The Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings faced-off in their first playoff series since Dwight Eisenhower was president,Jackie Robinson retired and Elvis bought Graceland. The top seeded (Presidents Trophy Winner) Bruins are a heavy favourite in these playoffs. Yet under the tutelage of veteran coach and recent gold medalist Mike Babcock – this looked to be one of, if not the most compelling series of the first round and potentially the entire playoffs.
Things got started early with a high paced Game One. It was however, owned by the goalies. Both Jimmy Howard and Tuukka Rask were huge for their respective teams. It wasn’t until the third period that Pavel Datsyuk beautifully picked up a pass from Johan Franzen and ripped one past Rask for the late lead. That would prove to take the first game, leaving the score of the game the same as the score of the series, 1 - 0 in favour of Detroit.
Game Two was very different. Jimmy Howard turned the puck over early and the Bruins scored on an empty cage. Shortly after that Big Bad Bruins banged a loose puck home in the Detroit crease for an early two goal lead. Darren Helm managed to put one off of a team-mate (Luke Glendening) and into Boston’s net to make it close; but Boston took charge before the end of the frame. Milan Lucic scored just before the end of the second to make it 3 – 1 Bruins, and to me this was the turning point in the series. You could feel the wind being sucked from Detroit’s sails. Boston tallied one more for their fourth of the game. It ended 4 – 1 in favour of the Bruins, series tied 1 – 1.
Many of the problems the Red Wings combated in Game Two were very much still prevalent in Game Three. The Wings had trouble breaking out, fighting the size and physicality of the Bruins, and Jimmy Howard was just okay. Dougie Hamilton and Jordan Caron scored while Patrice Bergeron tallied an empty net goal. Detroit was shut out and the Bruins took a 2 – 1 series lead.
Game Four saw the return of the Wings Captain, Henrik Zetterberg. He had missed significant time since the Olympics. Jonas Gustavsson got the start in goal for Detroit with Howard falling ill to the flu. Niklas Kronwall opened the scoring for Detroit early. He blasted a drive from the point for a powerplay goal, adding to the baby luck theory in these playoffs. Kronwall and his wife had the birth of their baby boy the very same morning. Early in the second Datsyuk added the second goal of the game. Boston responded quickly with Torey Krug adding one, making it 2 – 1 heading into the third. Lucic tied the game early in the third. The game went to OT, and with about five minutes left Dougie Hamilton took a shot that deflected first off Jarome Iginla, then off Danny DeKeyser and past the Red Wings netminder. The game finished 3– 2 for the Bruins in OT. The Bruins took a 3 – 1 stranglehold on the series, heading back home.
The series returned to the TD Garden for Game Five, a terrible place for visiting teams. The Bruins jumped ahead early, but Pavel Datsyuk‘s third goal of the series tied the score mid-way through the second. The big man, Zdeno Chara, scored an even bigger goal, finding the net with just four seconds left in the period, and the Bruins walked into the second intermission just 20 minutes away from the semi-finals. Milan Lucic relieved some tension less than five minutes into the third period with his third of the series, and for a while, it seemed the Wings were doomed. Zetterberg seemed determined to not let his team go down so easily, and scored with just four minutes remaining, bringing Detroit back to a one-goal deficit. However, it was never overcome. Jarome Iginla sealed the series with an empty-net goal, and the Bruins punched their ticket to the next round.
Throughout the series, the goaltenders were the focus. At one end, Tuukka Rask faced more shots than any other goaltender in the Eastern Conference, and with only six goals-against in five games, his .961% save percentage is second to only Darcy Kuemper in these Playoffs.
An unknown injury to Jimmy Howard the day of Game Four, after it was reported that he would start, gave “The Monster” an unparalleled opportunity to back-up a solid season’s worth of goaltending. However, the Bruins turned out to be too skilled, and too deep for the Wings’ veteran blue-line to handle, and it was only a matter of time.
Gustav Nyquist was invisible in the series without a point, and many of the youngsters that the Wings relied on to keep the playoff streak alive simply didn’t show up when the time came. Veterans Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were key contributors for the Wings; but injuries became Detroit’s worst enemy once again. Zetterberg played in less than half the series, and Datsyuk was rumored to be less than 100% going in, although his play certainly didn’t attest to that fact.
The Bruins move on, and as the top seed in the Atlantic Division, take on a familiar foe: The Montreal Canadiens. It’s another season in the books for the Wings, who will have to wait one more year to capitalize with their aging core.
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