DETROIT – While most insiders are picking the top-ranked Boston Bruins in their first-round series against the Red Wings, there’s one hockey analysis who thinks the young, upstart Wings can cause a stir in the best-of-seven series.
“If Mike Babcock – who I personally believe is the most creative (coach) in the league right now – can get creative, he can cause the Bruins some problems,” NBC color analysis Pierre McGuire said. “I still think the Bruins are the favorite but Detroit can cause some problems.”
Speaking to national hockey writers on a conference call conducted by NBC Sports Monday, McGuire and fellow analysis Eddie Olczyk said they’ve been impressed by the youth movement in Detroit while the team has dealt with a bevy of injuries to veterans like Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Stephen Weiss and Jonathan Ericsson.
“This is a much different team than earlier in the year,” Olczyk said. “This is a much younger, quicker team. I think that’s the way that they have to play. They’re not going to be a physical team. They’ve got some guys who can bang around and I’m sure Niklas Kronwall is going to look for one of those big hits along the boards just inside the Bruins’ offensive zone. But to me that will be a real big key, can the Red Wings manage the puck well enough and can they play a fast game and try to keep it a real quick game.”
NBC plans air every Stanley Cup playoff game through its family of networks, including the NBC Sports Network and CNBC.
NBC will broadcast doubleheaders on Sunday, April 20 and Saturday, April 26, which includes regional coverage of Game 2 and Game 5, if necessary, of the Red Wings-Bruins series. Both games are scheduled for 3 p.m. EDT. The remaining games of the series can be seen locally in Detroit on Fox Sports Detroit, or nationally on NBCSN. Every game of the series will also be aired throughout Canada on TSN.
The Red Wings were the only team in the regular season to hand Boston, the Presidents’ Trophy winners with the league’s most points, three losses, including the last two without the use of both Zetterberg and Datsyuk.
In their current state, the Red Wings are built on speed, getting into the playoffs with a late-season push by winning nine of their last 15 games. That same formula will likely be counted upon in the upcoming series against the big, physical Bruins.
“There’s no doubt that the Bruins are the team to beat for sure and rightfully so,” Olczyk said. “The Bruins can come in four lines and the size and the depth and the leadership of Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. But can the Red Wings be able to play that real fast game to maybe get the Bruins on the run a little bit? Force them to be a little bit more wide open, try to up the game because the Red Wings, when healthy with all of these young guys, I mean, they put themselves in maybe being, maybe, being in the top six or seven when you talk about quickness when you look at the dynamics of how their forwards are in that lineup when healthy. And that’s saying something considering you probably would have put them in the bottom eight when it comes to not being very quick at the start of the year, and these young guys have come in and given them a whole different look. So that to me will really be a key to the series, is can the Red Wings play a quick game because if it comes a station-to-station, grind-it-out game you’re feeding literally right into the Bruins.”
McGuire thinks that Babcock learned a lesson during his first post-season at the helm of the Red Wings, who were upset by the Edmonton Oilers in a first-round series in 2006.
“They lost in six games to the Edmonton Oilers and Craig MacTavish that year was probably the most creative coach of any coach in the National Hockey League,” McGuire said. “He got his team within one game of winning the Stanley Cup. They lost in Game 7 in Carolina, and in the first round they beat Detroit and the reason why they beat Detroit they were the most creative.”
McGuire said he likes the Wings, especially if Babcock can continue coaching the young guys – who helped lead Grand Rapids to the AHL Calder Cup championship last spring – in an originative way.
“Tomas Tatar was the most valuable player of the American Hockey League playoffs. Gustav Nyquist went down there and did some very good things. Riley Sheahan had a phenomenal playoff after having a tough start to the year. Joakim Andersson is another one that has had tremendous success at the American Hockey League level,” McGuire said. “Luke Glendening who was never even drafted coming out of the University of Michigan has become a huge energy player, and I see Glendening and I think of Kris Draper and what he was able to do when he played for the Red Wings playing with (Kirk) Maltby and (Darren) McCarty.”
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