Here are two sidebars from last night’s great Sharks win against the Detroit Red Wings that continued the tremendous history in the series between the two clubs. Both have a somewhat predictive quality, and one is illustrative of what hockey is all about.
If you listen to the “Coach’s Chalkboard” segment with Todd McLellan on KFOX 98.5/102.1 and the San Jose Sharks Radio Network affiliate stations near you, you usually get a gem or two from the leader behind the bench. Here is a modest case in point from last night’s game:
McLellan was showing some concern about the previous loss in Columbus, but he saw the Detroit game as a chance to squash the poor memory of that disappointment. “Our opportunity that lies in front of us is a good one,” he said on the radio. “There are some key people on our team that have to play a certain way and play well to lead and we expect everyone else to follow. Now, they can’t do that every night – it’s not humanly possible – so when they’re not doing it, others have to pick up the slack. But the key people right now are our leaders and they have to get things done.”
It was a bit of a message to the likes of Patrick Marleau, who had 0 goals in his previous 7 games and just 1 in his last 11; to Joe Thornton, who played a Sharks-career-low 10:30 in Columbus, and who had 0 points in his previous 3 games; to Martin Havlat, who had 1 goal in his previous 8 contests; to Logan Couture, who had 0 goals in 4 and 1 goal in his last 10 games; and to Antti Niemi, who had allowed 4 goals in each of his previous 2 starts.
Everyone played better, and the Sharks won in the shootout, 3-2, capturing the season series with the Red Wings with a 2-0-1 record. But as I pondered the greatness of the resolve and the win, I flashed back to a heartwarming moment that I witnessed in the morning.
The Sharks were heading out to morning practice, and as is the custom, a few folks were waiting to secure a handshake, a photo, or an autograph from them. As is usually the case, there were a few folks who I call “professional autograph seekers,” who are usually pretty recognizable.
But on this particular morning in Detroit, there was a young boy standing quietly, with his mother by his side. This Motor City youngster was wearing a Sharks jersey with the number 12, and the nameplate “MARLEAU” on his back. He wasn’t a professional autograph seeker. He was a Patrick Marleau fan who wanted a moment with his favorite player.
Patrick spotted his young fan, and stopped for a moment to sign the jersey and pose for a picture before departing for practice. As he walked away, I saw a look of sheer joy on the boy’s face, which was punctuated when he turned around and high-fived with his mother in celebration of the moment. “Patrick is going to have a good game for this kid,” I found myself thinking.
Well, we all know what happened next. Marleau scored a brilliant shorthanded goal in the first period, and scored another magnificent goal in the shootout that decided the game. Something tells me that his young fan in Detroit was high-fiving a lot of people last night, whether he was at Joe Louis Arena, watching on TV, or listening on the radio.
I love stories like that.