Obviously, going seven games – more than any other Western Conference series – is means for starting Round 2 two days earlier than anyone else. We shouldn’t have expected any less from the “oh, we’ll just play back to back Finals games fifteen minutes after your third round ended” NHL.
While the Wings needed to go the entire distance to shove the Coyotes onto the golf course, the Sharks have been resting since Saturday, after a six game series with the Avalanche. It’s not unreasonable to hope the Wings can catch St. Joe’s and former assistant coach Todd McLellan off-balance and steal Game 1. Win one in California, and the Wings will usurp home-ice advantage in the series.
The Fins are “led” by Joe “Post Season Disaster” Thornton, Dany “Juuuuuust Shy of Seventy Goals” Heatley, Dan “Steve Smith Impressionist” Boyle, Patrick “No C” Marleau, Manny “Kneecap” Malhotra, Rob “Seriously?” Blake, Ryane “Withe an E” Clowe, Joe “Not Datsyuk” Pavelski, Devin “Tomagochi” Setoguchi, and Evgeni “High-Pressure Situation Rockstar” Nabokov.
After jousting all season with Chicago for top spot in the Conference, the Sharks’ 113 points narrowly edged out the Hawks’ 112. Their 51 wins was third most in the league, their 21.0% power play percentage is like Gaylord Focker’s stock portfolio: “Strong. To very strong,” and the kill was effective to the point of fifth best in the league.
But our Red Wings are rolling. They’re on a nice little swell at the moment, and if they continue playing like they did on Tuesday – neither the Sharks nor anyone else left in the playoffs should present a problem. That said, we all know that the Wings don’t play like that for whole weeks at a time, so consistency is going to be more of a factor as the post-season rolls on. James Howard might be able to turn the series victory into a confidence or swagger to continue backstopping in Calder fashion, and that would be swell. As far as the rest of the team goes, I’m sure you’ve already read 600 “this guy needs to step up, that guy is good, where did Franzen disappear to” posts, so I won’t bore you with that. But considering we may have found some line combos that click – I can’t imagine you’ll see much change in the lineup until it is proven to not work out West.
Zetterberg, Filppula, and Bertuzzi is your defacto top line. I know the Datsyuk, Holmstrom, Franzen combination is theoretically the top line, but ZFlip’tuzzi is killing it, nearly every shift. Flip seems re-energized. Bertuzzi still sucks but at least he’s forechecking and digging along the boards. Zetterberg is Smythey magic.
Datsyuk seems to be waking up, which is swell, and I think Mulo is due for an outbreak. Homer’s been juggled around, so maybe he does something that forces Babcock’s hand to keep him on the top six.
Dan Cleary doesn’t belong on a fourth line, but you can’t break up the third when it provides so much possession and effective shutting down. Add Justin Abdelkader’s fresh blood to the mix and the forward lines are pretty damn scary. Are they scarier than a Team Canada line the Sharks can roll out? I don’t know, but perhaps the depth of the Wings will be a saving grace. Stop me if you’ve heard that before.
40 Year Old Urgin’, Nick Lidstrom had a mini-renaissance in Game 7, though I shutter to think he was actually falling off at all. A pair of goals might be what the doctor ordered to re-align the robot. Making the same goes for Brad “Better Hands on Breakaways than Darren Helm” Stuart will feel the same. I agree with Hollis that Stuart isn’t around to score goals and we shouldn’t measure the effectiveness of his game by the scoresheet, but for a guy that’s been prone to boneheaded plays, maybe he carries his positive thoughts into the next round and does his job and does it well.
I don’t know about you, but I’m liking how the Wings stack up against the Sharks. I won’t make a prediction, because it gives me agita, but I do feel better about the matchup than I did about Phoenix. I hope that’s worth something.