You really have to listen to Scissor Sisters’ I Don’t Feel Like Dancing to get my sentiments today. (Lemme see what I can do about that… see below.) Don’t listen too closely to the words, I don’t.
Last night’s Sharks-Red Wings game was just what it was chalked up to be: suspenseful, fast, and unpredictable. Of course it had a happy ending for those who believe unreasonably that the universe wants things to come out fair.
It was a brawl. Not an actual brawl, there was very little fighting. Maybe it was a scramble, a melee, a fracas… It was untidy and all over the place and no one could remember where they left their drinks or what they had ordered. That said, I think it went well, not only because the Sharks won. I found myself thinking (disloyal thing that I am) that even if they lost this game it was going well. While many people were talking about how tired the Wings must be (they wished), few were talking about the hazards of down time in competitive sports. I was far less worried about the imaginary fatigue of the Red Wings than how long it might take the Sharks to get back up to speed after several days off.
That sounds like a relentless and unkind attitude. But I don’t mean that you can never let up. So much was made of Marleau’s absence, what the “real” reason was, was he actually sick like the press was told, was he hurt more than anyone wanted to say, whatever. It seems irrelevant. For the rest of the team, even a few days off from playing posed some risk. They said it, if not so bluntly, journalists mentioned it. I’m not going to take credit for the idea. But more was definitely made of the fact that the Red Wings had just finished a very long series without any rest to speak of.
One commentator mentioned that the game did not seem to have a rhythm or a flow. I think that is what I meant by untidy. It seems like that is exactly what you want, if you want to beat the Red Wings. Let them get their groove on and they’ll dance right by you. I don’t know how much the Sharks need a steady tempo to do their thing but they managed to crash the dance party pretty well last night.
After taking an aggressive 3 point lead in the first period, some said they slacked off in the second. Apparently this is common among teams, to get a little dazed by the shiny brilliance of a healthy lead. I can imagine that with or without the lead, the Sharks would have good reason to be startled by their own performance. It doesn’t matter if you are ranked at the top of your class, or how many times you have been there. If you have been struggling for a while you come to doubt why you are cursed with that elevated rank and the attendant expectations. When the pieces come together and you play like the top dog you are supposed to be, it can be a shock. The first period was a rout, not unlike a shark surfacing in a flock of seagulls. It was mind-blowing.
It seems to me that the reversal of fortune in the second period, when stalwart Detroit began to chip away at the lead and march calmly forward, was the best thing for the Sharks. On the one hand, they needed to win the game, if their comments during hard times are any indication. The Sharks need to win to keep their optimism, but everyone needs pressure to keep them tight. On the other hand, the Red Wings love to catch up, they almost need a target ahead of them to aim at. What many consider a healthy, safe lead is no such if it is ahead of the Red Wings. Take a 5 point lead in the second half of the final period and then maybe you can feel safe. Maybe.
Nabokov did get a lot of work. For the benefit of the naysayers alone, I would have put his face on the front page– of everything. But like the whole team, he will have to levitate and do cartwheels in the air for the press and the “fans” to stop accusing him of one deficiency or another. For no reason I can discern my “local” newspaper has it in for the Sharks. They can’t muster even a bland headline. Of the victory over Colorado, all they could say was “No Flame Out This Time.” Sheesh, you would think the paper was owned by a bunch of inveterate gamblers who had been burned too many times to forget. I hope they got burned last night.
I was very happy to see Nabokov roving about a good deal. I felt some moderate anxiety whenever he left the net but he knows his game and somehow seeing him play it is reassuring. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with anything but I keep remembering what he said back in March: “We talk all the time about making the save and let the other guys clear the rebound, but I wish I could have controlled it and put it in the corner.” (Marin IJ) I have no idea what that means or if he is doing what he wants now but he should be. It is always better to do what you want to do. There’s usually a good reason you want to do it.
I already mentioned that there were hardly any fisticuffs. Warms my heart. I saw many comments and “to do lists” for the Sharks emphasizing the need for a very rough and physical game. I don’t know if the “ugly/physical” game advocates were satisfied. I was glad that the only scary injury seemed to be an honest to goodness accident, and I didn’t see a lot of Sharks missing their marks. So, no more Wiley Coyote, very little skatus interruptus, and the photographers at least managed to find some moments when the Holmstrom was dislodged and Nabby didn’t have to skate to the corner to see what the hell was going on in front of him. I didn’t see them, but there were pictures so it must have happened.
I do find my loyalties taking firmer hold, however. Whatever I thought I saw before, last night I felt distinct irritation that there always seemed to be a Red Wing right in front of Nabokov. On further reflection, I realize that this is not only a problem for the goal-keeper. It suggests that the Wings don’t usually feel like they need all available bodies in the open ice, sort of like saying “we can do this with one hand tied behind our backs.” I’m not sure they can but since they refuse to abandon the tactic, I find it irksome like a bad omen.
Bad omens aside, I feel a gritty optimism after last night’s game. It could just be the steroids I finally got injected into this tedious elbow. Maybe I do feel like dancing, but I will hold off for the time being.