For Detroit Red Wings fans, to say nothing of the players and staff, the 2013-14 season was a trying one full of ups and downs. It’s probably only fitting that the first round playoff series against the top regular season team in the NHL, the Boston Bruins, was much the same.
There were glimmers of hope (that Game 1 victory in Boston), demoralizing defeats (Game 3 comes to mind) and tense contests that could have gone either way. In the end, though, the Bruins proved why they earned the Presidents Trophy, simply throwing too much at the Red Wings to take Saturday afternoon’s tilt at TD Garden 4-2 and eliminate Detroit in five games.
That the outcome was even in doubt late in the game was due mostly to superb efforts from some of the team’s veteran stars. Pavel Datsyuk evened the score at 1-1 with a second period power play goal, though the hosts responded with one of their own amid a flurry of penalties to both teams as Zdeno Chara blasted home a one-timer with just seconds remaining before the second intermission.
The next score could have been a back-breaker. After a huge save by Jonas Gustavsson, the Red Wings were unable to clear the zone, and Johan Franzen‘s ill-advised pass found the stick of Bruins d-man Torey Krug. He noticed Milan Lucic shockingly wide open in front of the Detroit net, easily making it 3-1 with 15:33 to play.
More penalty calls followed, and though the Red Wings missed on two straight power plays, their captain popped up when they needed him most. Henrik Zetterberg scored from a tough angle on a rare rebound left behind by Tuukka Rask, pulling his team to within a goal with 3:52 to try to even it up.
That task was made tougher when Detroit got called for too many men on the ice at the 16:56 mark. The PK unit dodged a late bullet or two, but when Gustavsson was pulled for an extra attacker, Lucic was able to take advantage of a decisive faceoff win in the Boston zone by David Krejci, sending the puck to Jarome Iginla for the empty-netter that sealed up the game and the series.
In the end, it was simply too much Rask (31 saves and excellent puck control) and too much depth on the Boston blue line that spelled doom for Detroit. Chara and his running mates made life miserable for Red Wings forwards and were dynamic in the offensive zone as well, with Krug and Dougie Hamilton combining for three assists.
Fans can always wonder what could have been if Jimmy Howard would have been available for Games 4 and 5, though Gustavsson made some acrobatic stops to keep the game within reach. More troublesome was the absence of production from the Kid Line — zero points for Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar or Riley Sheahan — or much of anyone outside of Datsyuk.
That suggests changes coming in the offseason, which arrives faster than anyone would have liked. It’s the end of a roller coaster ride for sure, though one that ended in a manner most expected as soon as the playoff match-ups were finalized.
The game was over when …
Everything went wrong on the Bruins’ third goal. The pass from Franzen was bad enough, but he could have made up for it by finding Lucic after he turned over the puck. Neither he nor Brian Lashoff managed to do that, and the result was an embarrassingly easy tally that turned out to be the game-winner.
The unsung Red Wings hero was …
Luke Glendening, for all the reasons you’d normally expect. He even forced Rask to make a tough save about halfway through the third period, albeit one that may have been impossible had it been shot by more of a goal-scorer. Still, you can’t fault Glendening for his effort, as his line kept hustling right up to the bitter end.