Detroit Red Wings Are Beating Themselves in Boston Bruins Playoff Series

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst IApril 23, 2014

Boston fans cheer while Detroit Red Wings, left to right, Kyle Quincey, Jimmy Howard, Jakub Kindl, and Brian Lashoff slump in the crease after Boston Bruins' Reilly Smith scored during the first period of Boston's 4-1 win in Game 2 of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series in Boston Sunday, April 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Winslow Townson

That the Detroit Red Wings are in a 2-1 series-deficit against the Boston Bruins is hardly surprising—that they’ve aided the Bruins in digging the hole is a little unexpected.

The Presidents' Trophy-winning Bruins are the overwhelming favorites to not only win this Stanley Cup playoff series, but the Stanley Cup itself. Indeed, as Brendan Savage at reported prior to the start of the series, only three out of 60 pundits thought the Red Wings would emerge the victors.

The Red Wings may very well end up losing this series, and against such tough competition as the Boston Bruins, perhaps that’s an acceptable fate.

However, that Detroit should essentially hand the series over to Boston is something else entirely—but that’s exactly what seems to be happening.

By the numbers, Boston is leading in every significant statistical category to this point, with blocked shots representing its largest lead—more on that in a minute. Again, given the Bruins' depth, talent, experience and work ethic, that’s not exactly surprising.

Detroit/Boston Statistics Through Three Games Played
ShotsPPHitsGiveawaysTakeawaysBlocked ShotsPIMFaceoffs
Detroit 82 0/9 87 161128 24 76

However, as the Red Wings proved in Game 1 of this series, the Bruins are beatable. A noticeable lack of speed and loss of discipline in Game 2 allowed the Bruins to skate away with a 4-1 victory. However, as one half-witted pundit opined, the Red Wings should have learned a valuable lesson prior to the series shifting to Detroit for Game 3.

Instead, the Red Wings ended up putting forth an even shakier effort in Game 3, much to the frustration and incredulity of head coach Mike Babcock, as reported by Helene St. James at the Detroit Free Press:

I don’t know why we were rattled or nervous or excited. You know, I’m a veteran coach, maybe I should have known we’d be like that at home. I know I was excited to start on the road, I thought it would be good for a young team to start on the road and you wouldn’t get all wound up. I had no idea that we’d start like we did tonight.

Detroit’s bad start, exemplified by a weak opening goal that held up as the game-winner, was only part of the problem.

For much of the game, the Red Wings seemed to have a reluctance to push through the neutral zone and when they did gain the blue line, displayed hesitancy to shoot the puck or drive to the net.

This isn’t to say these are easy tasks against competition as stiff as the Bruins. Still, there’s a difference between being contained by your opponent and playing a contained game. As was evidenced regularly in Game 2 and on full display in Game 3, the Red Wings have been as guilty of boxing themselves in as the Bruins have of limiting their chances.

Players seem more focused on passing off than carrying the puck deep into the offensive zone or taking a shot on net—even when given the opportunity.

Detroit has yet to score on the power play in nine attempts, but Boston’s penalty kill can only take some of the credit for this. The Red Wings often appear downright averse to taking shots from the inside and seem to think beating Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask requires a laser from the perimeter.

Referencing the Bruins' 46 blocked shots to the Red Wings' 28, its easy to see how ineffective this strategy has been as the Bruins are clearly seeing these shots coming.

This is NHL playoff hockey—the season for ugly goals—surely the Red Wings know this, but seem not to be putting this knowledge into practice.

Be it Johan Franzen being uninspired to play anything but a perimeter game or Gustav Nyquist’s obvious reluctance to use his speed to his full advantage, the Detroit Red Wings are making life much easier than it needs to be for the Boston Bruins.

Detroit may be every bit the underdog in this series, but it certainly doesn’t have to play like it. However, over the past two games, the Red Wings' play suggests they’re dedicated to living up to this decidedly low expectation.

The Red Wings proved in Game 1 that they’ve got what it takes to beat the Bruins. The Red Wings have used Games 2 and 3 to prove they’ve got what it takes to beat themselves.


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