A well-established rivalry between the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings was renewed Monday, October 21. Since realignment has relegated them to playing just twice per season, it is too bad neither could bring their offense to the only contest at Joe Louis Arena.
A once-daunting venue for the Sharks, they came in having won six of their last seven trips. They were also the hotter team through the early part of the 2013-14 NHL season. Both teams were without two players that began last season at the top of the blue-line depth chart.
Brent Burns missed the game because of complications of getting his teeth knocked out against the Ottawa Senators. His reply to Examiner via Twitter regarding naming a goal, assist and getting teeth knocked out a "Brent Burns Hat Trick" was, "I would really prefer the normal hat trick but ill take what I can get!" It is unfortunate that there ever need to be consequences beyond getting one's teeth knocked out, and it will be costly indeed if the converted defenseman misses more time.
Meanwhile there is still no word on when Dan Boyle can return. He has said he has no headaches, but Brenden Shanahan only suspending Maxim Lapierre five games for endangering his life—just two more than for less-frequent offender Brad Stuart's far-less dangerous hit—may have gotten his week started with a full-blown migraine.
He has full empathy from Niklas Kronwall, the best Detroit defenseman. He was also run into the boards at high speed from behind. Even though he turned much more than Boyle and his attacker has a smaller rap sheet, Cody McLeod got the same five-game suspension as Lapierre.
To balance things out at two players per team, Jonathan Ericsson missed the game for the Wings. Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda reported during the broadcast first that it was a family issue and later made reference to the birth of a child. The Detroit Free Press is now reporting that he also has a shoulder injury that will knock him out two or three weeks.
Through the first two periods, this looked like two teams playing a more cautious, defensive game without two of their best players. The Sharks had just 19 shots and it was still eight more than they gave up.
The third period was different. The Wings peppered Antti Niemi with 12 shots, including a nearly point-blank one-timer for Brendan Smith off the blocker. The Sharks had six shots and a 2-1 edge in overtime, but neither goalie would budge until a Logan Couture wrist-shot winner.
How ironic on a day that each team was without its top defenseman because of an attack from behind that Todd Bertuzzi had the chance to keep Detroit alive? He made a fantastic deke to get Niemi down in the butterfly, took it wide to his forehand and got it off the ice toward the unprotected corner.
Niemi lifted his right leg up just before the puck got there and kicked it away. He could barely have seen when the shot took place much tracked a tiny black disk to his foot. Obi Wan Kenobi would have been proud were that not a path to the dark side.
For the game, the Sharks still held the edge in shots 27-24. However, the Wings had five more attempts and still had three more blocks. They made up for their deficit in the circle (28-36) in takeaways (9-1), but gave half of them back in additional giveaways (10-6). They also registered a whopping 15 more hits, suggesting the same kind of home ice bias that got them a couple seconds of "stoppage time" with the power play in the attacking zone late in the third period.
Neither team was shorthanded much, but San Jose managed five shots in three power plays and only gave up one on two penalty kills. Jimmy Howard was their best penalty killer in what included a glorious chance for Joe Pavleski on a point-blank one-timer (perhaps too close). Outside of the goalies, who rounds out the three stars of the game?
- Niemi turned away 24 shots that count on his stats and all three that do not. He had to play a strong third period after little activity for the first two and his last unofficial save was mind-blowing.
- Howard kept his team in it by turning away the first 28 shots he faced, including the first shootout attempt. It is a shame he has to come away with a loss in this one.
- It would be easy to give this to Couture for the shootout winner. He even deserves it for being eight seconds behind San Jose leader Scott Hannan in ice time Monday, getting five of seven shot attempts on goal, two blocks and a giveaway while winning eight of 12 faceoffs. However Justin Braun had the kind of day that does not show up in the stats—just two shots on four attempts in 22:53—but make a difference. He was in the right position repeatedly, once making a fantastic read to barely poke-check the puck out of the defensive zone.