SAN JOSE, Calif. – The fact that the Detroit Red Wings are still skating in San Jose offers a small glimmer of hope maybe they can add a little more drama to the franchise’s storied history.
At this point, they’ll take anything they can get.
The Red Wings took an overnight flight to California after Game 4, landed in the wee hours Saturday morning and were back practicing before noon despite little sleep—and with worn-down bodies that were covered in bandages, with ice packs and massages in high demand in an already cramped locker room.
“Hey, we’re not dead,” Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi said.
There’s no time to rest, either.
Only three NHL teams have overcome 3-0 deficits to win a best-of-seven series. After avoiding the embarrassment of being swept on home ice, Detroit will have to do something it failed to do last post-season to stay alive: win Game 5 at San Jose on Sunday night.
“This is the big one,” Red Wings forward Kris Draper said. “I think Game 5 is huge. We’re coming into their building, they obviously want to end the series. And we’re going to do everything we can possibly do to force a Game 6, and then anything can happen. That’s really what it comes down to.”
This season’s second-round series has followed last year’s script.
The only major difference was the Red Wings routed the Sharks 7-1 in Game 4 last season. The series returned to San Jose and the Sharks bounced Detroit from the playoffs with a 2-1 victory.
That still doesn’t provide a lot of comfort against the playoff-proven and veteran-stacked Red Wings.
“It’s not just going to end on its own,” Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said. “You’re going to have to battle for it, and we have to play better. We’ve got better hockey here, and I think Sunday you’ll see better hockey from us.”
For a team down 3-1, the Red Wings are confident they can accomplish a rare feat.
The 2010 Philadelphia Flyers, 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders are the only teams in league history to win a series after losing the first three games. With Chicago winning three straight to force a Game 7 against Vancouver in the opening round, there’s plenty of recent precedent that Detroit can push San Jose to the brink.
The Sharks don’t mind taking the cushion home.
They had a warmup skate a couple hours after the Red Wings, just as eager to advance to the Western Conference finals for the second straight year and third time in the franchise’s two decades. But they’ll have to come out with a better effort than in Game 4—when they went down three goals early—to avoid another cross-country flight and give Detroit more reason to believe.
“With the travel and the wear and tear, you don’t want to prolong this any longer,” Sharks defenceman Dan Boyle said.
The series, despite the win disparity, has been anything but a blowout.
Every game has been decided by one goal, and two of the games have gone to overtime, both won by San Jose. Detroit has focused its efforts the last two games on making Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi move more, shifting passes from side to side before firing on net.
The strategy has been more effective, and the Red Wings believe the longer they can keep the game tight, the longer the series is extended. And the more pressure the Sharks will feel.
“Right now, they’re 3-1. So they’re in a situation that’s different than our situation,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “But the reality is as these things go on and a team can crawl back in it, things get tighter and tighter. That’s just the facts.”