A matchup with the Detroit Red Wings wasn’t exactly what the Boston Bruins wanted when they defeated the Buffalo Sabres Saturday afternoon to secure their first Presidents’ Trophy since the 1989-90 season.
The Red Wings enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the second wild card team and eighth seeded team in the Eastern Conference. This season marks the Wings’ 23rd consecutive playoff appearance.
Beat up by injuries to many of their key players, Detroit managed just five wins in 14 December contests, one of the big reasons as to why the Red Wings managed to secure the eighth and final playoff spot in the east. Despite the injuries to superstars like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, the Wings did what they had to do to secure another trip to the postseason.
The Wings had their way with the Bruins during the regular season, winning three of four against their Original Six rivals. General Manger Peter Chiarelli knows very well how good of a team Detroit is.
“They’re a, I think, they’re a classic puck possession team. They play — you can tell they’re very well coached. For a team that skates, a team that moves the puck well, they’re strong on the puck. I think that’s a bit of a trickle-down from guys like Zetterberg and Datsyuk, who are among the best puck-strippers in the league,” Chiarelli stated when he met with the media Monday morning.
That youth that Chiarelli is referring to is led by Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar. Entering this season, Nyquist and Tatar had a combined 67 games of NHL experience with a combined 21 points.
The Red Wings’ dynamic duo combined for 87 points this season. That is a pretty good example of how important these two young guns are to the Detroit Red Wings and their success.
“He’s got some skill; he’s obviously a real good player,” Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said of Nyquist.”He’s led everywhere he’s ever played in scoring. The problem with the NHL is you have to come up and grab hold of something. We called him up for a game, and he stuck with us because he grabbed hold of something. That’s what Gus had to do.”
The Bruins will have their hands full as they look to slow down the mix of speedy veterans and forwards the Red Wings have to offer, but Zdeno Chara is set to get to know the Wings’ top line very well. As long as Big Z is standing on the Bruins blue-line, one should like Chara and the Bruins chances.
“I think he’s had a terrific year,’’ Chiarelli said about Chara. “His play in the context of the young [defensemen] should put the spotlight on him a little bit more. The compressed schedule, coming off a long year last year, the Olympics, he’s a smart player who has a terrific defensive impact and he’s able to make the younger [defensemen] accountable and, at the same time, make them feel wanted.”
Special teams will play a big factor in this series. The Bruins finished the season third in the league on the power play while the Red Wings struggled with the man advantage, finishing 18th with a 17.7 success rate.
Despite the wide difference in power play percentage, the two teams are both very good on the penalty kill. The Bruins finished eighth, killing off 83.6% of their penalties while the Red Wings finished right behind the Bruins, killing of 83% of their penalties, good enough for 12th in the league.
The Bruins know that regular season success against a team doesn’t automatically equal the similar fate come the playoffs. If you take away the 6-1 beat down the Red Wings gave the Bruins in Detroit back in November, the Bruins actually outscored Detroit in their other three contests, 8-7.
“We can look at their record whichever way we want and see us 1-3,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “I look at the games we played against them and there was one game, the first one in Detroit that we didn’t play very well. The other three, we could have won the two that we lost, I mean, we had the lead in that last one.”
The series kicks off in Boston Friday night. We’re almost there folks, almost there.