Well, there you have it. The Boston Bruins will enter the Stanley Cup playoffs as the number one overall seed by clinching the Presidents’ Trophy this past weekend. They finished with 117 points (54-19-9), and this marked the first time that the Bruins won this award since the 1989-90 season.
Fans remember all too well just how that season ended-a shellacking in the Stanley Cup finals against the Edmonton Oilers. We are all looking to the heavens to make sure that history does not repeat itself as far as a disappointing ending to a season goes.
In the first round of this year’s tournament, the B’s drew the Detroit Red Wings, a team that finished with the second wild card spot and fourth in the Atlantic Division. If you want to find the last time these two “Original Six” franchises met in the playoffs, then you have to go all the way back to 1957.
The Wings will be in the playoffs for the 23rd-straight season. They play with pace, skill, and structure. They emphasize getting the puck out of their zone quickly and putting it on the sticks of their in-stride forwards. In turn, the forwards prefer to carry the puck over the offensive blue line instead of playing dump-and-chase hockey.
How does that match up with the defensive-minded style of the Bruins? One would think that it would play into their hands. The B’s finished with a league best plus-84 rating on the year, and that stems from excellent play in the neutral zone. If there is a single team out there that could slow down that style of hockey, it is the Black and Gold of Boston.
However, it was apparent that they could not figure out how to reduce the production of the Red Wings. For what it is worth, Detroit is the only team this season to defeat the Bruins three times in regulation, as the B’s went 1-3-0 against the Red Wings this season.
The last time that these two teams played each other (a 3-2 victory for Detroit on April 2), the Red Wings were without Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson. Once the series kicks off, both of these players will be in the lineup against the Bruins. These two savvy veterans will present a whole new challenge for Boston in the offensive zone.
While Alfredsson was tied for the team lead in points with Niklas Kronwall (49) during the regular season, David Krejci led the Bruins with 69 points. You can see that Detroit is a team that likes to roll all of its players and preaches solid depth. Also, Jarome Iginla and Patrice Bergeron recorded 30 goals for the Bruins while Gustav Nyquist led Detroit in goals with 28.
Is anyone noticing a pattern here?
Offensively, it could be considered a wash. Even though the Bruins lost Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid for the year most likely, you have to give them the edge on the blue line. The Red Wings do not have the big-name player in the defensive zone that can present a problem for the Bruins.
When it comes to the goaltending matchup, it is not even close.
Tuukka Rask, arguably the leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy, is fourth in the NHL with a 2.04 goals against average and second with a .930 save percentage. He also leads all goaltenders with seven shutouts. Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard, who has played well this year, ranks in the bottom half in both categories. This matchup speaks for itself.
With all of that being said, that is why we play the games. This series will be interesting, and the Red Wings are prepared to give the Bruins all that they can handle.
The series will start Friday night at the TD Garden with game two to be played Sunday before the series shifts to Detroit for games three and four.