Stop us if you've heard this one: Wednesday's game three matchup between the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings will likely come down to who performs on their power play and who doesn't perform on their penalty kill. Game one was decided when the Sharks scored a power play goal and then got the game-winner less than a minute after a four-minute power play when the Red Wings were too tired and unable to make a shift. Benn Ferriero took advantage in that scenario, and put the puck in net. In game two, Ian White scored on the power play early on and that was one of two goals in another 2-1 Sharks victory.
Coming into the series, it was a story of a strong Red Wings power play going up against a weak Sharks power play ... but add to that a weak Red Wings penalty kill, and really nobody had any idea what to expect. The point was that the man advantage would be crucial on both sides of the play for both teams, and that's proven true through two games. Of course, everything else matters as well, but this is a battle that San Jose has won and needs to continue to win.
Play goes to Detroit and the vaunted Joe Louis Arena for games three and four in the series. The Sharks are up two games to one, and while a sweep might be asking too much, taking one of these first two in Detroit will be absolutely key. Is all lost if they don't take one of those two? Absolutely not, but it would be a blow to a team with a lot of confidence.
That's another key right now: confidence. If the Sharks can perform well on the penalty kill from the start, they can get the crowd and energy out of 'The Joe' and if they can put together great power play shifts of their own, the damage could be catastrophic to the Red Wings and their 2011 Stanley Cup hopes. On the flip-side to that, if the Red Wings can get to Antti Niemi early and often, maybe the Sharks struggle. He was pulled twice and gave way to Antero Niittymaki in the quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Kings, the best thing Detroit can do is make the team doubt the guy they have in net, if that's even possible at this point.
The last two games, we've seen aggressive, yet calculated play from the Sharks. They are not killing themselves to get to every puck, but they are challenging Detroit in the neutral zone and at the blueline. When they were on their four-minute power play, it seemed slow and complacent, but that led to fresh legs when the Red Wings tired themselves out. One has to wonder if that power play was called how it was for that reason specifically.
Until something changes with the way these games are going, the previews will remain the same. Game three is on CSN California and the puck is set to drop at 5:00 p.m. pacific.