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Sharks vs. Red Wings NHL Playoff Preview: How Much To Take From Game Four?

The Detroit Red Wings weren't going to go down without a fight, and who knows, they may not go down at all. But as it stands, the San Jose Sharks have a commanding 3-1 series lead and they're playing game five at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. San Jose took games one, two and three, clearly looking like the better team (they were close games, mind you, just close games that the Sharks most definitely deserved to win) throughout, despite one-goal wins (including two in overtime) in each game. Detroit responded with their backs against the boards in game four, avoiding the sweep and staying alive in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoff race.

Game four was a very strong statement for the Red Wings, who dominated play for the most of the time. San Jose got their licks in, and had some sustained opportunities, but there was a lot of stolen pucks and checks courtesy of the Red Wings. When they swarmed Antti Niemi at the end of the third period for a sustained couple of minutes, one just had to figure that one of those shots was going to go in. Eventually, Darren Helm made a good shot on a play in which Niemi was probably exhausted, and the Red Wings had their win.

Although the Red Wings made a big statement by getting a win, one could argue that the Sharks made a statement of their own. Not only did the Red Wings look as good as they have this season and dominate play, but there were all kinds of other things that leads one to believe that the Sharks probably should have lost the game by a lot more than one goal. For one, doing well at the Joe Louis Arena isn't easy, and for two, it would be really easy for a team to lose heart, and just take the home game when things are very rough. San Jose was down three goals to none, and they fought on.

They came up short, but they fought on, and that's what matters. Niemi in particular, he was fantastic throughout the game, stopping 36-of-40 shots his way, good for a .900 save percentage. His ability to scramble and come through when the pressure was on showed a lot of what the Sharks really want and need out of their goalie. Unfortunately, the defensive play wasn't there (aside from a couple players, though Dany Heatley comes to mind first). If the Sharks come out and get this kind of support from Niemi again, and pick up their play with the puck, they have a solid chance of ending the series. One has to feel that in three games, the Sharks can find a way to win another and end this, but then again, not many saw them winning three in a row on Detroit, either.

The biggest point is the fact that they didn't roll over, in a game that Detroit pushed back in and declared that they would not roll over either. It should be a fun game five, which starts tonight at 5:00 p.m.