Going into the 2014 Playoffs the Detroit Red Wings face the Boston Bruins, who they haven’t faced in a playoff series since 1957. The Bruins are this season’s President’s Trophy winners, meaning they have a target on their backs, something the Red Wings are all too familiar with from past seasons. It is an unusual situation with the Red Wings being the eighth seed against the top-seeded Bruins.
The Bruins are loaded from top to bottom. They also had the best goal differential in the NHL with a plus 84. The Red Wings in comparison had a negative goal differential of minus 8.
Starting with Boston’s forward lines there is Selke Trophy Candidate Patrice Bergeron and Jarome Iginla who both scored 30 goals this season. Other dangerous forwards for Boston are Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Carl Soderberg, and Reilly Smith, the brother of Detroit’s Brendan Smith. This is a formidable group who has size and knows how to put the puck in the net.
The Boston defense is one of the best in the NHL led by Zdeno Chara the tallest player in the NHL at 6’ 9” who probably has one of the hardest shots. He should be in the running for the Norris Trophy. The rest of Boston’s defense is top notch, with Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, Johnny Boychuk, and Matt Bartkowski. Tuukka Rask, who also should be a Vezina candidate, leads the goaltending.
The Red Wings are obviously a team in transition, but they still qualified for the playoffs for the 23rd consecutive year. Enduring another injury riddled season the Red Wings were forced to add young players to patch the holes as a result. Players who benefited from injuries are Gustav Nyquist (who should have been in the lineup at the start of the season), Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, and Luke Glendening. Young players added to the lineup last season were Brendan Smith, Brian Lashoff, and Danny DeKeyser. There are other young players in the lineup, but the ones mentioned here have barley played a full season, but have added much needed speed and grit.
Like many young players they make mistakes, and this is usually crucial during the playoffs. As a result the younger players have left Detroit goaltenders in some difficult situations where they are forced to make great saves if possible. In the first round the Red Wings will be without Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson. Zetterberg is recovering from back surgery and, Ericsson is recovering from finger surgery. Pavel Datsyuk is back after sitting out a month with an inflamed knee.
Comparing lineups it would appear the Red Wings are in over their heads playing the Bruins, and it could be true. The Red Wings do have an equalizer, which is speed, they acquired with the addition of younger players. Speed is a factor, which can prove to be a problem for Boston. Again because of their youth the younger players tend to make mistakes (turnovers) meaning the puck winds up in their net. Mike Babcock preaches structure to his team, and for the most part the Red Wings are quite competitive when they play to the structure.
Comparing the teams it looks like the usual Goliath vs. David scenario, with a slow Goliath facing a speedy David. As mentioned for the Red Wings to win they must adhere to team structure, and Jimmy Howard needs to pick up the pace from the up and down season he has had to date. It is possible. Do you believe in upsets? The Detroit Red Wings do, as it will be the Red Wings winning in six games.