For any Sharks fan, they wish this was all just a dream. But it’s not.
A nightmarish series of events over the last five days has pushed Joe Thornton and company to the brink. They once possessed a commanding 3-0 series lead over Detroit. It has vanished. Now they have 60 minutes to avoid what would be a collapse of epic proportions.
As Devin Setoguchi netted the overtime winner in Game 3, it was a foregone conclusion that Team Teal would be making their second consecutive conference final appearance. I mean, why wouldn’t you assume that a trip to the third round was in the books? A comeback from down 0-3 has only been done thrice in playoff history.
However, the Red Wings have rattled off three straight wins to force a Game 7 in the Shark Tank, which will be an extremely tense building on Thursday night.
One positive the Sharks can take into Game 7 is that they can be better… a lot better. The last four periods have been dominated by the Red Wings. In that time, the series has taken a dramatic turn. Mike Babcock’s crew has vastly outplayed San Jose, holding a 6-2 advantage on the scoreboard with the ice heavily tilted in their direction.
The Sharks must hit the reset button after Tuesday’s disappointing 3-1 loss in Detroit. (Fixing the defensive and neutral zone mistakes wouldn’t hurt, either). They have to play to win on Thursday, or else they’ll become the fourth team to ever lose after owning a three-game series lead.
If they play ‘not to lose’ and come out of the gates on their heels (like they were all of Game 6), this would be the worst playoff exit in franchise history – and that’s saying something.
Two stars that will need to put forth their best effort on Thursday are Thornton and Patrick Marleau. The captain has one point in the three losses, while the former captain has yet to record a point in the entire series. The Sharks need more from them, especially since Ryane Clowe's status remains up in the air.
Todd McLellan's gang should look back to the first round, when the Vancouver Canucks had seen their 3-0 series lead disappear against eighth-seeded Chicago. In that Game 7, the Canucks came out flying and scored early to put the previous three games in their distant memory.
The Sharks’ season is slipping away and it comes down to 60 minutes. Will they develop amnesia and play their best hockey of the year? We will see.
When the Game 6 win was sealed for Detroit on Darren Helm’s empty-netter, Joe Louis Arena blasted Journey’s hit song ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. Obviously, Pavel Datsyuk (‘injured’ wrist and all) and the Wings didn’t stop believing that they could come back in this series, despite the uphill climb.
Hopefully, for San Jose’s sake, they don’t stop believing between now and puck-drop on Thursday.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.