The Afternoon Shift – May 11

Kronwall's Hit Parade

If the Red Wings make history tomorrow night by stealing the series from the Sharks, the fingerprints of former Griffins will be found all over the crime scene.

While Detroit has all the momentum and San Jose, seemingly, all the pressure, the ending of this potential hockey whodunit is far from certain. But the evidence is clear: the Red Wings’ season would already have a chalk line around it if not for a cast of characters who used to hide out at Van Andel Arena.

Jimmy Howard - Any remaining Howard critics, please raise your hands. Hellooooo? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone? Where have you gone? You were there only last month. Heck, just last week. But perhaps Jimmy’s last three games, with the executioner’s blade dangling above the Red Wings’ collective neck, have finally convinced you that the man can flat-out play: 3-0 with a 0.926 save percentage, including a 0.940 mark (63-for-67) in Games 5 and 6.

Niklas Kronwall - Getting Kronwalled is back in fashion. Despite Detroit’s overtime loss in Game 3 last Wednesday, Kronwall served notice that the Wings would not go gently into that great night, as he annihilated Dany Heatley with a huge check along the boards. Ryane Clowe, who all but accused the blueliner of dirty play after that game, received a little karma and the business end of a signature Kronwall check in Game 5, suffering an injury that caused him to miss Game 6 (even if the Sharks won’t admit it).

Oh yeah, Detroit’s postseason leader in ice time scored the Wings’ first goal and set up Dan Cleary’s game-winner in Game 5, before firing the shot that Henrik Zetterberg tipped home midway through last night’s third period to ignite the home team’s rally. All in a week’s work.

Valtteri Filppula - After toiling in the shadows for most of this series, Filppula was indispensable in Game 6. He earned the second assist on Zetterberg’s goal before storming the crease to pot the game-winner off a beautiful feed from Pavel Datsyuk with 7:28 to play. His third-star heroics inspired a flurry of kudos from the assembled media horde (see below).  

Darren Helm – Sure, Helm gave the Wings breathing room and clinched last night’s win by sending the puck into an empty net from center ice. But the speedster also scored perhaps the season’s most important goal late in regulation during Friday’s Game 4. With the game knotted 3-3 after Detroit had squandered a three-goal lead, and with the Sharks circling for a sweep with either a regulation victory or perhaps their third overtime win of the series, Helm scored into a gaping cage with just 87 ticks left on the clock to lift the Wings to their season-prolonging 4-3 win. 

Jonathan Ericsson - The Big Rig has taken his share of lumps this season, but he sparked the comeback in Sunday’s Game 5 by scoring the first of Detroit’s three unanswered third-period goals to close out the game, a pattern that would repeat in Game 6. The Wings trailed 3-1 early in the final frame, but Ericsson found a loose puck in the slot and beat Antti Niemi to begin spoiling the celebration of more than 17,500 fans at HP Pavilion who had gathered in anticipation of seeing San Jose move on to the Western Conference Finals.

Here’s hoping our former Griffins and the rest of their Detroit teammates can permanently lay those celebratory hopes to rest on Thursday when they revisit the Shark Tank for what promises to be an epic Game 7.

Alumni news and notes:

Video – NHL alumni goals:

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