Well, the Vancouver Canucks held on by the skin of their teeth in their set against the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2011 NHL Playoffs. After springing out to a 3-0 series lead, the Blackhawks came back to take it to a game seven, and what a game seven it was. In the final three minutes of play, Vancouver got a power play, already with a one-goal lead, but Chicago responded with a shorthanded goal to take the game into overtime. The Canucks eventually prevailed, eliminating the Blackhawks from the 2011 NHL Playoffs.
Had the Blackhawks won, they would have went on to face the San Jose Sharks in round two, fresh off their 4-2 series win over the Los Angeles Kings. With their loss, the Sharks will instead face the Detroit Red Wings, who recently completed a four-game sweep of a very tough Phoenix Coyotes team. The Sharks beat the Red Wings last year in the Western Conference Semifinals, and took three-of-four games from them in this year's regular season.
The quarterfinals against the Kings was a rocky one for the Sharks, with three games going to overtime and the Sharks suffering two defeats at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, including a 4-0 shutout in game game two. Still, all three overtime games were won by the Sharks, thanks to heroics from Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi, and Captain Joe Thornton in game six. Antti Niemi, the team's starting goaltender, was pulled twice in favor of Antero Niittymaki, who looked like a starting-caliber net-minder in lieu of Niemi, but the team stuck with Niemi after every bad performance, including the game five loss in which he allowed three goals off of four shots.
There were so many positives and so many negatives to take from the series. The Sharks showed excellent poise under pressure to rally around and win in overtime, and showed that they should never be counted out when they recovered from their four-goal deficit. Players from all over the line played well in big situations, and even when they lost Ian White in game one and had to stretch themselves thin, they prevailed. But there were the negatives, as noted. Their propensity to start slow and let the Kings take the life out of them showed, and they illustrated a startling tentativeness when it came to shooting the puck.
Accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives - those are the primary objectives for the Sharks heading into this series against the Red Wings. There was nothing easy about
2009-2010's four-game sweep 2009-2010's 4-1 series victory of the Red Wings, and now it will be even more difficult this go-round. The Red Wings look very legitimate, dispatching of a Coyotes team that gave the Sharks fits in the regular season. Detroit scored four or more goals in all four games, and held the Coyotes to less-than three goals three times. This is a stiff test.
The Sharks are likely to begin play in round two on Friday at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, but we don't know that for certain. The schedule should be released on Tuesday after the remaining round one matchups are complete. Be sure to catchup on the round one series against the Kings by checking out our previous story stream, and always check out Fear The Fin, our San Jose Sharks blog.