April 29, 2011
RATTO ARCHIVESHARKS PAGE SHARK VIDEODETROIT PAGE NHL PAGERay Ratto
SAN JOSE -- The argument that the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks are mirror images of each other is probably a mythlet -- not quite true, and not quite false.
But hours before the two sides resume their mutual-respect-a-thon, seeking their differences may be the key to understanding the series.
For one, Detroit is a bit quicker, even though their best players have slowed a bit. The magnificent defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom likes to advance the puck more and carry it less, and the Wings dont mind a good dump-and-chase as much as they used to.
But over the past three seasons, the Sharks have clung to the Wings as their raison detre, and only now, after beating them in the conference semifinals a year ago and three of four times this season, are they willing to separate a bit.
Systematically, were both a bit different now, head coach Todd McLellan said. Their game has evolved, and our game has evolved. You have to (evolve). You cant stand still, or you get worse.
Further, the Sharks roster is different, and dont be surprised if there isnt yet another tweak coming tonight. Ben Eager may well resume his place to Scott Nichols left on San Joses fourth line because of Detroits size advantage on its fourth line of Darren Helm, the speedy center, and wingers Kris Draper and Justin Abdelkader.
McLellan didnt say anything, but Jamie McGinn stayed on the ice a good deal longer than Eager did, which is often a hint that someone is conserving energy and the other is getting extra work in. This probably has little to do with McGinns penalty in Game 6 of the Kings series, and his reappearance will hinge mostly on which fourth line does more in its appearances.
Its not a series-changer by any means, but two teams that still are more alike than different are really restricted to minor turns with the spare roster parts. This series will be owned by performances rather than planning.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.