2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Semifinals Game 1 Recap
Western Conference Semifinal Game 2 - San Jose 2, Detroit 1 – Sharks lead series, 2-0
The San Jose Sharks played a very ragged, loose and disjointed first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings, looking every bit like the jittery, distracted and not-fully-confident team that’s shown up virtually every year in the NHL postseason.
Now, however, the Sharks are playing 180 degrees differently, flowing with verve and vigor while breathing confidence at every turn. Liberated from the first round and aware of how much raw talent they possess, the boys from San Jose – frustrated with so many springtimes in which they’ve manifestly failed to play to their immense potential – are finally delivering on their promise and playing the kind of hockey their coaches and fans have waited for.
Yes, this is the San Jose team that Silicon Valley has been wanting to see. On-point and on-task in every aspect of competition, the Sharks simply smoked the vaunted Detroit Red Wings in a one-goal game that was far more decisive than the final scoreboard margin could ever possibly indicate. The Sharks now own a 2-0 series lead as they head to Detroit, in a repeat of last year’s second round series which ended in five games. San Jose is well on its way to a quick dismissal of the Winged Wheel, which is precisely how a longstanding reputation as a playoff underachiever gets turned on its head.
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There was simply no realm of activity in which the Sharks were outperformed on Sunday at HP Pavilion. Goalie Antti Niemi, who stopped Detroit star Henrik Zetterberg on a short-handed breakaway in the second period, was airtight in goal for the second straight game in this series. He’s playing like a defending Stanley Cup-winning goalie after being worse than mediocre against Los Angeles in round one.
San Jose’s offense scored only twice because Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard – the only man other than Pavel Datsyuk who is playing well for the Wings in this series – once again came up huge with 35 saves, many of them difficult. On a larger level, though, the Sharks are peppering the net with shots and are operating with a noticeable degree of aggressiveness. San Jose is winning all the battles on the boards and in the corners, which is pure gold against a Detroit team that thrives on puck control.
Naturally, San Jose’s puck control is its own form of defense, and that’s why Detroit went just 1-of-6 on the power play, with the lone goal coming only after the Sharks had built a 2-0 lead thanks to scores by Ian White and Niclas Wallin.
This is entirely a San Jose series. It feels a lot like 2010 in the NHL’s Western Conference postseason.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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