It came down to the last few games of the season, but the Detroit Red Wings found a way to clinch their 23rd consecutive playoff berth.
It wasn’t easy, despite being in the slightly easier Eastern Conference, but the tale of this team is completely different from the Red Wings teams of the past.
Many fans were worried about missing the playoffs this year, and rightfully so. This Red Wings team lost the second most man games of any team in the NHL. The injuries to many stars and top players gave way to the surprisingly, NHL-ready Grand Rapids Griffins squad.
So now that this young team is in the playoffs, as the 2nd Wild Card seed, how will they fare against the league’s top team, the Boston Bruins?
Let’s face it; looking at both current rosters, it’s pretty obvious that the Bruins have more experience and depth. However, with a healthier Red Wings squad, and the depth factor would actually favor Detroit.
Gustav Nyquist is going to be a huge factor for the Red Wings, as he helped carry the Red Wings down the stretch, notching 26 points in 10 straight games.
There will be some mix and match lines for the Red Wings as players continue to come back from injuries, but for the most part, it’s going to stay the same.
The new line of Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, and Tomas Jurco provides a sort of kid line, and quick speed for the Red Wings. The young line has progressed so much since coming up from the AHL, working their way up to the official “2nd line” for the Red Wings.
The depth that the Red Wings currently have, Darren Helm, Joakim Andersson, Luke Glendening, Daniel Alfreddson, Todd Bertuzzi, Drew Miller, David Legwand and Justin Abdelkader all provide a different form of help to the team.
The problem the Red Wings face is the top two lines of Boston, and if they can match up accordingly.
David Krejci really brings his game up in the playoffs, and centering the first line of Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla is scary good. That’s followed by Patrice Bergeron’s line with Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith.
The bottom two lines for the Bruins aren’t as scary as the first two, but still can bring the scoring and the hits, especially the fourth line.
The X Factor for the Bruins will be Bergeron. If he can score, and continue to score, the Red Wings kid line is going to have a hard time getting the offense going.
The one thing that the Bruins have that the Red Wings don’t is the physical play and size. The same can be said about the Red Wings over the Bruins with speed. Helm, Nyquist, Tatar, Jurco, and Glendening all have the breakaway type speed, and if they can find a way to get past the physical play of the Bruins, the Red Wings have the slight advantage over the Bruins here.
Let’s face it, the Red Wings defense has been much better in the past. The experience on the backend for the Red Wings is severely lacking, but as the season went on, the defense has gotten better.
Without Jonathan Ericsson in the first round is a big problem. His size and reach will be missed, but leader Niklas Kronwall knows how to handle the pressure.
Danny DeKeyser, with a full season under his belt, has excelled in every aspect, and although committing some mistakes is normal, he’s been one of the top defensemen on the team.
This will be the weak spot in the otherwise, tough Red Wings squad. A young defense, with not the most experience, could prove to be lethal in the end.
The good news for the Red Wings is that the Bruins have the same problem, lack of experience on the backend.
Zdeno Charo and Dougie Hamilton are the top pairing, and being that Hamilton is a rookie, he has less experience than Smith, but a harder shot.
Along with Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug, and Kevan Miller are all in their first full seasons with the team.
The experience only rests on Chara, Johnny Boychuck, and 7th defenseman, Andrej Meszaros. If there’s a weak spot on the Bruins team, this defense is it.
Tuukka Rask is Vezina-worthy. He’s one of the top goaltenders in the league, and he can steal games for his team on any given night. He’s won a Stanley Cup as a backup, and took his team to the Finals last year, only to lose in 6 games to the Blackhawks.
Rask can steal games, but usually doesn’t have to because of the forwards in front of him. Coming in well-rested will help, but if he goes down, the backup experience for netminder Chad Johnson isn’t much. This is his first full season for any team, despite playing a few games here and there for the Coyotes and Rangers.
Jimmy Howard is a formidable goaltender. He certainly hasn’t had the best season in his short career, which has seen injuries, the flu, and inconsistent play. But that’s not to say the Red Wings aren’t comfortable with Howard back stopping this young team to the playoffs.
He won’t steal every game for the Red Wings, but has had his flashes of brilliance from time-to-time, especially down the stretch toward the playoff berth. If Howard can play like he did down the stretch, don’t expect many goals to go in for the Bruins.
Backing up Howard is Jonas Gustavsson. This is his first playoffs, and with no experience , it will be tough to gauge how he would fare. If Howard goes down, the Red Wings won’t have too much to worry about, but his style of play is completely different. If Gustavsson were to come in, the Red Wings still have a great shot, but it won’t be as good as if Howard were in net.
Prediction: Red Wings in 6
This series will most likely be the highlight of the first round of the playoffs (outside of New York and Philadelphia). Both teams are very similar, but the Bruins have a bit more experience and firepower in their forward lineup. Despite the young team the Red Wings have, they’re going to give the Bruins a real tough matchup.
Many experts are already counting the Red Wings out, but look what happened when they did that during the season? Detroit made the playoffs.
The physical play of the Bruins will wear the Red Wings down, but if Detroit can overcome the physical play and find a way past Tuukka Rask, the Red Wings will march on to the second round.