GAME 5: Sharks (3-2-0) vs. Red Wings (3-2-0)
Gametime: 4pm PST /7pm EST
TV: CSNBA, FSDT
Radio: 98.5 KFOX
Long before the Sharks were blowing playoff games against the Los Angeles Kings, they were blowing them to a team considered by many to still be San Jose’s biggest franchise playoff rival: The Detroit Red Wings. In the Sharks’ first-ever trip to the playoffs, they were an 8th seed pit against the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings, who finished the regular season at the top of the Western Conference and led the league in goals scored, even-strength goals, short-handed goals, and shots on goal. The Sharks proceeded to not give two hells about any of that.
In their first trip to the playoffs, the 1993-94 San Jose Sharks made a statement. They gave notice to the rest of the NHL that they weren’t just another expansion team looking to make a quick buck. They wanted to contend with the league’s best. Despite the upset, the Sharks wouldn’t win another playoff series against the Red Wings until 2010, when Patrick Marleau scored what, up until Joonas Donskoi‘s OT winner in the Final last year, I considered to be the loudest goal in Shark Tank history:
Tonight, the Sharks will visit the Barn That Baker Burned for the last time ever. The Joe Louis Arena will be closing at the end of the season, and the Hockeytown faithful will move to arguably the best-named sports arena of all time. The Sharks-Red Wings rivalry has cooled off after the NHL (appropriately) relocated the Red Wings to the Eastern Conference in 2013, but tonight the Sharks have one last chance to spoil a crowd at the Joe.
It may not be a playoff game, but the Sharks should treat this game as a must-win. A loss means dropping to .500 and going 2-3 on the team’s first road trip of the season after winning an NHL-best 28 away games last year. San Jose could also use a bounce-back game after a 3-2 loss to the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday night, which saw the Sharks blowing a 2-0 lead late in the 3rd period.
The good news: San Jose is off to another fantastic start in the Shot Attempts Close % department, a formula that tracks the amount of shots a team takes and gives up during tied and one-goal games. It’s a key stat that tracks a team’s overall ability to “drive” play in close games throughout a season, and has been successfully used to predict playoff success in past years. The Sharks are currently 2nd in the league behind Los Angeles, and it’s safe to assume San Jose could take over 1st if they keep playing their game while the injury-ridden Kings continue their struggles. By comparison, Detroit is currently dead last (UPDATE: Detroit is now 22nd after last night’s game against Nashville).
The Red Wings are also coming off of a poorly-scheduled back-to-back game against Nashville, giving the Sharks a chance to steal two points from a tired team. Still, both these teams have a history, and the Sharks shouldn’t expect an easy game. While Steve Yzerman and Pavel Datsyuk are gone, names like Jimmy Howard and Dylan Larkin still make the Red Wings a competitive draw for San Jose.
Prediction: Sharks 3, Red Wings 2. Pavelski, Couture, and Marleau score for the Sharks. Jamie Baker accidentally shows up at Little Caesars Arena instead of the Joe and spends the night sitting in every seat in the empty stadium whispering “You too will fear my name” to the darkness. My girlfriend’s father, a lifelong Red Wings fan, calls me after the game in tears and admits he’s always loved the Sharks and regrets everything, giving me his blessing and agreeing to wear a Sharks jersey while he walks my girlfriend down the aisle as we finally discover the real winner of the game of hockey: love.
|Detroit Red Wings||San Jose Sharks||Advantage|
|T-2nd Atlantic||Div. Standing||T-3rd Pacific|
|3-2-0||Last 10 Games||3-2-0||Tied|
|31.6 % (3rd)||Power Play||18.8% (T-15th)||Red Wings|
|68.4% (27th)||Penalty Kill||69.2% (26th)||Sharks|
|3.00 (T-15th)||Goals For||2.80 (T-17th)||Red Wings|
|3.00 (T-14th)||Goals Against||3.00 (T-14th)||Tied|
|0||Goal Differential||-.2||Red Wings|
San Jose Sharks Projected Lineup
Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Mikkel Boedker – Logan Couture – Joonas Donskoi
Patrick Marleau – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Matt Nieto – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Eduoard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko
Detroit Red Wings Projected Lineup
Tomas Tatar– Henrik Zetterberg – Riley Sheahan
Justin Abdelkader – Frans Nielsen – Dylan Larkin
Tomas Vanek– Darren Helm – Gustav Nyquist
Drew Miller– Luke Glendening – Steve Ott
Dan DeKeyser – Mike Green
Jonathan Ericsson – Alexey Marchenko
Brendan Smith – Ryan Sproul