Very rarely are the Detroit Red Wings considered an underdog for any playoff series. The Boston Bruins, for that matter, aren’t often considered as heavy favorites.
This year, however, is a different story. The Bruins, fresh off their first Presidents’ Trophy since the 1989-90 season, have the upper hand against the injury-plagued Red Wings. And its a reason why Mike Babckock’s squad is playing the underdog card, despite winning three of four against the Black and Gold during the regular season.
There’s still a level of respect for the Red Wings though, who will partake in the postseason for the 23rd consecutive time. Still, the Bruins aren’t going to let that “underdog card” get into their heads.
“I don’t believe in never respecting the other team. It’s not because they’re the Detroit Red Wings during the playoffs and they’re a good team. That’s the respect that you give them,” head coach Claude Julien said after Thursday’s practice. “That doesn’t mean you don’t go out there and play on your heels or you tighten your stick because you have the respect for them. It just means that you have to be ready for them.”
While the two teams played each other four times this season, the Bruins and Red Wings aren’t used to playing each other during the postseason. Their first round series will be the first playoff matchup between the Original Six franchises since 1957.
One person who is used to seeing the Wings is Jarome Iginla. The ex-Flames captain saw the Wings quite often during his time in the Western Conference, including two playoff meetings in 2004 and 2007.
This Detroit team is a little different from the last time Iginla faced the Wings in the postseason. Although some of the names he faced in the past still remain, like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall, the veteran presences of guys like Niklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Chris Chelios, Chris Osgood and Steve Yzerman are gone. Instead, this Wings core is full of young and rising stars like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Brendan Smith, just to name a few.
“They’re a young team,” Iginla said about this year’s Red Wings squad. “For a long time, they’ve had a big core together, and there are a few guys left from it, but a lot of young faces that I haven’t seen a lot of and some of their rookies have had great seasons for them and helped them get to the playoffs after that great last stretch. They skate well and they’re tenacious and we look forward to battling them.”
The Red Wings could be channeling their inner Curt Schilling from the 2004 Red Sox when he asked “why not us?” The Bruins, however, are taking this team seriously. And the ace team is hoping to trump the underdog card when the series begins on Friday night.