BOSTON, MA - If Game 1 is any indication, the Bruins and Red Wings could be in for a long, hard-fought series.
"Yeah, we were expecting that," said Patrice Bergeron, postgame from the Bruins' locker room at TD Garden, after Boston fell 1-0 to Detroit on Thursday night. "I mean, we were ready for a tough and long series, and we're in for that, so we're fine with it."
"We're used to to playing tight games, and we've been there before."
Neither team had an overwhelming amount of scoring chances. The tight-checking game ended with a slight 25-24 shots advantage for Boston, but it ultimately didn't matter.
Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Howard came up with acrobatic stops between the pipes at both ends. Only Pavel Datsyuk and his magic could get past the Bruins, with just 3:01 left in regulation, when he made a slick move in neutral ice, and fired a shot through Milan Lucic.
The Bruins played with an extra attacker for the final minute, but couldn't muster another shot on Howard.
"I don’t think there were any secrets in tonight’s game," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "Both teams played really tight defense and that’s why there weren't that many scoring chances in the game."
"Overall, I don’t think there was any surprise out there."
Datsyuk's tally was a dagger for the Bruins, who played a tight game defensively, mostly limiting Detroit's well-known speed and skill. Neither team forced many turnovers. There was attention to detail on both sides of the puck, with Boston and Detroit sticking to their structure and remaining patient.
There was a brief lapse for the Bruins in the second period, but momentum shifts are natural, especially in the postseason. It's about managing those, and Boston came back with a strong third period.
Milan Lucic nearly tipped in a chance to give the Bruins the lead with just under three and a half minutes to play. The game soon tipped in the other direction, with Datsyuk taking advantage of his opportunity.
"Well, I think the one issue for tonight is we didn’t have the puck enough, and when we had it, we've got to start putting pucks in the areas where we can get them back, and we've got to get pucks in areas where once we get it, we can hang on to it," said Julien.
"I thought we didn’t play with the puck as much as we normally do, but the one thing about our team tonight — I thought we got better and better as the periods went on. The third period was obviously our best period."
"So we've got to kind of make those adjustments here and hopefully have three periods more like the third period was and capitalize on the chances that we had."
The Bruins had their lone power play of the game in the final frame. Loui Eriksson nearly fired in a feed from Patrice Bergeron down low, but Howard robbed him with his pad. Carl Soderberg got stopped, too, from close range. Reilly Smith's one-timer was blocked away. Jarome Iginla's stick snapped when he let off his drive.
Later in the period, the trio of Justin Florek - making his NHL playoff debut - Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson, playing together in the absence of Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille (Jordan Caron slotted in alongside Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton) created havoc in front of Howard. Florek's turnaround shot went just wide, with the loose puck eventually being cleared away from danger by Detroit.
"It was a tight-checking game, but nonetheless, I think everybody’s got to find a way to create more and that’s going to be the challenge in this series with two teams playing really tight," said Julien. "So it’s about everybody working a little harder and then gaining your space and doing what you have to do here."
"We're going to have to expect that for the rest of the series," said Bergeron. "We've to find better ways to create some speed, some offense and go from there."
"We have to fight to get to the front and fight to get to that slot."
"It’s just one game," said David Krejci. "We have to obviously play a lot better. We have to look at the video and make some adjustments. The next game is going to be important. It’s a bit different if you go to Detroit going in 1-1 or 0-2. So, we have to do everything we can and get a win on Sunday."
The Bruins were also without regulars Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller on the back end in Game 1. Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter filled in, with Potter making his Stanley Cup Playoff debut.
The defense remained in line throughout the game, though, and Boston killed off both of their penalties, including one with Zdeno Chara in the box. Johnny Boychuk stayed on the ice for the entire kill.
"I thought our Ds did a good job," said Julien, who spread out his minutes among the blueliners, showing confidence in them. "Again, when you don’t give that many scoring chances, it means they’re doing something pretty good, so there was no need again to over-attack certain players."
"I think we just have to figure out the offense," stressed Krejci. "They have a good team. They have fast and skilled forwards. I thought we did a pretty good job of playing good defense against those guys but on the other hand, we are a pretty good team as well. We couldn’t put the puck in the net."
Continue playing tight defense, and figure out the offense - that's the cut-and-dry objective for Boston heading into Game 2.
"I mean, it’s the first game," said Chara. "We’ve got a day [on Saturday]. We’ve got to do our best to regroup and get ready for the next game."