Oilers @ Sharks, December 21, 2010
For the Sharks to make it into the playoffs and be successful there, they do need their top line to get in gear. They need all the lines to be productive. They have to make the best use of every player.
For a couple of days I have been thinking that Clowe might do well to keep his gloves on. I am biased because I am not fan of any fighting. I was sorry to hear people hoping for fights with the Blues. Some even complained that the Sharks made it through 12 games in a row without a single fight. Those 12 made up a wonderful run in my view.
Yet even an unbiased eye must be able to see that Clowe’s time is better spent on the ice than in the penalty box. While he is a very efficient fighter- no worse than a 5 minute major this season- I still think that his play on the Pick Up Line is much more valuable than any kind of pick up the team gets from a fight.
As I watch the game, I notice Hall scampering about the ice with a lot of confidence. After his second or third charge up the ice, I think “hey, someone needs to shut that kid down. He may be fancy but he’s still a kid.” A few seconds later, he darts into the Sharks’ zone again but this time Wallin is right on him. Wallin may not be able to out-skate Hall, but as a veteran, he can out-think him. Anyway, he stops him.
The first period ends uneventfully with a score of zero-zero, and very few shots on goal. Someone must have said something during the break because the Sharks come out a little more assertive in the second. It still takes them a while to score, and then only after a brief but successful 5 on 3 penalty kill. They survive the 5 on 3 and get to skip the 5 on 4, after Couture finds an opening and makes a break-away attempt. He doesn’t have time to get up enough speed, and Hall is in pursuit. It is enough, he starts to pull away, forcing Hall to take him down.
Also, now the NHL has a great clip of two top rookies in a race.
The last few minutes of the game get very tense as the Oilers finally score, cutting the 2-0 Sharks lead to one goal. Two Sharks miss the empty net, two veterans… make that three.
Phew. Game over, Sharks make it 3 in a row.
Well, that’s all I asked for. (Oh, I did tweet to Couture after the last game “can we have another for Christmas?” Should I have asked for two?)
Couture commented on the not beautiful finish to the game. Atta boy, be greedy. Of Clowe’s part in his goal, he said: “Clowey made an unbelievable play, not too many players in the world can make that play.” Aw, and then right afterward he corrected Brazil about the goalie question, saying “Both our goalies have been great, Nitty has been hot these last couple of games… but Nemo was playing great right before. We’ve got two good goalies.” Class act. Big smiley.
As I was saying, Clowe proved why he should stay in the game instead of the box. Of course much was made of Couture scoring, and being fast and getting into position, but the way Clowe carried the puck in and made that pass was nothing short of amazing. It was not crazy nimble like a Datsyuk move. If some players are compared terriers, I would have to compare Clowe to a mastiff. No one was going to push him off that puck.
Due to recent horror stories in the news, and the sad fact that mastiffs have become more popular in dog fighting circles, they have a bad reputation. But before that, they were known (by those who knew them at all) for their stalwart loyalty. They were used to patrol estate borders back in the day of great English estate borders. They would keep to their territory, and would be singularly loyal to their people. Stories of them wasting away and dying upon the death of their owners were common, even if they were not always true.
My point is that the mastiff was not originally or even commonly used for fighting. At least the English Mastiff was not. Those dogs who killed that woman in San Francisco were Italian mastiffs, or maybe Spanish, but not English ones. Maybe the English ones are nicer.
What if Clowe didn’t fight? Do I think Mayers and Nichol should take on additional fighting duties? No. They can continue as they are, if they like. What then, you wonder, would happen if the team loses one of its regular fighters? They would have fewer fighting penalties at the end of the year. Other teams will think they are sissies. What sort of a fighting chance would the team have if they stopped fighting? What sort of team doesn’t fight? Look at the teams with the fewest fighting penalties last year: the Caps and the Wings. Look what happened to them. They got beaten by the Habs and the Sharks, respectively, in the playoffs.
In the playoffs.
That works for me.