NHL Playoffs 2014: Round 1 Preview – Boston Bruins vs Detroit Red Wings
Ice Nation UK kicks off coverage of the 2014 NHL playoffs with a preview of the thrilling match-up between League-leaders Boston and second-wildcard Detroit.
SERIES BEGINS: Friday 18th April 2014
PUCK DROP: 7:30pm ET (12:30am GMT)
BY THE NUMBERS
|261 / 177
|222 / 230
|LAST 10 GAMES||5-2-3||6-3-1|
|TOP POINT SCORER
(D. ALFREDSSON &
|TOP GOAL SCORER
(P. BERGERON &
DETROIT RED WINGS SEASON LOWDOWN:
The Detroit Red Wings have had an interesting season to say the least. A good start was followed with a poor run and a spate of injuries that just didn’t seem to let up, losing Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Weiss, Alfredsson, Howard, Ericsson and more for an extended period of time.
It is the sort of issue that should have seen the team suffer and suffer badly and for the most part it did. However, for a team that likes to bed in new talent, the Wings were forced to play a lot of rookies and at one point had so many Grand Rapids Griffins on the roster, it looked more like their affiliate team than the Red Wings.
Nyquist, Jurco, Sheahan, Tatar and Glendening have all come in and put many seasoned veterans to shame, with Gustav Nyquist in particular carrying the team on his back during a very important stretch. It is hard to think that at 68 games played the Toronto Maple Leafs were second in the division on 80 points, whilst the Red Wings were outside the Wild Card spot and looking in serious danger. Yet since that time, Toronto have only managed to put 4 points on the board as the kids ran wild for Detroit.
Detroit have failed to really put together a real streak all season, managing at best 4 wins on the bounce, before another defeat and even a few losing streaks. Yet here they are, barely healthy and with a lack of experience. They will head into the first round of the playoffs with nothing to lose and that could be very dangerous for their opponents.
DETROIT RED WINGS PLAYER TO WATCH:
As much as it should be one of the kids, the real player to watch will be the returning Pavel Datsyuk. Since his return from a knee injury he hasn’t quite hit the levels expected of him, but that can only last so long. He now has games under his belt and in the final game of the regular season he found a couple of assists and was looking somewhere back to his own high standards.
With a few days rest before the series begins, he can make sure his knee gets some much needed rest also and could well be the difference between the two teams. There are some talented lines on the roster, with the kids and their energy couple with a lack of fear. The experience of Alfredsson and a desire to finally win a cup and fingers crossed a Johan Franzen who has looked at his calendar and realised that it is April and entered beast mode.
Yet, it will be the magic man who, if fully fit, that should be able to go out and so his thing, causing the Bruins headaches all series long.
BOSTON BRUINS SEASON LOWDOWN:
In stark contrast to Detroit, the Bruins have been a formidable force all season long and a deserved winner of the Presidents trophy. They have had a few injury scares themselves, but as a whole they have looked the real deal and as strong as any team has in years.
Tuuka Rask has been the best goaltender in the league and though he may have stolen a couple of wins, he has simply been a part of a fantastic setup in Boston. In Bergeron and Iginla they have two 30 goal scorers, but also a wealth of talent backing them up, with 3 more 20+ goalscorers on the roster. They have some stunning depth should any one player have an off night.
That is illustrated no better than the likes of Reilly Smith and Torey Krug. Sure they haven’t had to carry a team like Nyquist, but they have been more than just passengers, playing a huge part in Boston’s domination of the league. It is thanks to a strong second, third and forth line that the Bruins have a +85 goal difference, +28 better than the second best record in the league.
They are the favourites for Lord Stanley’s Cup and it isn’t hard to see why.
BOSTON BRUINS PLAYER TO WATCH:
It is tough to pick one player to watch for the Bruins, because they are just so dangerous all over the ice and across all their lines. However, needs must. Therefore watch out for Dougie Hamilton, the semi-rookie defenseman. He has been a great asset for the Bruins and very dependable at the blue line.
He is popping up regularly with assists and is a +22 for the season. He is very hard to beat on the ice and has done a great job in stopping opposition players from having the puck clean, or getting any real clean shots away. He will have a tough time of it against the pace of the Wings and especially the kids line, but he is more than up to the task.
If he can find a way to nullify Datsyuk, Nyquist and co, then he could have a very big say in which way the series goes.
This should be a no brainer, a depleted Detroit against a dominant Boston. First seed vs eighth.
However, hockey is never simple. The Wings go into a 23rd straight playoff campaign with absolutely nothing to lose. They should be happy to just be there. Yet that is when a team could be the most dangerous; the pressure is all on Boston and the question is whether they can handle the pressure.
This is going to be a very tight series, with most games decided by the single goal and if Detroit can snatch a victory on the road they can really ramp up the pressure on the fancied Bruins. The Red Wings do hold a 3 and 1 regular season series lead over the Bruins, but that counts for nothing when it comes to the playoffs.
Detroit picked up wins against Boston when the teams were in completely different positions to a playoff match up. In most of the games, Boston were pretty much assured of a place and Detroit were fighting for their lives. Here though it is a fresh start, with both teams needing the victories as much as the other.
Boston should just sneak this series though, but not until they have had a scare or two…Boston in SEVEN.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF ICE NATION UK’S NHL PLAYOFF PREVIEWS.