Red Wings 4 Sharks 3
Sharks lead the series 3-2.
When these playoffs opened, Mike Babcock laid out the phrase “Race to Four” when describing how the Red Wings would approach each series. If that mantra carried over to this series against the Sharks, then the Red Wings are playing the part of the tortoise to the proverbial “T”.
The Wings, all but written off in this series after dropping the first three games, now find themselves on a plane back home to Detroit for a sixth game in a series that many believed would be over tonight. Sure, the Wings claimed Game 4 at the Joe, but all one had to do was look back at last season’s series against the Sharks to find a reason to let doubt creep in. Up to this point, everything that had transpired in this Western Conference Semifinal reeked of the 2010 series that saw the Wings battle to the very end yet eventually fall short in San Jose in the fifth game. Heading into the third period tonight, it looked like history was on its way to repeating itself yet again.
Then it happened. No, then IT happened. The Wings finally found that elusive extra gear that they’ve been missing ever since the calendar rolled from 2010 to 2011. Down two goals to a talented foe in their own building, the Red Wings finally decided to start playing hockey. They relied on the system and the talent that’s been in place since day one, and lo and behold, things started to fall into place. Some call this puck luck, which has definitely not been in Detroit’s camp against the Sharks. Personally, I still believe you make your own luck. Maybe not the luck itself, but luck favors those who put themselves in a place to find it and the Wings finally found IT. Maybe they just gave up hope and said “Ah, FUCK IT. Let’s just play.” If so, we’ll take some more of that.
Yes, it was ugly at times. The first two periods were a terrifying mess of sluggish play and fear of making a mistake. The Sharks knew that and capitalized on it, hoping to deliver the same knockout blow that they did last year. But then something changed. Kronwall blew up Clowe. Datsyuk flipped the switch. The Rig scored (did I type that correctly?) and Dan Cleary decided to get back to grinding. It’s fitting then that a team that has struggled to find consistent offensive production this series finally got some goal scoring help from the muckers and grinders. The system? It worked tonight. In a game that was never destined to be easy, the Red Wings decided they hadn’t given everything they had, and their reward is a chance to keep the magic alive back home at the Joe.
Now, there’s momentum. Sure, the Wings had “momentum” after the Game 4 win, but that was more wishful thinking than anything else. Like I said, this script was all too familiar. Yet now the script is gone. Where there was five last year, there’s now six. Where the Wings were 0-7 in games where they trailed a series 3-1 on the road for Game 5, they are now 1-7. The story has now changed. This is uncharted territory for this era of these two teams playing each other. And that’s where it gets terrifying. With last year no longer a point of reference for optimism and/or pessimism, hope can begin to spring. Sure, the odds are still against the Wings in this series and there’s a very good chance they could end up losing this series, but 3-2 is much more manageable than 3-1. Sure, the Wings were dismal at home during the regular season, but now Tuesday night promises to be one of the most raucous crowds the Joe has seen in a long time. Sure, the defense has to get better, but the penalty kill was perfect tonight and there’s that goalie the Wings have who’s been standing on his head and doing everything in his power to keep his team in this series. That’s the audacity of hope. The odds may say no, but the heart says yes.
Who are we to disagree?
See you on Tuesday.