On Friday night, the Detroit Red Wings open their first round series against the NHL’s best team, the Boston Bruins. The Bruins accumulated 117 points during the season, enough to win the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s best regular season squad.
With that being said, Detroit should have their hands full in the first round. However, as a seven seed in the Western Conference playoffs last year, the Red Wings beat the two-seeded Anaheim Ducks, and let a 3-1 series lead over one seed and eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, slip away.
Detroit may be only the eighth seed, but they should not be taken lightly in any regard. They are young, explosive and battled the entire year through injuries.
Despite captain Henrik Zetterberg and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson expected to miss the first round, Detroit gets a healthy Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen for the playoffs. The leadership is still there, even without Zetterberg, with the likes of Daniel Alfredsson, Niklas Kronwall and Datsyuk.
Boston is the best team in the NHL for a reason. They are third in goals scored per game with just over three, and second in goals against, giving up just a hair over two per game. They are also third in power play scoring and eighth in the league in penalty kill.
In order for Detroit to win, they first have to shut down Bruins’ superstar David Krejci. He leads the team with 69 points, tallying 50 assists and 19 goals, while sporting a remarkable plus-39 ratio throughout the season.
Also, Detroit’s young gunners, like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco and others need to step up. They came up big when injuries depleted the Wings during the season, and need to continue to take advantage with their speed against the Bruins’ defense.
Lastly, Detroit needs to pummel goalie Tuukka Rask. Rask flaunts a .930 save percentage, one of the best in the NHL. Detroit needs to send guys in front of Rask, take shots whenever possible and hope screening Rask and deflections can help them score goals.
It all comes down to Jimmy Howard. Howard has proven himself as a solid goalie in the NHL, but he has been something special in the playoffs the last three years. He boasts a 2.57 career goals against average, and a .918 save percentage in the postseason. If he can work his magic, the young guys can make key plays and Johan Franzen can have a big series, the Red Wings have a strong chance to upset Boston.
They need to protect home ice, and steal one in Boston’s arena. I believe the Red Wings will fight like they did to get an opportunity to play in the postseason, but the loss of Zetterberg will come back to haunt them. I expect the series to go to seven games, but a hometown crowd in Boston will push the Bruins to the next round.
BRUINS IN SEVEN
Nathaniel Bott is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.