Red Wings & Bruins…Not a Typical 1 vs 8
Friday night, April 18th, the Detroit Red Wings begin their 23rd straight quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup! The Red Wings secured the 8th seed in the Eastern conference, but rest assured that the Bruins aren’t happy about it. According to oddsmakers, the Wings are the third most favored team in the East to win the cup, sitting at 20/1. Compare that to Columbus, who are paying 50/1, yet seeded higher. Unfortunately for the Red Wings, their first round opponent is the overall favorite, paying just 7/2. Odds aside, this series could ultimately decide which team hoists the cup in 2014. Let’s take a look at the matchup.
Detroit Red Wings – Boston Bruins Matchup
Detroit and Boston faced off four times during the regular season. The Red Wings came away with victories in 3 of those games, after losing the first match at the beginning of the season. One of those games featured a 6-1 shellacking of the Bruins at the hands of Detroit. Yes, there is a difference between regular season wins and the playoffs, but it is important to note that Detroit is the only team in the league who handed Boston three losses. It also proves that Detroit can certainly matchup against the Bruins.
Goaltending: Rask is a favorite to capture the Vezina trophy, and rightfully so. He is among the league leaders in every meaningful category, and did so behind a somewhat questionable defensive corps.
Four Lines: The Bruins feature four solid lines, who can be trusted in any situation. The immortal Jarome Iginla capped off another 30 goal season, and Patrice Bergeron is a candidate for the Selke…while scoring 62 points.
Experience: Usually, this category goes to Detroit, but Boston has appeared in the Stanley Cup finals in two of the past three seasons.
Youth: The flip-side to Detroit’s season long injury woes, is the emergence of their youth. The likes of Tomas Tatar, Danny DeKeyser, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, and Luke Glendenning have demonstrated that they are ready to contribute as everyday players. Oh yeah, and there’s this guy named Gustav Nyquist. Nyquist began the season in Grand Rapids, and ended it with the hottest stick in the NHL. He ended the year on such a tear, that there was even talk of a Hart trophy. With youth comes hunger, and that is a direct threat to any ‘favorite’.
Forward Depth: After dealing with injuries to Weiss (pfft), Cleary, Franzen, Helm, Zetterberg, and Datsyuk..simultaneously, the Red Wings have survived. This gave the young prospects some valuable experience. Now that much of that list has returned to the lineup, the Red Wings have something they have lacked all season…health! With health, comes options. Although Detroit will be without Zetterberg for this series, he is still targeting a second round return. They need to win 4 games before even entertaining that notion.
Coaching: Mike Babcock, now the winningest coach in Red Wings history, is a cool customer. He is a master at preparation and he’s been through this before. Who led the then Mighty Ducks to a first round upset over the heavily favored Detroit Red Wings in 2003? You got it, Mike Babcock. Not only did Anaheim win the series, they swept the defending cup champion Red Wings. (I clearly recall puking after game 4)
Defense: This category is a toss up. The Bruins’ blueline features Zdeno Chara, a candidate for the Norris. After Chara, there is a steep drop off in talent. Detroit faces much the same, as there is a noticeable drop after Kronwall, even more noticeable with the loss of Ericsson. It may very well be that the team with the fewer defensive breakdowns in their own end will win the series. Surprisingly enough, I think Detroit holds a slight edge in this department.
Jimmy Howard: The 2014 series lays squarely on the shoulders of number 35. Will the real Jimmy Howard please step forward! I’m not going to go off on a Jimmy Howard bashing tirade, like others have done, but 2013/14 was not the most stellar of Howard’s career. Until this season, Howard was considered, and performed, at the elite level. This season has been marred by injury, illness, and often sloppy play in front of the Detroit net-minder. Now that Howard is healthy and the players in front of him have some learned lessons, perhaps Jimmy can steal a game or two in this series. He has the ability to do just that, and a hot goalie can make for an extremely difficult series for Boston.
Inexperience: Along with the energy of youth, comes the inexperience and awe of being in the playoffs. Opening the round in Boston may actually take a bit of the pressure off of the young Red Wings players. They are underdogs, and expected to drop the Boston hosted games. If they can come out of the weekend with a split, that awe will turn into confidence. Despite a crop of inexperienced players, the Red Wings also have a host of seasoned playoff veterans. Datsyuk, Franzen, and Alfredsson have netted a combined 129 playoff goals.
The Ice: All of the analysis in the world can never completely predict what eventually happens when the games are played. Every postseason features a surprise story. Will 2014’s story be the Detroit Red Wings? We’ll have to wait and see!
My official prediction is Boston in 7. It pains me to type it, for sure, but I can’t be a complete homer. Do the Wings have a shot? Of course they do, but the steadiness of the Bruins’ season is tough to contend with. In the end, Rask holds the key for Boston’s success. If he is able to avoid the games like the 6-1 drumming, they’ll survive the round. If, however, the Red Wings can stick to Babcock’s puck control system, it will be an epic battle to behold!
Red Wings / Bruins Series Schedule
Game 1: April 18, @ Boston; 7:30 pm ET (NBCSN, TSN)
Game 2: April 20 @ Boston, 3 pm ET (NBC, TSN)
Game 3: April 22 @ Detroit, 7:30 pm ET (NBCSN, TSN)
Game 4: April 24 @ Detroit, 8 pm ET (CNBC, TSN)
Game 5: April 26 @ Boston, 3 pm ET (NBC, TSN)*
Game 6: April 28 @ Detroit, time TBD, (TSN)*
Game 7: April 30 @ Boston, time TBD (TSN)*
(*) If necessary
What do you think?
Can the Red Wings beat Boston in a 7 game series?
What will the outcome be & in how many games?