Puck Daddy - NHL

In what must have been a locker room with its share of F-words after last night's embarrassment against the Detroit Red Wings, the San Jose Sharks were faced with a few C-words.

Like "comeback." And, despite their Western Conference semifinal lead, "collapse" and "choke." From Craig Custance (hey, more C-words!):

It was suggested to Sharks forward Ryane Clowe(notes) that maybe his team showed too much respect for the Red Wings. One of Clowe's teammates said as much.

Clowe clearly didn't think it was a problem. "Uh, no," he said.

"I don't know if you know, but we are the one up 3-0."

And he's right. The way everyone has been praising the Red Wings over the past couple of days, you'd think they were the team on the verge of advancing. Maybe it was an attempt by the Sharks players and staff to constantly remind each other not to take the Red Wings lightly heading into Game 4, but whatever the strategy, it didn't work.

Yet for all the praise of their foes, they may have taken victory for granted. Coach Todd McLellan didn't specifically say that after Thursday night's 7-1 curb-stomping by The Mule and the Detroit Red Wings, but you get the picture:

"Shame on them if I have to go in there and talk to them," said McLellan, who doesn't address his teams after games until the next day. "...We're all disappointed. We weren't prepared. We got away from our game. We have some work to do.

"Maybe this spanking we got tonight will wake us up," McLellan added. "We're in a hell of a series. We're not out of the woods by any means."

Coming up, a new hope for Wings, Thornton comes apart and whether the Sharks are in trouble.

Let's begin with the Wings, whose blitzkrieg in Game 4 was absolutely stunning. This wasn't just extending the series; it's the sort of effort that can reboot it, contingent of course on Detroit finding that gear three more times.

From Fight Night At The Joe, who's a believer:

Wow-wow-wee-wah! The Mule went out and decided he wanted more games this season. Awesome. But as decisive as today's win was we cannot bask in the glory for too long. Yes we outplayed them, but they will come back hard after a humiliation like this. But well, this proves that why the [Gretzky] shouldn't the Wings be able to come back and take four straight? It's gonna be a stretch, but it is possible. 

Matt Saler of On The Wings shares the cautious optimism:

If the Mule can keep up even half of that pace in Game 5, the Wings have a shot. How many seeds of doubt were planted in the minds of a surprisingly childish Sharks team tonight (Joe Thornton(notes), third period)? Dare we embrace the hope the Wings offered tonight?

One of the most amazing aspects of Johan Franzen's(notes) performance in Game 4 was that, until that point, he had been rather chilly as a goal-scorer in these playoffs. From Michael Rosenberg:

The funny thing is that, until Thursday's 7-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena, his confidence had been wavering. "Goal-scoring wise, yeah," he said. "I haven't been able to put the puck in the net." Then he went out on the ice and found himself in that rare, wonderful place that athletes call The Zone. The game slows down. Everything falls into place.

"It's just easy to put it in the net," Franzen said. "It feels like you've got all the time in the world. The puck just seemed to come onto my stick."

So was it one dynamic, dominant game? Or has the tide turned? Clark Rasmussen of DetroitHockey.Net is trying to curb his enthusiasm:

There is a giddy part of me that wants to look at this game as the tide having turned. That wants to point at Evgeni Nabokov's(notes) .444 save percentage and say that he finally cracked, the floodgates are open. Unfortunately, however, a more rational part of me knows that we can't say that.

I've said before, after blowout wins and losses alike, sometimes there's a game that you just can't take much from. Tonight was one of those. The Sharks will put it out of their minds and the Wings would be smart to do the same.

Clowe was one of those players attempting to put the loss behind him. From the Detroit Free Press:

"There's nothing really you want to remember about it," Clowe said. "Detroit played well. Give them credit over there.

"It's going to be a good test for us. Whatever way you look at it, we came here and split after winning two at home and we'll take a 3-1 lead back to San Jose. It's pretty easy to forget this game because it's pretty easy to take positives and that's what we'll do."

There were positives to be found during their time in Detroit, for sure. Just not in Game 4, which also featured such lowlights as Joe Thornton's unraveling and postgame whining. From NHL.com:

Even Thornton, who didn't have a penalty in the Sharks' first nine playoff games, was assessed a double minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct in the third period. He knocked down Franzen following a faceoff and mixed it up with Tomas Holmstrom(notes).

"I thought they were diving around there pretty good," Thornton said. "I don't know why I got 10 minutes. Homer just kind of ran into me and I'm just a bigger guy, that's all."

To which Red Wings blogger George Malik responded:

Punk. Thornton, Patrick Marleau(notes), and Dany Heatley(notes) have taken pages out of the Anaheim Ducks' book all series long, trying to instigate and toss cheap shots at the Red Wings' stars, just like Ryan Getzlaf(notes) and Katy Perry do. Classy bunch. I hope the Wings finally have a little "hate on" for the Sharks after this one, because Thornton most certainly showed his true colors tonight, and they aren't teal.

It's about time we had a little hatred in these playoffs. ("Katy Perry" ... file that one away for the fall.)

So what now for the Sharks? Mr. Plank of Fear The Fin believes, despite being one win away from advancing, that Game 5 is just about a must-win for San Jose:

Safe to say this was the worst game San Jose has played this postseason. That being said, don't piss your pants just yet. Game five will be the hardest game for Detroit to win this entire series. Hate to say it's a must-win considering the Sharks have a 3-1 series lead, but it's just about close. Want no part of a game six at The Joe.

Coach Tarts, meanwhile, sees this moment as a test of the Sharks' fans resolve:

There's no reason to believe this series can't or won't be closed out in 5 or 6, the Sharks have been playing too well for that. So they had a stinker tonight. So the D came out and forgot how to play right as Franzen decided to remember how. So what. Get over it. The team has to and we fans should too. This isn't like past seasons. These Sharks aren't curling up and dying at the slightest hint of push back. They're fighting, their overcoming and they're winning. They believe in themselves as a team. This series is 3-1. You had better believe that game 5 will be some of the most amazing hockey you have ever seen at the Tank come Saturday.

So either sit down and firmly hold on to that bandwagon and your finned foil hat or GTFO. This ride ain't for the faint of heart

Were this not the Sharks, a big loss and a 3-1 series lead headed back home wouldn't amount to anything more than an anomaly at best and a recalibration at worst. But San Jose hasn't earned the right to escape from a devastating loss like this without facing questions about their resolve and fortitude and ...

... oh, wait, yes they have: Lest we forget they already faced them in Round 1 against the Colorado Avalanche after the Dan Boyle/Ryan O'Reilly/OT Goal From Hell debacle. So beaten-down and debilitated were the Sharks that they only won their next six games by a combined score of 24-14. 

So what that Heatley was shut down or that Thornton reminded us why he doesn't wear the 'C'. So what that Nabokov was shelled and pulled. It's not on them to win Game 5: It's on Pavelski and Clowe and Setoguchi and Mitchell and Couture. They've been the backbone of this team in this postseason, and there's no reason to believe they'll go spineless in three straight.

The other thing to consider: The Red Wings haven't put together back-to-back dominating efforts in this postseason. They've looked this good before -- think Game 7 against the Phoenix Coyotes -- but haven't followed through. And we expect back-to-back-to-back Cup-worthy efforts to win this series?

Related Articles

Puck Daddy

Add to My Yahoo RSS

Related Photo Gallery

Y! Sports Blog