice as many faceoffs, 18-9, to change the game from a tossup to a well-disguised rout.

Again, Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard kept the Wings closer than they had a right to be.

"Yeah, that's fair," Joe Thornton said afterward of the way the game shifted in the second and stayed shifted until the end.

"Our second period was pretty good, we just got after it and stayed after it, and spent a lot of time in their end. That's what we all talked about before - the team that spends more time in the other guy's end is going to win the game."

Yet head coach Todd McLellan also claimed that this was a much harder game to win, despite much improved defence from both the six men charged with doing so by the 12 forwards as well.

"We were happy with how we played in Game 1," he said. "We played with better intensity, I thought, and we had a little more battle-a-bility, if that's what you want to call it. And this was a harder game to play.

"Detroit made it harder. They had more sustained time in our ends and against the boards. We had to do a lot more tonight with the penalty kill in six of the first 10 minutes. But yes, in some ways this was our best game (of the playoffs)."

San Jose now goes back to Joe Louis Arena up 2-0, as they did a year ago when they won the second-round series, 4-1. They won Game 3, 4-3, in overtime, then got crushed in Game 4, 7-1.

SAN JOSE

Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Devin Setoguchi
Dany Heatley-Logan Couture-Ryane Clowe
Torrey Mitchell-Joe Pavelski-Kyle Wellwood
Ben Eager-Scott Nichol-Benn Ferriero

Douglas Murray-Dan Boyle
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Jason Demers
Ian White-Niclas Wallin

Antti Niemi
Antero Niittymaki

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THE DETROIT VIEW

The good news for the Detroit Red Wings as they head home trailing 2-0 in their Western Conference semifinal series against the San Jose Sharks in that they played much better in Game 2, a 2-1 loss Sunday at HP Pavilion.

The bad news for the Wings was that a better effort didn't translate into a favourable result.

"I thought we were better, and yet we weren't good enough," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.

"They've been better than us both nights in the second period for sure. Both nights, it came after power plays when they got momentum. Then they wore us out for four or five shifts in our zone. You're not getting your D off, it's a long change, and they got momentum from that.

"I thought we came here to compete today. I thought we skated better and had more opportunities, but we just weren't good enough."

Powering Down

For the second straight game, the Sharks scored their first goal on the power play, and it came after Detroit failed to connect on a four-minute man-advantage.

"We got a four-minute power play early and with the exception of about a 50-seconds in it, I didn't think we were very good," Babcock said. "If you score there, you score the first goal, instead of them scoring the first goal.

"It was an opportunity for us."

The Wings have offered San Jose 11 power-play chances in two games. "We spent too much time killing penalties," Wings defenceman Brad Stuart said.

Babcock, though, is only mildly concerned by his club's infractions, pointing to a pair of high-sticking infractions by forward Justin Abdelkader as the type that get under his skin.

"The penalties I don't like that we take are the high-sticking ones, and the sticks on the hands," Babcock said. "To me, those are just freebies you give away. We can't take those."

Added Detroit defenceman Niklas Kronwall: "We just have to be a little smarter."

Shark Bait

The Wings have now lost 10 of their last 12 games to San Jose going back to last year's playoffs, but Babcock doesn't believe his team is developing any frustration from their tough luck against the Sharks.

"Our belief in ourselves and our plan, I don't question that," Babcock said. "But the bottom line is we came into their building and they were able to win two games.

"We're going home, we'll have our crowd. We've got to do something with it."

Shake It Up

Babcock opted to give his team Monday away from the rink, and indicated he'll utilize that time to analyze his club's performance in the first two games and determine whether it warrants a lineup shakeup that could see veteran forwards Kris Draper or Mike Modano inserted.

"The good thing about it is I've got a little time to figure it out," Babcock said. "We've got five hours on the flight, and the a full day tomorrow.

"It will give me time to watch the tape without emotion and figure that out."

Upping the Antti

The Wings felt they were more successful at testing Sharks netminder Antti Niemi in Game 2, but the guy who backstopped the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup last spring passed the test with flying colours.

"He's a very good butterflier, very good down low," said Niemi's opposite number, Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard. "He takes away everything, he's got the long legs.

"When we get opportunities, we're going to have to pass it off him or go upstairs on him, because he takes away the bottom of the net really well."

Snow Fallout

The Sharks, especially forward Joe Pavelski, have been going to the net with pace and leaving Howard in a blizzard of snow showers as they come to a stop on his doorstep, and the Wings are wondering when the NHL is going to do something about it.

"This is what I've found over the years," Babcock said. "Every time I make a comment about any of this stuff, it just comes back to bite me in the butt.

"But I think that's a really good question." Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom indicated they've broached the issue with game officials. "I don't know why they keep allowing them to do it," Lidstrom said. "We keep telling the refs. It's up to the refs."