So the game isn’t until tomorrow, and it’s just a regular season game, but I am pretty excited and anxious about it. San Jose has been playing lights out for about the past month or so, and so has Detroit. Sure, in that time both teams have stumbled on occasion, but for the most part the Wings and the Sharks are playing some mighty fine hockey.
The game on Tuesday is guaranteed to feel like a playoff game. The Sharks need all the points they can get so that they can be assured of reaching the playoffs. The Wings want to show that they are still a force to be reckoned with as well as do whatever they can to solidify their 1st place in the Central Division and maybe even gain some ground on Western Conference leaders Vancouver–a prospect that seems unlikely but Detroit has always shown determination and fight and I don’t don’t that they will fight tooth and nail for all the points they can possibly get in an attempt to catch the Canucks.
Add to the fact that the game is the first of three on the Sharks last three or more game road trip-meaning the game will be played in Joe Louis Arena (a place where the Sharks have had marginal success if we want to be generous) and the game really should be a preview of what these teams will look like when the post season finally arrives. It will be interesting to see how Ian White and the rest of the Sharks respond to a team that will actually challenge them for 60 minutes and not just 40 like the Avalanche did on Saturday.
And Antti Niemi is probably going to have to have another excellent game if the Sharks hope to win because while Detroit’s goaltending might be questionable, their offensive prowess is not, and it seems that Howard (their goaltender) is regaining some consistency and is not the gaping hole in net that he was earlier this season. True, if HTML were living up to their offensive expectations and potentials, Niemi wouldn’t have to be spectacular, he would just have to be amazing, but the sad fact of the matter is that the Sharks’ top line is not producing the points this year meaning they have had to rely on secondary scoring much more.
Secondary scoring is essential to any team’s success, but when secondary scoring becomes your primary scoring (as it has been for the Sharks for the majority of this season) then there is trouble. Especially when going up against a team like Detroit which has scored 199 goals this season, good enough for second best in goal scoring in the entire league. Compare that to the 167 goals San Jose has scored while playing one more game than Detroit and it is clear that there is some reason for concern. The only possible silver lining is that the Sharks have allowed fewer goals than Detroit with 154 goals against compared to Detroit’s 169, but even this is misleading and not much of a silver lining, especially when one considers that the Sharks have had a terrible time holding a lead and have lost many one goal games either in regulation or in overtime/shootouts as a result of giving up an untimely tying/game winning goal, driving home the point that it does not matter so how much how many goals you allow, but rather when you allow them.
All in all it should be a most excellent game that I will have to try and stay up to watch. I’m glad school doesn’t start until Thursday. Go Sharks!