Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Sharks cheat the reaper in Game 7

Categories: Detroit Red Wings, SJS vs. DET, San Jose Sharks

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Patrick Marleau, left, and Joe Thornton are moving onto the Conference final. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Patrick Marleau, left, and Joe Thornton are moving onto the Conference final. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
So, for the first time in NHL history, two teams that took a diamond, ground it into coal and the turned it back into a gem meet.

The San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks, who both managed to make 3-0 series leads and the hopes of those teams who erased them disappear, begin their Bizarro World Western Conference final on Sunday at Rogers Arena (CBC, 5 p.m. PT), the other home where the fans pay too much for alcohol given what they are asked to endure.

The Sharks' 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 was typical for this series -- sensational, innard-grinding stuff that does the sport credit. And remarkably, the Sharks followed the script that cost them Game 5 four days earlier.

Who says you can't teach a dog to reinterpret old tricks?

The Sharks got first period goals from Devin Setoguchi and Logan Couture to take a 2-0 lead (like in Game 5), gave up one to Henrik Zetterberg (like in Game 5), got one back in the third period from Patrick Marleau (like in Game 5, though Marleau hadn't been this close to redemption the entire series) and gave another back through Pavel Datsyuk (like in Game 5).

Only this time, the Wings had seven minutes and change, not 19, and couldn't score on San Jose goalie Antti Niemi again. The Sharks, in short, cheated the reaper when the reaper was hitting his stride.

And now comes Vancouver, which got its scare in the first round from Chicago.

"That's why this doesn't matter now, why it's all in the past," defenceman Dan Boyle said.

"We blew a 3-0 lead and won, and they blew a 3-0 lead and won. We're both in cities that are hungry to win the Cup, and we know how crazy it's going to be up there. We both have something to prove."

Oh, they surely do, and comparing the relative angst levels of two cities is mostly spoiling for an argument. Vancouver has been around for twice as long as the Sharks and has been party to two Stanley Cup Finals.

San Jose has never been to any, but plays in a far less rabid local environment, so Vancouver wins on the angst noise meter there.

But with both teams having barely survived their respective worst instincts, a year after both were muscled out of the playoffs by Chicago, a rivalry is about to be born based on level of fan suffering.

Somehow, proving your team is better by the length of your psychic scars is a first in NHL history, too.


Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Devin Setoguchi
Ryane Clowe-Logan Couture-Dany Heatley
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

Wings come up short

The Detroit Red Wings came into Game 7 riding a three-game winning streak and a sense that they were about to make history.

Ultimately, they came up one goal short of their goal.

A loss gave San Jose a redemption after squandering a 3-0 series lead, leaving the Wings a stunned group.

"You thought in your heart and in your mind that you were winning for sure, and moving on and having the opportunity to play Vancouver [in the Western Conference final]," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.

"I thought we were in the driver's seat, just because we were coming after them."

After falling behind 2-0, and 3-1, the Wings drove back desperately in search of the tying goal.

"I thought we took over the game in the second half, but we just couldn't get that third one this time," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.

From front page to footnote

Instead of becoming the fourth team in Stanley Cup history to rally from a 3-0 series deficit, the Wings became the fifth team to win three in a row, only to lose Game 7.

They joined the 2011 Chicago Blackhawks, 1975 New York Islanders, 1945 Red Wings and 1939 New York Rangers in this unfortunate group.

"Obviously if you look at it, you're down 3-0 and it's a huge thing to overcome and in the end, we were unable to do it," Babcock said. "But if you take the approach that we've got a game today and we've got to win it, then I don't think it's as big a deal.

"Our guys came here, and we fully expected to go to Vancouver. In the end, they're the team that's going to go. That part's disappointing, but I don't think we left anything out there. I thought our guys played as hard as we could."

Broken Wings

Already minus Johan Franzen (sprained left ankle) to start the game, the Wings lost Todd Bertuzzi in the first period and Dan Cleary in the second period to apparent concussions, further weakening their forward depth.

"We would have liked to have had some minutes out of those guys, but that's hockey," Babcock said. "You miss those guys, but it was an opportunity for other guys to step up."

Bertuzzi was hurt along the boards when hit in the head by the shoulder of San Jose forward Dany Heatley. Cleary went out after colliding in mid-ice with teammate Jiri Hudler, taking Hudler's shoulder to the head. Franzen, who also missed Game 6, was a game-time decision, but ultimately couldn't answer the bell.

"He wasn't good enough to play," Babcock said, adding the loss of that trio of forwards left his club significantly shorthanded. "Without Cleary, without Bert, without Mule, that's a big chunk of our team right there."

Pav and Hank step up

The Wings can't complain that their best players weren't their best players when it mattered. Pavel Datsyuk (eight games) and Henrik Zetterberg (six games) both scored to extend their playoff point-scoring streaks.

"Our high-end forwards, Datsyuk and Zetterberg, were fantastic in this series," Babcock said. "They showed great leadership qualities.

"Pav, I think he's the best two-way player in the game for sure, but Zetterberg's no slouch, either. We're fortunate to have that 1-2 punch. They've got great drive, they really compete at the highest level and they make the people around them better."

Babcock did acknowledge that a sore wrist had prevented Datsyuk from taking faceoffs during the series.

Lidstrom's future

The season over, the attention for the Wings now turns to the decision-making process of their captain. A Norris Trophy finalist, Lidstrom, 41, has given no indication of whether he intends to return to Detroit next season or retire from the game.

"I haven't really put a timetable on it," Lidstrom said. "I'm going to reconsider everything before I make my decision."

Babcock is as anxious as anyone awaiting that word. "Obviously, Nick hasn't told me what he's going to do," Babcock said. "When he decides, I hope I'll be hearing good news."

Power outage

Detroit's power play couldn't muster up much in Game 7, failing on four opportunities, two of them in the first period when it was still scoreless and another late in the third period as they searched for the tying goal.

"It didn't get 'er done for us in the end," Babcock said. "They scored one more power-play goal than us in the series (5-4).

"We had some opportunities, but were not good enough."