I spent about three hours last evening realizing that I may have been premature in saying the Detroit Red Wings are going to steamroll the San Jose Sharks, but not too premature. Allow me to explain:
A battle hardened Detroit team leaves Phoenix, Arizona Tuesday night after a long series with the Coyotes that no doubt left bruises, bumps, and bandages up and down the roster of both squads. Sadly, only one team could advance in that series, and much to my delight, that team is my hometown heroes. They make the 712 mile trek to No-Cal the evening of their victory over the Desert Dogs, giving them a night of little sleep, and a long practice the next day, before an early game on Thursday. One day rest, with travel, in the playoffs, 2442 miles from home, sweet Joe.
Why the quick turnaround?
Was it because of a seven game series prior to the beginning of this one? Perhaps. Montreal is in the same predicament this evening, granted, with a lot less miles on their odometer. Doesn’t the NHL still give it’s at least two days rest after a game seven? Not this year.
I know you are asking yourselves, why play a game that starts at six o’clock in the evening local time on a Thursday? Most local fans would miss the first period commuting home from work. If the league is insisting on starting the series on Thursday, why not have the usual seven thirty start time? There are no other games on the docket today, so the odd timing couldn’t possibly have anything to do with television scheduling. This doesn’t make any sense. An odd start time, two days after round one concluded, why not push it to Friday and have the typical double header with the west coast match following the east coast match, giving us hockey fans a continuous afternoon into evening of the sport that we love? Well the answer my friends if fairly simple, and no, it’s not because Bettman hates the Red Wings and wants them to lose. It’s The Eagles.
It seems the people in charge of the HP Pavilion’s event coordinating bet against their inhabitants making the second round of the playoffs and booked back to back live performances by aging rock icons. With stage building and sound checks to be performed Thursday after the game, they had no choice but to push the game to an earlier time slot.
If the Dude is a Wings fan, now he really hates the fucking Eagles.
Sorry Detroit. Sorry Montreal. Hotel California needs to be heard.
Alas, I’m not trying to give excuses for why my boys lost game one of the semi’s. If I were trying to do that I would call on the terrible officiating, that allowed Johan Franzen to be put in the penalty box for tripping when he clearly took a blow to the head and a high stick that cut him on the same play. Instead of going to a four minute, if not more, power play, the wings found themselves killing a two minute minor where Valtteri Filppula raised his stick on Devin Setoguchi giving the Sharks a two man advantage for the final 20 some seconds of the second period, and the first minute or so of the third. A high stick that in my eyes, and I’m sure in the eyes of million’s of Detroit, as well as Hockey fans everywhere, was followed by a pretty convincing flop, a penalty that has been called quite a bit in these playoffs. For a minute. I thought I was watch the NBA playoffs. No I’m not trying to give excuses, but in the dwindling minutes of the game, Mr. May, Detroit’s number 93 was given a hit from behind that resembled one that Hossa made last week, or Ovechkin about a month ago. There was a generous non-call. A very, very generous non-call. No, no, not making excuses, well, maybe a little bit.
What was written in history is that San Jose won the match 4-3 and have a one game series lead. Three quick goals in the first period powered the Sharks to an early lead, a power play goal, exploiting a tired line that was guilty of icing the puck, and an odd bounce that found Setoguchi’s stick. Dan Cleary solved Nabokov minutes later off of a feed by a hard working Jonathan Ericsson, pinching deep down low. The Mule, Johan Franzen ripped a shot high from the slot that found the back of the net halfway through the second off a beautiful feed from the Thief, Pavel Datsyuk. After that goal, Detroit who had crawled within one seemed to take the life out of the Sharks, and seemed to be moments away from finishing the comeback. Then, the zebras took over. A couple of bad calls later, Joe Pavelski, hero of the playoffs so far in the Bay Area, founds Jimmy Howard’s five hole, and the back of the net on a two man advantage giving his team a 4-2 lead. Brian Rafalski’s well placed wrister off another beautiful set up by Datsyuk would not be enough to over come the top seeded team in the west. The clock wound down. The game ended. The Sharks were victorious.
But what did we see? What did we learn? I don’t know about you, but to me, a tired Red Wings team, minus a two minute breakdown in the first, completely controlled the game. They enjoyed a much better played 5-on-5 game, controlled the pace of the puck, had better passing, better net-minding, and better face off percentages. Imagine what an extra day of rest would have done for them. The dominance that could have incurred. Imagine that with some calls going the way of Red. Image all of this without the stress of traveling the day before. Oh, wait, that’s right. Due to the odd booking of a concert during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, game two is on Sunday. The teams will actually get two days of rest before they play again. Thanks The Eagles.
I’m not worried about this series, and unless your colors include teal and black, you shouldn’t worry either.
Wings in six.