Ratto: Sharks so razor-sharp, even McLellan can't critique

Ratto: Sharks so razor-sharp, even McLellan can't critique
May 1, 2011, 11:31 pm
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May 1, 2011RATTO ARCHIVESHARKS PAGE SHARKS VIDEONHL PAGE NHL SCOREBOARDBOX SCORE RECAPRay Ratto
CSNBayArea.com
SAN JOSE -- Todd McLellan, ever mindful of what can go wrong, had a hard time figuring out what actually did Sunday.

We were happy with how we played in Game 1, the Sharks head coach said after watching his team win Game 2, 2-1 over the Detroit Red Wings, but we played with better intensity, I thought, and we had a little more battle-a-bility, if thats what you want to call it. And this was a harder game to play.

In what way, you might ask, given that the Sharks essentially defined and controlled if not outright dominated the last 50 minutes?

Detroit made it harder, he said, ever mindful not to stir the distressed giant any further. They had more sustained time in our end and against the boards. We had to do a lot more tonight with the penalty kill in six of the first 10 minutes. But yes, in some ways this was our best game (of the postseason).

And yet Detroits Nicklas Lidstrom hit the post with 2:42 to play, otherwise all that Sharks advantage talk would be for naught.

Yes, this is still a drumhead-tight series, even though San Jose has now won successive 2-1 games and goes to Detroit having won six of the last seven playoff games and 10 of the last 12 anything games.

RELATED: Sharks Game 2 video

But yes, this was also San Joses best performance yet. After spending much of the first 10 minutes down a man, including a four-minute high-sticking call on Benn Ferriero against Justin Abdelkader, the Sharks slowly but surely grabbed the game and choke-slammed it into submission -- or as close to submission as the Red Wings will allow.

Yeah, thats fair, Joe Thornton said. Our second period was pretty good, we just got after it and stayed after it, and spent a lot of time in their end. Thats what we all talked about before the team that spends more time in the other guys end is going to win the game.

And yet Detroits Nicklas Lidstrom hit the post with 2:42 to play, otherwise all that Sharks advantage talk would be for naught.

The Sharks got goals from the redoubtable offensive machines Ian White and Niclas (The Bleeding Beard) Wallin, and superb performances from the other four defenders, most notably Dan Boyle.

He was very good, McLellan said, and you notice that when hes really good, so is 3 (Douglas Murray).

But San Jose also got standout work from a veritable army of backchecking forwards as well, from the defensively attentive, like Thornton, Scott Nichol and Ryane Clowe, to the offensively prejudiced, like Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi.

As a result, the Sharks lost the first period but handled the second and third, and now head to Detroit as they did a year ago, two games to the good and with visions of a conference final in their heads yet again.

But killing a team is apparently harder than it used to be. Taking only non-first-round series into account, four of the last 13 teams to win the first two games at home eventually lost the series, starting with the 06 Sharks in the now famous Edmonton Fiasco.

We know how good they are, White said, and we know theyre only going to be better in their building, so we cant let up. In fact, we have to be better.

It is hard to know if the Sharks can be better than this; if they can, it is probably in the needless penalty area. Their often spotty penalty kill was 5-for-6, and they also squeezed out another power play goal (the White slapshot, from a nifty dumpoff by Heatley).

But Sharks aficionados know that San Jose is always one complacent thought from being back on their heels. Their lack of ability to put the boot in when the for is prone is as much a part of the franchise as the papier mache shark head in the ceiling.

Thus, Wednesdays third game will require at least as much attention to the details as the first two. It will require more Antti Niemi, and Boyle and White and Wallin and Thornton and Heatley and all the other gents if they are to reach their third conference final in seven years, and with a decent amount of rest.

And don't forget, Detroits Nicklas Lidstrom hit the post with 2:42 to play, otherwise all that Sharks advantage talk would be for naught.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.