To say that there was a lot of buzz heading into tonight’s game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Boston Bruins would be an understatement. Early in the day the Red Wings and their fans were treated to the news that their bearded leader Henrik Zetterberg would finally make his return to action tonight after missing over two months while recovering from back surgery. Combining Captain Zetterberg’s return with trying to bounce back from an “unacceptable” Game 3 performance it was no surprise that the Red Wings would come out with an energized start.
However, it was a surprise to see Jonas (not “Johan” Doc Emrick) Gustavsson get the start between the pipes for Detroit tonight. Jimmy Howard and all of his haters were given the night off due to the flu. All four of the Red Wings lines seemed to “start on time” as Coach Babcock likes to say. The crowd at Joe Louis Arena was equally as charged from the opening face-off as well. Before you were even able to see Henrik Zetterberg on the ice for the first time, the raucous Joe Louis crowd let you know with a “Let’s Go Zetterberg” chant.
If you didn’t follow the Red Wings you would have never guessed that Zetterberg was a guy playing his first NHL game in over two months. Hank and the rest of the top line stepped up early and played the caliber of playoff hockey that Red Wings fans have to come love and expect from this team and it would be these top line stars who would open up the scoring. Newly proud father Niklas Kronwall ripped a glorious slap shot past Tuukka Rask just 4 seconds into a Dougie Hamilton double minor penalty to put Detroit up 1-0. The Red Wings and the crowd would continue to feed off of Papa Kronwall’s goal and go on to play their best period of hockey so far in this series out-shooting the Bruins 15-5.
The Red Wings re-energized top line continued to skate hard and create scoring chances early on in the second period. It would be Detroit’s other new proud parent Pavel Datsyuk who would tally the Wings second goal of the game just under 5 minutes into the second period putting Detroit up 2-0. Unfortunately Datsyuk’s early goal would be the last of the evening for the Red Wings. The Bruins spent the rest of the second period adjusting their game, mainly eliminating the stretch-pass that had been working well all night long for the Red Wings. Torey Krug scored Boston’s first goal of the game just over halfway through the second period.
It was the Bruin’s adjustments and quick line changes that began to stifle Detroit’s momentum and eventually make them look like the offensively challenged Red Wings of the previous two games. A soft start by Detroit in the third period led to an early Milan “Lucic sucks” goal that tied the game at 2. Detroit continued to struggle to possess the puck and match the Bruins defensive adjustments for the remainder of the final period. With a little bit of luck, including a second missed wide open shot on goal by Brad Marchand, the Wings were able to grind their way into overtime.
Justin Abdelkader’s breakaway attempt less than a minute into overtime was basically Detroit’s only offensive highlight of sudden death. The Red Wings managed to take away most of Boston’s second chance opportunities as well as get some big goaltending moments from Gustavsson but overall they failed to produce any real scoring chances, putting up only 3 shots on goal during the overtime period. Jerome Iginla would go on to tip-in the game winning goal with a little help from Danny Dekeyser’s leg. Game over, back to Boston we go.
So what went wrong?
Ultimately, the story of this series with Boston will be the Red Wings inability to generate any sustained offense against the Bruins much larger and more experienced defensive core. The Bruins were able to take all of the key offensive pieces that were so very valuable to the Red Wings making the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive year and basically making them nonexistent. Just ask Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar. It was pretty plain to see Tatar’s growing frustrations during Game 3 as he smacked his stick against the inside of the penalty box.
Aside from Kronwall and Datsyuk there hasn’t been much contribution in points from other veterans on the team. We really needed Mule to start streaking but he never quite got around to it and managed to just glide under the radar. There has been some noteworthy efforts put forth by some of the veteran grinders like Abbey, Miller, and Helmer. Hell, even Kyle Quincey and Brendan Smith managed to their game and impress me at times in this series.
I thought tonight would be the night that the guys would turn it around and tie the series up but I was wrong. As this series has progressed it’s been more and more clear just who the Wild Card team was and who the Presidents’ Trophy winning team was. But you know what? When it’s all said and done and the handshakes have taken place, I will still stand by my Wild Card team.
You stay classy Hockeytown.