For the fifth time in the 2011 playoffs, we have a series that has gone the distance. And for the third time in the last two seasons, we have a team that started a series trailing 3-0 only to rally back and force a game seven. This is abnormal for it to happen so frequently as it has not happened that often in the 90+ year history of the NHL (only eight times).
They say a NHL game seven is the most exciting game in sports, except for when your team is playing. The last time the Red Wings were in a game seven, it was the first round last season against Phoenix. 2008 was the last time San Jose played a game seven, where it defeated Calgary. There is a tale of two different teams and two different fan and media bases. Here are some of the things the media in both Detroit and San Jose have been saying.
The San Jose media have been dogging Patrick Marleau all throughout the day Wednesday. I had the opportunity to listen to listen to KBWF 95.7 in San Francisco Wednesday morning. The hosts of The Monty Show were referring him as “Peggy Marleau Fleming”, that might be a little harsh, but it is true because he has done nothing in the playoffs. He has been pointless in this series and has five points in 12 games. That is awful for someone who led the team with 73 points in the regular season. It would be a gutsy move by head coach Todd McLellean to sit Marleau for the game, he has to entertain it at least. But expect him to play because any goal by Marleau tonight would be a big goal.
The Sharks were also without Ryan Clowe Tuesday night. The team said he was out with an upper body injury, but before they said that, they said it was the flu. I’m throwing out the theory that he had concussion-like symptoms from the Nikolas Kronwall hit, because the worse times for a person with concussion-like symptoms would be the first 24 hours. And it would be even worse for him to get on an airplane and fly across the country with the air pressure in the cabin. During Wednesday’s practice, they did not reveal much about his status for Thursday night.
Thursday night marks the 22nd elimination game in Sharks history, and although they are 4-5 in those at home, they’ll be trying to improve to 2-0 in game sevens at home.
In Detroit, the Red Wings stunned everyone with their comeback Thursday night: except themselves. As we have seen many times in the playoffs this year, no lead is safe at any time. When the Sharks scored, there was plenty of time left to get the one goal needed to tie the game. And they didn’t get just one, they got 3.
The Red Wings have the momentum going into this game because they have won the last three games. But you can realistically throw every stat, and trend out the door going into game seven. Case in point: the 2009 finals where Pittsburgh defeated Detroit at Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings led the series 3-2 heading to Pittsburgh where they had a chance to win. They didn’t so they came home for game seven. The home team had better odds of winning the Stanley Cup, but the Penguins proved those odds wrong. So for the Sharks and Red Wings, you might as well toss a coin in the air and which ever team it lands on could be the winner.
One important stat to keep in mind is the Red Wings have outscored the Sharks 6-2 in the third period the last two games. I believe the Red Wings have its best chance to win in regulation, and that if it enters sudden-death overtime it could favor the Sharks. In addition, the teams have been tied or separated by one goal 90% of the time (336:43 of 376:24).
In comparison to the other major sports with a seven-game series, NHL.com research said completing the comeback is an extreme rarity in the NHL — the three successful clubs represent just 1.8% of the 167 clubs that have attempted it — as well as in the other major professional sports leagues. Just one club in the history of Major League Baseball has done it, the Boston Red Sox in 2004 against the New York Yankees, and no club in the National Basketball Association has accomplished the feat.
The Sharks have a 4-2 franchise record in game sevens. The Red Wings are 13-8 in games that went the distance. Both teams played a game seven in 1994 when Jamie Baker scored what is considered to be the greatest goal in Sharks history when he had the game-winning goal against Chris Osgood. Oddly enough, Osgood, Nicklas Lidstrom and Kris Draper are still members of the Red Wings. Lidstrom is the only one expected to play tonight as of Thursday morning.
I have a strange set of predictions heading into game seven. I believe one of two things will happen. The Red Wings will chase Niemi the way they did Patrick Roy in 2002 and blowout the Sharks, or the man with the target on his back (Marleau) will score a big (and potentially game-winning) goal. It’s just a feeling.