"Valtteri, I would love to stay here and talk with you...but I'm not going to."
Well, it's Red Wings Elimination Day... again... and that must mean that we're up here at Joe Louis Arena waiting for the drop of the puck, so we can find out just how much more of this series we can expect.
The San Jose Sharks are struggling to get all the little things right. They're making adjustments to address weaknesses only to expose other vulnerabilities in their game. On Sunday night the Sharks played their best first period of the playoffs, built up a lead through the second period and the first minutes of the third, and then to celebrate their accomplishment they thought it would be fun to play terrible hockey for a while. In a strange reversal of the pattern established by the Sharks in this year's playoffs, San Jose was the team that looked helpless to stop an opponent from catching up, tying, then taking the lead late in the game.
I killed myself so many times I don't even exist anymore.
Before the game the Sharks talked about how important it was for them to get a fast start, since that was something they've struggled with recently (they're the worst playoff team in terms of first-period goal differential). On Sunday night they addressed that problem perfectly, but weren't able to keep up the dominance they established early for a full sixty minutes. They saved the homeless man in Punxsutawney and gave him a nice meal, but they weren't able to get Andie MacDowell to fall in love with them.
Just put that anywhere, pal! Yeah! Good save!
Overall Sunday's game has to go down as a big missed opportunity. The Sharks were clearly the better team through most of the game, piling up scoring chances through the first two periods and making the Red Wings look tired and old. The Sharks won the chances battle for the game, of course, but they just couldn't close the deal on enough of their many excellent opportunities, and so there was little margin for error late in the game when all the San Jose players started daydreaming about what they would do if they lived one day over and over again, forever* - or whatever the hell they were doing. They clearly weren't thinking about hockey, is my point.
I'm betting he's going to swerve first.
These two teams are very evenly matched. I was thrilled when the Sharks were up 3-0 in the series with the possibility of sweeping Detroit out of the playoffs, but I was also aware that every game in this series has been very close. As all the one-goal wins show, this is a series that is being won on bounces and lost on whiffed shots. San Jose and Detroit are the two best teams remaining in the playoffs, and it's fitting that every game has come down to the thinnest of margins.
You wanna throw up here, or you wanna throw up in the car?
Before we wrap up for the day, there's one final thing we have to discuss: Jeremy Roenick's harsh criticism of Patrick Marleau. I'm sure I don't need to rehash the details for you guys - Puck Daddy discussed the issue, and Mr. Plank at Fear the Fin started talking about it before deciding he'd rather write the last three chapters of Jeremy Roenick's upcoming biography - so I'll just discuss my personal reaction to the controversy.
I like Jeremy Roenick. I liked him before he joined the Sharks, liked him even more when he played pretty well in San Jose, and have enjoyed his recent exploits as a lovable buffoon "analyzing" hockey on Versus. Roenick always speaks his mind and it has gotten him into trouble a few times during his hockey career.
I believe that Roenick said what he said because he wants the Sharks to win the series. What I saw from Roenick when he discussed Marleau's "gutless" play was the same frustration every Sharks fan knows all too well. Patrick Marleau, when he is "hot" or whatever you want to call it, is an amazing, dominant player. Thus far against the Red Wings, however, he hasn't done much on the score-sheet. And of course, when Marleau isn't scoring, fans tend to blame his lack of physical play or "edge," conveniently ignoring the fact that Marleau almost never plays that way, even when he's putting up a ton of points. It's not his game.
If you're a fan of looking at scoring chances for and against, then Patrick Marleau had a great game five. He was the best guy on the Sharks in that regard, in fact. It's hard to deny, though, that there were a couple of times out there when Patrick Marleau looked like a big liability - most notably his weak play against Pavel Datsyuk on the final goal of the game.
As a long-time fan of the Sharks and Patrick Marleau, I've made my peace with the way Patty plays. He does stuff like this some times. He falls into scoring-droughts and defensive-funks that last for a few games, a few weeks, or sometimes even longer. It sucks, and it's painful to watch.There are times when the most patient amongst us have called for him to be benched, or even traded.
But then something happens, and things start going Marleau's way. There aren't really any obvious changes in his style of play, but all of a sudden he looks unstoppable. He's fast, he avoids defenders, and he swoops in from the perimeter and scores key goals. Patrick Marleau makes good things happen.
Marleau's style of play works with his skill-set, and unfortunately often results in inconsistency. Getting pissed off about it and trying to get him to change his game is like yelling at a river to get it to start flowing backwards.
I get it, Roenick - I totally understand why you're mad. I don't hate you for your criticism, and I'm not going to stop liking you because of it. But if it ever came down to it, if I ever had to pick a side between you and Patrick, well...
Today is tomorrow! It happened!
Prediction: The Sharks do it all the right way, and are allowed to move on. Patrick Marleau plays exactly the same way he always plays and gets two goals, and everyone credits Jeremy Roenick for "calling him out."
* = If they were to be caught in a Groundhog Day-loop, Joe Thornton would go to the nearest museum to look at mammoths every day, Kyle Wellwood would spend all his money on food and eat himself to death, and Patrick Marleau would do his laundry.
P.S. I read his e-mail too late to write this post around it, but Mike Chen recommended this clip in regards to the whole "gutless" situation, and it does indeed feel very appropriate.