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One-goal games very common this postseason

by John Kreiser /
It's appropriate that Game 7 between Detroit and San Jose wound up with the Sharks hanging on for a 3-2 victory. Through the first two rounds of the playoffs, one-goal games have been the rule rather than the exception.

Of the 70 games played in the 12 conference quarterfinal and semifinal series, Thursday's game between the Sharks and Wings was the 39th one-goal game. Of that group, there were 20 overtime games, more than have been played in any complete playoff year since 2003. In addition, seven of the 17 games that were decided by two goals were one-goal games before an empty-net goal assured the outcome. Only 14 games were decided by three or more goals -- and one of those (Game 4 between Boston and Philadelphia) was a two-goal contest before a pair of empty-netters locked up the sweep for the Bruins.

The Wings-Sharks and Predators-Canucks second-round series were as tight as any fan could ask. Of the 13 games, 11 were decided by one goal; the other two would have been without the empty-net goals scored by Detroit (in Game 6) and Vancouver (in Game 4). The Sharks and Wings became the first teams to play six one-goal games in a series.

At last -- Patrick Marleau quieted a lot of critics by scoring what proved to be the series-winner in Game 7. Though Marleau is the leading goal-scorer in Sharks history, to say his goal Thursday was unexpected would be fair.

Marleau's goal was his 48th in playoff competition, but the first one he's ever scored in a Game 6 or Game 7. He entered the deciding game against Detroit having gone without a goal in his first 16 tries in the sixth or seventh game of a series.

Defying the odds -- The Wings may have lost, but no one could dispute the brilliance of Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, who finished the seven-game series with 2 goals and 9 points.

Datsyuk's goal in the third period of Game 7 got the Wings within one, but the Sharks were able to defy history and hang on for the win. Prior to Thursday, the Wings had been 43-19 when Datsyuk had at least one point in a playoff game and 17-8 when he scored a goal.

The Sharks also won on what's arguably the Wings' favorite day of the week during the playoffs. Detroit came into the game with a 12-2 mark in its last 14 Thursday night postseason games.

Still perfect -- Antti Niemi still doesn't know what it's like to lose a playoff series.

Niemi became only the fourth rookie goaltender to win the Stanley Cup when he led Chicago to the championship last spring, piling up 16 victories as the Hawks won all four series. He's started every game for San Jose this spring while winning both series (though Antero Niittymaki got one victory in relief), giving him a 6-0 series record.

Cam Ward, who led the Hurricanes to the Cup as a rookie in 2006 with a 15-8 record and won his first two series in 2009, the next time Carolina made the playoffs, is the only other goaltender to win his first six playoff series; Niemi is the only goaltender ever to do it in consecutive years.

Niemi also has a chance to do something no goaltender ever has done -- win the Stanley Cup in back-to-back years with different teams.

History will be made -- One way or another, the San Jose Sharks or Vancouver Canucks will make history -- of the kind they'd rather avoid.

The Sharks and Canucks are the fourth and fifth teams in playoff history to win Games 1-3 in a series, lose Games 4-6 and win Game 7. The first three teams (Boston in 1939, Toronto in 1945, Philadelphia in 1975) all won the Stanley Cup. The Sharks-Canucks loser will be the first team to survive a blown 3-0 series lead and not win the Cup.

The Sharks-Wings game was the fourth of the five Game 7s of this type to be decided by one goal -- the outlier is the 1975 Islanders-Flyers game that ended 4-1.

Twin troubles -- It's no surprise the Vancouver Canucks beat the Nashville Predators in their Western Conference Semifinal series. What was surprising is that they did it despite, not because of, the performance of the Sedin twins.

Daniel led the NHL in regular-season scoring with 104 points -- 10 more than Henrik, who was fourth after leading the League last season. But in the series against the Predators, neither Sedin could get going. Henrik had 1 goal (into an empty net), 3 assists and was minus-4; Daniel had a goal (in Game 6), a pair of assists and was minus-6.

The Sedins' showing against Nashville was a continuation of their struggles since the Canucks took the first three games against Chicago in the opening round. Beginning with Game 4 in that series, a span that now covers 10 games, Henrik has 1 goal, 5 points and is minus-11; Daniel has 3 goals, 5 points and is minus-12. Vancouver can't have its big guns firing blanks like that if it hopes to beat San Jose.

Not their favorite place to visit -- The Tampa Bay Lightning know they'll have to win at least once at TD Garden in order to make the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since winning the Cup seven years ago. But winning in Boston is something that generally has eluded the Lightning since Tampa Bay entered the NHL in 1992.

The Bolts have made 35 visits to Boston, all in the regular season, and won just four times there. The Bruins won 25, the other six ended as ties. Boston has outscored Tampa Bay 135-82 in those 35 games. The good news for the Lightning: Three of their four wins have come in the last six seasons, including a 5-3 win on March 25, 2010. The bad news: Boston won both games at home this season, outscoring the Lightning 10-2.

However, the Lightning may be able to take some inspiration from history. The Minnesota North Stars had a much worse time in Boston than the Bolts -- they were winless in their first 34 regular-season visits to Boston (0-27-7). But the North Stars beat the Bruins in their first two playoff visits to bounce the B’s out of the 1981 playoffs.

The Bolts have had better success against the Bruins at home, but Boston still owns an 18-14-3 mark at Tampa Bay, including 8-4-0 since 2005.
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