BOSTON — May the team that best imposes its will on the other team win. Even after just two games of this first-round playoff series between the Red Wings and the Bruins, that seems to the the one recurring theme.
In Game 1, it was nearly a draw, and the Red Wings just managed to gain the edge.
Game 2, however, was decisively in the Bruins’ favor, and afterward, there wasn’t anyone trying to deny it.
“I thought we were ineffective, period, to tell you the truth,” said Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock after the Bruins’ 4-1 win. “I didn’t think we were very good. I thought they were better. I thought we were better than them Game 1. I thought they were way better than us in Game 2.”
“They were engaged. They won the battles. They were quick, we were slow. We didn’t execute, and then on the power play, I thought their penalty kill forecheck was good. On special teams, they won the faceoffs, so they cleared it down. Their penalty kill forecheck was good, our power play breakout failed to execute, so we got no zone time. It was like an exercise in skating up and down the rink…. Give them credit, they were better and we didn’t respond. We didn’t play faster.”
Added defenseman Niklas Kronwall, “They executed their game plan a lot better than us. We didn’t skate as well as we did in Game 1. We got to get back to that, and again, the specialty teams made a difference tonight.”
Boston got two of its goals on the man advantage, and while the Red Wings managed to draw seven penalties, they were unable to capitalize on any of them.
“We didn’t set up in their end,” said forward Daniel Alfredsson. “Our breakouts, I think they read them too easily and they did a good job in the neutral zone. Seems like we got hesitant and we weren’t as assertive as we normally are, and I think that’s been one of our strong suits is setting up in the other team’s end. We are going to have to do a much better job of that because that’s probably the difference today, the special teams.”
The Red Wings escaped Game 1 with just one penalty, confident that they played precisely the type of game they wanted to. That wasn’t the case on Sunday, when they were coaxed into a whopping seven penalties, including three within the first 10 minutes of the game and one of which resulted in Boston's second goal of the game.
The Red Wings were also drawn into several scrums, including one particularly notable one between Zdeno Chara and Brendan Smith to close out the first period.
“I think we got to stay out of the BS out there and just play whistle to whistle, and not worry about getting into the scrums or anything like that and proving your manhood out there,” said goaltender Jimmy Howard. “Just skate, play our hockey, don’t get into their motive and get into their scrap playing real physical. Just get back to playing our game. We knew this was going to be a long series and they played a real solid game today.”
“There were a few scrums, but I think overall we handled it pretty good,” Alfredsson said. “I don’t think that’s really an issue in this series. Obviously, they get off to the start they want, get two quick goals there and they have always been one of the best teams of defending a lead, and I thought we did a good job in the second of battling back. That third one for them hurt us a bit.”
The Bruins came into Game 2 knowing they had to bring the physicality that was missing from Game 1, and they did it right from the outset. While Detroit managed to step it up a bit in the second period, they decisively lost the momentum early on and struggled to regain it at any point in the game.
“It’s all about momentum in the playoffs,” Sheahan said. “They played a great game and they were physical. I mean, there isn’t anything we can do now, so we’ve just got to take it back to Detroit, regroup, and go from there.
Still, both teams have reiterated that they expect this series to be a long one, and those sentiments did not change after Game 2.
“It’s 1-1,” Alfredsson said with a smile. “I thought we played real solid in Game 1, and I thought we had spurts today where it was OK, but we can do better. So we are going to bring that back to Detroit.”