So far, the Red Wings' series against the Sharks in the 2011 NHL playoffs has followed a script very similar to the one for the series between these two teams a year ago. The Red Wings dropped each of the first two games at San Jose by a goal, and in Game 3 Detroit lost in overtime, 4-3. The Red Wings were victorious in Game 4, although it was by one goal rather than six like the blowout last year. Regardless, the Red Wings take on San Jose in Game 5 on Sunday night, exactly one year after they lost in Game 5 and were eliminated by the Sharks in the 2010 playoffs.
The comparisons from last year to this year have been made throughout the series, but they need to stop on Sunday night if the Red Wings want to keep their season alive. Another loss, no matter how many goals it's by, would end Detroit's season on May 8 for the second year in a row. The Red Wings don't want their season to come to an end until sometime in June, but for that to happen they need to rattle off four straight wins against the Sharks.
With one win down, there are three to go. Win No. 2 can come at San Jose in Game 5, and if it does indeed happen then the Red Wings will return home for Game 6 on Tuesday. On Saturday night, the Predators went into Vancouver down in the series 3-1 and won, forcing a Game 6 in Nashville on Monday. That alone should show that the Red Wings are capable of doing the same against San Jose. They just need to keep the momentum from Friday night going and be prepared to come out on top in what likely will be another close game.
One big concern going into Game 5 for the Red Wings is the health of Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk. The Detroit Free Press reported Sunday afternoon that both Franzen and Datsyuk would be game-time decisions, and the paper also reported that Mike Modano and Drew Miller have been told to "be on stand-by" in case they have to step into the lineup. Ansar Khan reported shortly after that Ken Holland and Mike Babcock expect Franzen and Datsyuk to play, but it's clear neither is close to 100 percent healthy.
Regardless of who takes the ice for the Red Wings for Game 5, the objective is clear: force the Sharks to return to Detroit for a game on Tuesday. The only way to do that is by winning, which the Red Wings have been unable to do in five tries at San Jose in the last two playoffs. Hopefully that streak will end on Sunday night.