Five things we learned from the weekend

May, 3, 2010

1. If the San Jose Sharks win the Stanley Cup this year, one will look back to Dan Boyle's own-goal in Game 3 of the opening round, which handed the Colorado Avalanche a 2-1 series lead, and find the turning point in a gallant run. The Sharks have won five in a row since the Boyle gaffe, the latest being a 4-3 win over Detroit on Sunday to take a somewhat surprising 2-0 series lead.

It may seem strange for a No. 1 seed to take a "surprising 2-0 lead," but these are the Sharks (with their playoff history) and Red Wings (with their playoff history). But these Sharks have been a different kettle of fish ever since rallying around Boyle in the first round. They've played some of the best hockey of the playoffs since the Game 3 gaffe, a moment that has seemed to galvanize the club. They faced a major bout of adversity and, this time, overcame it. If the Sharks win the Cup this year, Boyle will finally be able to laugh about Game 3.

2. "Jumbo" Joe Thornton had his finest game of the postseason, a real strong effort, which included the game-winning goal, in Sunday's win. He was a physical force and a threat every time he was on the ice. Imagine how deadly this Sharks team will be if the top line of Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau (which had its best game as a group Sunday night) gets hot while the second line of Joe Pavelski between Devin Setoguchi and Ryane Clowe stays as productive as it's been. Ah, yes ... you didn't think we could have a Five Things blog without a mention of The Big Pavelski, right? He was at it again Sunday night, collecting two goals and an assist to the take NHL lead with nine playoffs goals. When Rob Blake retires, it says here No. 8 should get the "C."

3. We loved our colleague Scott Burnside's lead in his Montreal-Pittsburgh game column Sunday: "They may be undermanned and undersized, and for all we know, they may be undernourished and underdressed, but people will never, ever question the will of the Montreal Canadiens."

Hands up for all of you (including this guy) who wrote off the Habs once No. 1 defenseman Andrei Markov crumbled up in pain in the first period Friday night with his season likely over. Yeah, there were a lot of us. And sure, the Penguins may very well come back and run the table, but somehow that doesn't sound right. These underdog Habs have something going this spring, seemingly a destiny to fulfill. If you think Game 6 against Washington in Montreal was the loudest crowd you ever witnessed for an NHL game, hold on to your seats for the Bell Centre on Tuesday night for Game 3. La Belle Province will erupt.

4. With so much focus on Markov's injury possibly deep-sixing the Canadiens, have we properly digested what the loss of Jordan Staal means to the Penguins? "That's the guy that beat us in the finals last year," a Red Wings front-office source told over the weekend.

The Pens can still beat the eighth-seeded Canadiens without Staal, but can they win the Cup again without him? We're not so sure.

5. What's happened to the Red Wings? Anyone who was in attendance Tuesday night in Glendale, Ariz., would have been swayed for the rest of the playoffs by the perennial contenders. The way they dismantled the Coyotes and added to their NHL-best record since the Olympics, it was hard not to pick them to beat San Jose. And yet, here they are down 2-0 in a series for the first time since 2003, when they were swept by the Anaheim Ducks. Did the Wings overtax themselves in the second half of the regular season trying to dig out of a hole just to make the playoffs? Are they out of gas after being stretched to seven games by Phoenix? Or is there another gear left in their game? We bet on the latter. This series isn't over yet.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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