Big. Huge. Dramatic. Important.
Those four words are perfect adjectives to describe the meaning of San Jose’s 2-1 series-clinching win over Detroit in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals.
Those who questioned San Jose’s resolve and inability to capture a much needed win have been silenced.
“This is a very big win for our organization for a lot of different reasons,” Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “One, the opportunity to continue playing. Two, to shed some of the reputation that we have supposedly earned from the past.”
Not to mention beating the Detroit Red Wings, a team that has gone to the last two Stanley Cup Finals and a club that eliminated the Sharks in their last two playoff encounters. And also a team that has dominated the Sharks (19-44-4-4) since San Jose entered the National Hockey League in 1991.
“The fact that it was a team that had been to the Stanley Cup Finals the last couple of years and a team that, quite frankly, has had our number over the last little bit” made the win very sweet for McLellan and the Sharks.
“We knew these guys were going to be tough,” Scott Nichol said. “They’ve been such a great franchise, forever it seems. We knew it was going to be hard. Every shift, every faceoff was going to be like your last. It was mentally draining. It was nice to finish them off tonight. We didn’t want to give them any kind of momentum or any kind of hope. We just played hard tonight.”
“It’s good,” Rob Blake said. “It wasn’t easy. We had to battle. That’s a real good hockey club. We did our job. We’re half way there. That’s an accomplishment in itself. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
“It definitely feels good,” said Patrick Marleau
, who scored the series-winner at 6:59 of the third period.
There was also one other reason that made the Game Five win satisfying: the way the Sharks rebounded after a 7-1 loss in Game Four at Detroit on Thursday.
“I think there were more questions there,” McLellan said about the fallout from that game. “It was a collective spanking. We weren’t trying to get one or two players to play better. We were trying to get our whole team to respond. We really believed in the group we have and that they were mentally strong enough to respond. As the questions were asked in the outside world, it motivated us a little more as well.”
“It’s crazy how it always comes down to the wire,” Nichol said. “It’s like water off a duck’s back. We considered it (Thursday’s game) a 2-1 loss and just moved on. We can’t really dwell on the losses. It was a good feeling.”
Since San Jose’s elimination by Anaheim in last year’s Western Conference Quarterfinals, questions were raised about the play of certain individuals, such as Thornton and Marleau. How ironic that those two scored San Jose’s goals on Saturday night.