Takes and trash talk from both ALL sides of the NHL's most obscure PATHETIC* rivalry

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Detroit doesn't scare me

Let me get this out right away -- for all you Wing-nuts out there, there's a reason why almost every MSM pundit has picked the Sharks to win. No, it's not because there's some vast conspiracy against Detroit, and it's not because they "always pick the losers anyway" (a convenient rebuttal that I've seen floating around); it's because the Sharks, when they play their best, are really, really damn good.

See, that's the asterik to this whole thing. When they play their best.

When the Sharks play their best, they skate, they shoot, they grind, and they hit the crap out of other teams. They're too big, too fast, and too strong for just about any defense to handle. They've got interchangeable talent, which means that should Ron Wilson need to, he can put Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton on the same line together, or he can create three scoring lines and a checking line that still pounds the corners with enough grit to make the ghost of Darryl Sutter's teams proud. They hit and wear down defenses, goad them into taking stupid penalties, and have the discipline not to get suckered into it themselves.

The Sharks have a mobile defense that balances big hitting and strong positional play with speed and skill. At their best, they have the wheels to make up for mistakes, the hitting to make forwards think twice about going into nasty areas, and the shots to put fear into a goalie's hockey pants. No, they don't have a Nicklas Lidstrom or Chris Pronger, but they've got enough depth and skill to at least mirror the defense of last year's Hurricanes, if not better it.

And in net? Well, there really isn't much to say about the revival of Evgeni Nabokov. He's simply regained his position as one of the league's top netminders. At his best, he's quick, agile, has a wicked glove hand, and is positionally sound. And, of course, just in case, there's always a little safety net called Vesa Toskala.

Special teams? At their best, the Sharks are mobile, fire from everywhere, and are creative. Any number of their forwards can one-time, and Bill Guerin shoots from the most bizarre angles possible. The penalty kill has been a menace to other teams all season long, with Mike Grier going into overdrive while creating shorthanded opportunities. At their best, the Sharks special teams can handle any team.

From top to bottom, when the Sharks are playing their best, they can run over anyone. The Red Wings know that; just look at the regular season drubbings Detroit took at the hands of San Jose.

That, however, is the big catch with this series -- when the Sharks are playing their best. This Sharks team is also known to be inconsistent and apathetic. When that happens, they don't hit, they don't shoot, and they don't move their feet. They look kinda confused, chase the puck, and have a breakout worse than most beer league teams.

Detroit doesn't scare me. Yes, they've got talent. Yes, they upgraded at the trade deadline. Yes, Dominik Hasek's still an x-factor and can still be the best goalie in the world. Yes, they've got a better blueline, and yes, they've got that god damn weird Detroit mojo that seems to make teams fear going into Joe Louis Arena.

But, if the Sharks played a seven-game series against the Red Wings at their best, I'm 100% convinced that it'll be a case of too big, too fast, and too strong. Not saying that the Wings are a pushover; far from that. But, when the Sharks have everything going full throttle -- from the forwards to the defense to the special teams to the goaltending -- they have all of the critical components to win any series. Detroit at their best is not as good as San Jose at their best. The trouble is, this Sharks team has been known to not play their best for stretches at a time. And that's my big worry.

So, what's it going to come down to? Bounces? Sure. Passion? Definitely. Luck? Hey, every team that makes it to the Cup final needs that. But ultimately, I believe the Sharks control their own destiny, and I think that anyone who's seen this team at their best knows it, even if they don't want to admit it.

Patty, Big Joe, Cheech, Nabby, Hanner, Griersy, and the rest of you...it's yours for the taking if you want it enough. Detroit pundits, flame away...

2 comments:

Mike said...

We managed to stir up the hornets nest here
and here. It's especially noteworthy because Sleek and myself are almost on the same side in enemy territory.

Christy Hammond said...

I don't think any serious Wings fan isn't scared about the Sharks. We know it's going to be a hard and long series. Some believe we'll win. Others don't. There's a reason we were all cheering for Dallas to win (why did they have to let us down? the one thing we ask them to do...)

I think it'll come down to special teams. If we can score on the PP and stay outta the box, we'll be good. If not, oh boy. Go Wings!