Which is the biggest game of any playoff series?

Answer: the next one.

The playoffs are like that old kids’ game, Kaboom. With each game the balloon gets pumped more and more with air—until you can only look at it with one eye opened, one eye closed and with a wince, wondering when it’s going to go KABOOM!

It’s Game Three tonight for the Red Wings and the San Jose Sharks, who lead two games to none. Cue the cliches of foreboding.

There’s no tomorrow. The backs are against the wall. It’s do or die. Must-win. Big game. Gotta have this one.

You don’t want to go down 0-3. We need a win to get back into this series. They held service, now we have to do the same.

They’re all true, of course.

I remember when the 2005 Pistons fell down 0-2 to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. The Pistons came home and won Game Three. ABC’s Al Michaels blurted it out shortly after the final horn.

“A series has broken out!”

Did it ever. The Pistons, playing three straight at home, won two of them (should have won all three, but I digress) and the series ended up going seven bitter, angry games before the Spurs finally prevailed.

Something tells me that a series is about to still break out between the Red Wings and the Sharks, starting tonight at Joe Louis Arena.

No one goes up 3-0 against the Red Wings, first of all. It’s only happened four times in the last 14 years, and two of those were courtesy of the Colorado Avalanche in the heyday of that rivalry, when the Avs were annual Cup contenders.

Secondly, the Red Wings can’t possibly be as bad in the faceoff circle in Game Three as they were in San Jose. In Game Two, the Red Wings didn’t take faceoffs, they conceded them. It was like Marty Mornhinweg was the faceoff coach and he kept telling the Red Wings to take the wind.

Thirdly, Joe Pavelski has to stop scoring sooner or later, right?

Sunday night, Pavelski became the first player since Mario Lemieux (you heard me) to score two or more goals in three straight playoff games.

Pavelski and Lemieux? The only other time those two names were in the same sentence was when some hockey scout likely said, “Well, Pavelski’s OK, but he’s no Mario Lemieux.”

Fourth, if the Sharks manage another 10-4 advantage in power plays, they’ll have to call the National Guard down to JLA to fetch the refs. Not gonna happen.

The Sharks find themselves in unchartered territory. They have a 2-0 lead in a playoff series. But that’s not the REAL unchartered territory, which is that they’re in the second round, period.

It’s impressive that the Sharks hold that 2-0 lead, because by this time they’re usually gripping a golf club, not a hockey stick.

Oh, and there’s that record of the Sharks’ in Joe Louis Arena.

Since their dorsal fins first poked out in NHL waters, the Sharks have won just eight of 44 games played at The Joe, regular season and playoffs included.

The Sharks aren’t just going on the road here, they’re crossing enemy lines, with land mines all around them.

Eight out of 44? Even Gerald Laird’s batting average has that percentage beat!

You’re not going to get rid of the Red Wings this easily. The hockeyniks who believe in ABD (Anyone But Detroit) because they’re sick of seeing the Red Wings in or around the Stanley Cup Finals, I’m sorry to disappoint you.

If the Red Wings are going down, they’re not going to do it by falling into an 0-3 hole to the San Jose Sharks.

Truth? I wouldn’t be surprised, not one bit, if the Red Wings slice and dice the Sharks tonight and move back from the table with a belch.

A series is about to break out. Count on it.

No one goes up on the Red Wings 3-0. And no one named Joe Pavelski should remain in the company of Mario Lemieux for more than 48 hours.

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