When people think about Dany Heatley’s hockey skill set, the first thought probably is his goal scoring ability. He’s topped 35 goals six times in his career. Yet, his game-changing play in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals vs. Detroit came on the other side of the puck.
San Jose was killing a penalty in overtime and Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall was ramping up for an open shot. Heatley blocked that attempt, preventing a potential Detroit game-winner. His play allowed time for Devin Setoguchi’s eventual game-winner.
“I had to block that,” Heatley said. “I let him get by me in the first place to create that play.”
San Jose was tiring in the overtime and Heatley’s play provided a change in momentum.
“We were in our end for probably about a minute,” Setoguchi said. “That shows the kind of sacrifice that we have in this room. It’s just as big as scoring a goal.”
“It was a broken play where you see Kronwall coming right down the middle and you’re thinking, ‘Uh oh, I hope he doesn’t get this off,’” Ryane Clowe
said. “Heater throws his body out and blocks it. It gets the other team frustrated.”
Heatley, like many other Sharks players, has become an all-around player and that’s why shot blocking has become part of his game. Heatley ranks fourth among playoff forwards in blocked shots and moments like that have become second nature for him.
“You think of Heatley and you don’t think of a guy who’s blocking shots, but that’s what he’s doing and it proves how badly he wants to win,” linemate Logan Couture
said. “Everyone should (change how they’re thinking about him).”
“Heater does that a couple of times,” Clowe said. “He’s been underrated defensively the whole playoffs with how he’s backchecked and how he’s strong on the boards and winning battles. We all know he can score goals. The way he’s playing, he’s doing whatever it takes to win. That was great last night.”
It’s part of an overall Sharks philosophy that a goal saved can be as important as a goal scored. The commitment to defense is another reason San Jose is performing so well in tight games.
“He’s playing well in our own end. All of our leaders are doing that,” Couture said. “There are times where Heater is the first guy back and he plays down low and does a great job.”
Heatley takes a lot of pride in how he’s playing alongside Couture and Clowe.
“That’s something we’ve really focused on in the second half,” Heatley said. “Starting with the PK and then 5-on-5. Nemo (Antti Niemi
) is going to make the saves he sees. Anytime we can get in front of one and help out, it’s going to be huge. The defense has done a good job of getting in front of shots and the forwards have too.”
Offensively, Heatley has five points in nine postseason games, but if the Sharks keep on winning, he’ll get his chances.
“The goals are going to come, I think he’s going to score some big goals for us,” Clowe said.PICK YOURSELF UP, DUST YOURSELF OFF…
That Heatley was able to block a shot by Kronwall was a bit of payback. Kronwall hammered Heatley in the first period with a big hit. Heatley was properly checked out and able to return to the game.
“That was a hard hit he took and he came back,” Clowe said.
Heatley never thought of any type of revenge outside of playing hard.
“There’s not really any time for revenge now,” Heatley said. “There are big hits on both sides and you just have to get up and keep playing.”
Heatley noticed Kronwall and is aware of his reputation, but thought he had enough space.
“He’s a guy that pinches and likes that type of hit,” Heatley said. “I looked up and thought I had time. I was pretty low and thought for him to come all the way down was unlikely. Obviously that was wrong. It’s a hit. It’s playoff hockey and you’ve got to move on.”USING THE BODY
During this postseason, the Sharks have three of the top eight forward shot blockers in Couture (T-1st, 14), Heatley (4th) and Joe Pavelski
“They’re the things that sometimes go unnoticed, but you need them to win,” Pavelski said. “You need those details, those blocked shots. All the little stuff adds up over the course of a night. I think we understand that as a group and we need everyone to do it as a group.”THE HARDEST ONE
An old hockey axiom is the fourth victory is the hardest to get. Of course, the Sharks expect Detroit to play desperate hockey again on Friday.
“Tomorrow is going to be another intense game and we expect them to come out really hard,” Heatley said. JUST WIN, BABY
For all the theories, there might be one simple reason for the Sharks overtime playoff success.
“We think to win. We’re not trying to play safe,” Clowe said about the Sharks 5-0 overtime record.
Clowe was asked about Couture and Setoguchi working on a potential game-winning goal celebration prior to Setoguchi finding the back of the net and had no problem with their looseness.
“Those two aren’t lacking confidence, I’ll tell you that much,” Clowe said, drawing a laugh. “It’s good for young guys. Logan has been in a position where he’s scored big goals in this building and he’s the one that tied it last year. Seto’s got three overtime goals in the last two years. Those guys will pump each other up and that’s fine with us.”GAME ON!
Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals vs. Detroit will be Friday at 4 p.m. and will be on Versus, 98.5/102.1 K-FOX FM and www.sjsharks.com.