I'm looking forward to joining the Red Wings-Sharks second-round series Monday in Detroit, but in the meantime, some observations from three time zones away, following a thrilling Game 1 on Friday night at HP Pavilion:
You want to talk about unlikely overtime heroes? Benn Ferriero was playing in his first career NHL playoff game, and what a way to cap it off with the winner in extra time. The 24-year-old Boston native (April 29 was also his birthday), a healthy scratch the first six games of this year's playoffs, played only 4:58 in the entire game. Only fellow fourth-line winger Ben Eager played fewer minutes at 4:22. Ferriero, a seventh-round draft pick (196th overall), had seven goals in 57 NHL regular-season games over two years.
The Sharks now are 4-0 in overtime in these playoffs. Are we on our way to seeing the 1993 Montreal Canadiens here? The Habs had a record 10 overtime playoff wins that year en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
Wings goalie Jimmy Howard was sensational with 44 saves and was really the only reason the Sharks needed overtime to win. San Jose outshot Detroit 46-25, and that nine-day break for the Wings appears to have produced a little rust. While the Wings lost, they can take solace that Howard had another solid playoff outing. He's stepped up his game from last spring.
The Sharks' power play, rated No. 2 in the NHL during the regular season, struggled in the first round, going only 2-for-23 against Los Angeles, including a woeful 0-for-11 at home. Joe Pavelski's power-play goal 10:22 into the third period Friday night not only got the Sharks level, but it put the power-play unit on the board. The Sharks' PP went 1-for-6 Friday night and still needs work, with San Jose barely registering any attack on it during a four-minute power play in overtime.
A sensational shift by Logan Couture's line with Ryane Clowe and Dany Heatley early in the second period set the tone for what would be utter dominance by the Sharks in the middle frame except where it matters the most -- the scoreboard. The Sharks outshot the Wings 18-9 and had several Grade A chances, but Couture was dynamite and effective with his rebound control. That was one of San Jose's finest periods of the playoffs so far despite the lack of a goal. Couture's line had another similar shift late in the third period, buzzing all around the Wings' zone. Detroit will need to find a better matchup for San Jose's second line. Smart move by Sharks coach Todd McLellan to begin overtime with Couture's line, and Clowe got a scoring chance right off the bat in extra time.
Star centers Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were loaded up on the same line with Tomas Holmstrom to open the series. Wings coach Mike Babcock has done it before, but he's more confident in doing it now given the development of Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm, who along with Valtteri Filppula give the Wings all kinds of options down the middle. Detroit's top line matched up mostly against San Jose's top unit of Joe Thornton between Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi. It was a fairly even matchup in Game 1, but the Wings' top line scored, Datsyuk finding Nicklas Lidstrom in the slot in the first period for a one-timer.
There really wasn't that much rough stuff, but Howard showed his displeasure with Pavelski in the second period when the Sharks center gave him a spray shower after a save. Howard responded by punching Pavelski in the head. All right, then. Let's get this series going.