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Bruins' Chiarelli built winner using Red Wings' model

by Matt Kalman

BOSTON -- Long before Peter Chiarelli took over as general manager of the Boston Bruins, he admired the way the Detroit Red Wings went about their business.

Chiarelli, who started in his current role prior to the 2006-07 season, even tried to steal a little of the Red Wings' secret formula when he made Dave Lewis, a longtime assistant and former head coach in Detroit, the coach of the Bruins for that initial season in Boston.

Lewis' one-season tenure didn't get the Bruins headed in the direction Chiarelli wanted, so he opted to replace Lewis with Claude Julien. While the Bruins, having qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in seven straight seasons, have a long way to go to match the Red Wings' 23-year run, Chiarelli has accomplished his goal of making the Bruins a franchise that's as admired around the NHL as Detroit.

Chiarelli quickly learned there was no shortcut to building an organization on par with the Red Wings, and there are several areas a team has to strengthen in order to be in Detroit's class.

"I have great respect for that organization. Great respect for [general manager] Kenny Holland, [coach] Mike Babcock, the Ilitch family. I followed them for a lot of years -- maybe that long, 23 years," Chiarelli said during a press conference at TD Garden on Monday.

"Kenny, I got to know him a little better during the [2014 Sochi] Olympics. He's very bright. He looks at things a lot of different ways, a lot of different angles, to get a solution. And then you can see that in their [player] development. They like developing people in the minors, but they also find players elsewhere in trades and in free agents, and that's what we try and do. I have respect for Mike Babcock. He's a really sharp guy. I got to sit in on their coaches meetings in advance of the Olympics and during the Olympics, and he's very, very bright.

"So I have a lot of respect for them. But now they're competitors, the other side of the ice, so we'll figure out a way to beat them."

The Bruins won the Presidents' Trophy and have home-ice advantage for however long they're in the playoffs. They finished 24 points ahead of Detroit in the Atlantic Division and won 15 more games. However, three of the Red Wings' victories were against Boston. And those victories aren't the only reason Chiarelli knows his team cannot take the Red Wings.

The Red Wings lost more than 400 man-games to injury in the regular season. Pavel Datsyuk recently returned, Daniel Alfredsson has been in and out of the lineup and Henrik Zetterberg, among others, remains out. Detroit still battled through to keep its playoff streak alive.

During the Bruins' current run of playoff appearances, they've often had to overcome injuries to key figures, among them Patrice Bergeron and Marc Savard. In every case they were a tough team to eliminate in a best-of-seven series. In 2008, without Bergeron and with several players severely banged up, eighth-seeded Boston pushed the top-seeded Montreal Canadiens to seven games.

So the Bruins, who have had to go seven games in their first-round series in all but one season since 2008, should be ready for anything.

"They're getting back a healthy Datsyuk; that makes them more dangerous," Chiarelli said. "And who knows what will happen with Zetterberg, he's lurking in the wings. Kenny and [Babcock] will probably pull him out at some point. So they had the young guns that helped them get in, and you heard me talk about youthful enthusiasm and energizing a team, and that's what's happened there. They've had a ton of injuries, and [Tomas] Tatar, [Brendan Smith], [Gustav] Nyquist, [Riley] Sheahan, all these kids. [Danny] DeKeyser on the back end. They've all helped energize the whole group. And when you've got these kids that are fearless and don't really know what the ramifications are, they become dangerous as a group and that's what they are."

Boston boasts a veteran roster that includes 12 players, including injured defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid, who played on the 2011 Stanley Cup championship team and the 2013 Stanley Cup finalist. But they also have some of that youthful enthusiasm, mostly on the back end, led by Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug. Only Hamilton among that trio played regularly in the 2013 regular season, but all earned regular spots in Boston's top six for most of 2013-14 along with rookie Kevan Miller. Krug, Bartkowski and Hamilton also gained postseason experience last spring.

The Bruins supplemented their core and youth by importing more new faces last summer than they had in previous seasons. Forward Jarome Iginla was signed as a free agent to replace Nathan Horton and forwards Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith were acquired in a trade with the Dallas Stars for Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley. The Bruins also had to integrate center Carl Soderberg, who was a late addition last season. Iginla tied Bergeron for the team lead with 30 goals, and Smith (20), Soderberg (16) and Eriksson (10) were among 10 Bruins that reached double-figures in goals this season.

Had there been any production or chemistry issues because of the changes, or if the Bruins have proven too inexperienced on defense, they might not have continued their playoff streak, let alone finished atop the League standings.

"It's worked out very well, I think. Jarome of course has had a terrific year and has really jelled well with that line. He's got leadership ability, he's a Hall of Famer, he plays hard every shift and is a great example. The other three have found their way and have found their spot," Chiarelli said. "Reilly of course had a little bit of a tough end there this season but his play is picking up and he is still a young player, a very skilled player, a very good two-way player. So yeah, I'm very happy with the way that they have come in and have re-energized the team. They are all really good two-way players, which is important in our system."

The Bruins' blueprint has mimicked the Red Wings' and produced similar results. Now Chiarelli expects that blueprint to include the conquest of the originators of the plan.

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