Well, that was something, wasn't it? A series between these two would be tons of fun. Even more so because I can't see how the Hawks wouldn't win it. But more on that later.
I know what Sharks fans will tell me in the comments after I write this wrap. They will tell me the Sharks showed incredible heart to come back from three down to get a point. They will tell me they dominated the Hawks for the middle of that game. That is only partially true. Here's what I saw: I saw a team that was in no ready to answer the bell (despite being off since Saturday). Either they took McLlelan's downplaying of this too seriously, or they just weren't ready, or whatever. They were mauled for the opening 10 minutes, possibly most of the 1st. Then fear of embarrassment kicked in, and the Sharks took it to the Hawks for a long stretch. Fear of embarrassment became pure confidence. Then, after tying the game, I saw a team that hid under the covers and hoped it would all be over soon, It wasn't. You can have your Conference lead. I know when the trophies are handed out, a team with this mental fragility will be on the couch.
Anyway, to that wonderful encounter. The Hawks were marvelous from the off, and had the Sharks pinned for great gobs of time. Coach Q fought fire with fire, and matched Toews against the Thornton line, with surprising results ( you can see for yourself with the shift charts). Maybe Q didn't think much of Thornton's and Heatley's backchecking ability (he wouldn't be the first), maybe he didn't trust Versteeg and Buff to do the right things. Whatever, the top line more than held its own. They were +3 to Thornton's line of -3. The scoring opened when Kane was allowed to find the trailer, and Buff made no mistake. Teams are going to stop allowing him to do that at some point, right? Maybe they can't.
Floodgates open. Keith was able to dispossess Thornton at center, Toews found Troy "Iron Tusk" Brouwer, who beat Nabokov short side. But the fun didn't stop. After a faceoff win by The Shooter, Hossa was able to fire a shot, and Sharp's man completely lost him allowing him to get the rebound and find Ladd.
It was clear the Sharks were rattled, and Doug Murray went a little overboard trying to get his team going and took a less than good penalty. If the Hawks had converted there, it might have been over. But they didn't, and soon Marc-Edouard Vlasic was able to find Joe Pavelski who had beaten Keith to the crease (perhaps his only mistake all night).
The Sharks took not being out of it after 20 as a sign from God, and were all over the Hawks in the 2nd. Defensive turnovers, poor passes, the Sharks forced us into all of it. It paid off on the power play when Pavelski hit Hossa's foot and into the net it went. Things continued like that into the 3rd, when the Sharks tied it after Brent Sopel fired a pass to...well, no one and Malhotra was able to tip one in.
And then came the Floyd Mayweather "I'll just wait for the scorecards here" and the Hawks once again were on top. They had several chances late to win it, more after Thornton took a panicky penalty with less than 2 to go. But the Hawks couldn't convert that one either. It all ended when Troy "Work Horse" Brouwer skated down with Versteeg 2-on-2 with Versteeg rightly crashing to the net. Brouwer put Huskins on his ass, and wired one top corner to end it. Love. It.
-Do you think Kane is watching Seabrook these days and salivating at getting a shot at him in the Olympics. Drew Doughty had better be ready to play.
-He won't get a point tonight, but I thought Versteeg actually had a very strong game.
-Anyone else totally surprised you couldn't find Heatley with a roadmap after Ladd buried him?
-Why do Ducks fans and Sharks fans insist on making the "Let's go Sharks/Ducks" chant four syllables.
-Hey, a game where we can't possibly have anyone complain about Huet! He was large tonight, and provided the roadmap for how the Hawks will win with him the spring. Make the saves he has to make, and not worry about the goals he couldn't do anything about. Consider that controversy over for a week.
-The Hawks dug their own graves in the second by not having any forwards within a zip code for breakouts. How many times was a Hawk d-man carrying the puck and have no passing options? That's just sloppy and lazy. Thankfully, they corrected it in the 3rd.
Player of The Game
You can make a real case for Huet, but there's only one answer. Troy Lowen-Brouwer.