In an effort to bond with our hockey friends from California, let’s try this exercise at home:
Look quickly over your left shoulder.
Now quickly over your right.
Now left, now right, now left, right, leftrightleftright . . .
Congratulations. You now know how a San Jose Shark feels.
What was the combined score from Games 1 and 2 of this playoff series? Detroit 12, San Jose 2? That’s not hockey, that’s target practice. One rumor says the Sharks left town on a plane Tuesday night.
A bigger rumor is that they were here at all.
“I can only call this game a dogfight between a pit bull and a poodle,” said San Jose’s Jamie Baker, after the Wings cleaned up, 6-2.
“I know this, I must figure out a way to stop the pucks they shoot,” said an exhausted Arturs Irbe, the Sharks goalie. Of course, saying you have to stop the Wings’ shooting is like saying you have to figure out a way to keep those mosquitoes from biting.
Shots on goal Tuesday?
Detroit 46, San Jose, 17.
Who’d have thunk it? In one year, playing the Sharks has gone from a nightmare to a pajama party.
Game 2 was a parade of Red Wings stars, Yzerman, Fedorov, Coffey, Ciccarelli. They laughed and hugged and patted each other’s heads. All that was missing was the Jiffy Pop.
“To be honest, we’re kind of disappointed in allowing those two goals in the third period,” Darren McCarty said. “In fact, we’re kind of disgusted with that.”
Imagine how San Jose feels.
Don’t blame Irbe
How can I describe the first two periods Tuesday night? Certain descriptive words leap to mind, such as . . . manslaughter. Poor Irbe. He was like the first guy on the Falkland Islands to look through his binoculars. “Whuh-oh . .
. what’s THIS?”
There were Wings to the left of him. Wings to the right of him. Wings on top of him. Wings in his net. Dino (I’m A Pest, Sue Me) Ciccarelli had six shots on Irbe in the first period alone. Sergei Fedorov put one puck past him and then, for variety, put one through him. Paul Coffey left him looking. Doug Brown beat him on a shorthanded breakaway.
Here’s all you need to know about Tuesday. The Wings were ahead, 6-0, when Bruce Martyn, the legendary Detroit announcer, observed that Irbe was
“playing a pretty good game.”
And he was right. There was simply no stopping Detroit. Certainly not with the lackluster effort the rest of this San Jose team put together. They left pucks dangling. They were slow getting back. They could muster no offense. In the second period, they didn’t manage a shot until 12 minutes had gone by. Not a single shot?
Hey, Sharks. The phrase is Die Hard, not Over Easy.
“This team has so much talent, it’s truly amazing,” said Mike Vernon, the Wings’ goalie, who, thankfully, doesn’t get paid by the save in these playoffs, since he has only faced 32 shots in two games — or about one period’s worth for San Jose.
“I’ll tell you, I played on some good teams in Calgary, but nothing compared to this. We can do so many things. It’s really nice to sit there and watch it.”
Maybe the Sharks feel the same way — since they often do the same thing. I don’t want to say San Jose was crushed Tuesday. I will say there’s a Wellness Plan advertisement on the boards at Joe Louis, and by the end of the game, several Sharks had written their names and addresses beneath it.
Another short series
Now, OK. Before anyone goes nuts over the Wings’ success, please remember: This is what the Wings should be doing. The Sharks are a rival in shadow only. In real life, they haven’t beaten Detroit yet this season, and until the third period Tuesday night, the last goal they’d scored in Joe Louis Arena was back when Isiah Thomas was still a Piston.
The fact is, the Wings were supposed to beat Dallas handily, and they are supposed to do the same with San Jose. This is not to diminish their doing it
— because teams such as Calgary and Quebec weren’t able to do what they were supposed to. But the real test of a team as good as Detroit should not be against the San Jose Sharks. It should be against whomever they face in the Stanley Cup finals.
In the meantime, here’s hoping they continue taking care of business. And here’s hoping that Irbe has a nice warm bed to go home to, because, as Darren McCarty said after the game: “People think we’re extra motivated against San Jose because of what happened last year. They think that keeps us going out there, and piling it on.
“But the truth is, we’re such perfectionists, we want to bury everybody.”
Hmm. Sounds good to us.
Off they go, to the land of milk and honey, Northern California, where the Sharks are rumored to actually win a game now and then. So long. Godspeed. It says here this series will not go beyond a Game 5. But we’ll see.
In the meantime, let us finish with these words of wisdom:
To the Wings: Keep that big picture in mind.
And to the Sharks: Chiropractors will do wonders for those cricks in your necks.