BOSTON – A win tonight over the Bruins will give the Red Wings their 25th consecutive postseason appearance, marking the longest playoff streak in the four major North American sports leagues.
For Jeff Blashill, the message to his players before this win-and-clinch game at TD Garden is the same thing the Red Wings’ coach has preached all season.
“Let’s come out and execute and focus on the process,” Blashill said two hours before puck drop. “Got to have great process for 60 minutes to give ourselves the best chance to win.”
Jimmy Howard gets the start. He’s 5-2-1 lifetime against the Bruins with a 2.25 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.
The Wings are coming off a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. The team checked into its hotel in downtown Boston at 3 a.m. But that shouldn't be an excuse, Blashill said.
“That has nothing to do with it. Let’s go play to win,” he said. “We’re going to put our guys out there the way we have all season long. The one thing that can be a strength of ours is the depth of our team so we got to make sure that all guys are going and everybody has an impact on the game.”
The Wings’ defensive process has definitely shown improvement, and Blashill would like to see that continue against the Bruins.
“I’d say the last three games we’ve played much better defensively,” he said. “We’ve done a good job of limiting opportunities against for the most part. When they have had opportunities our goaltender has been real good.”
The Red Wings enter Thursday's game with the most one-goal games this season. Detroit is 27-8-11. Since defeating Montreal, 4-3, at home on March 24, the Wings are 4-1-0 in the last five one-goal games.
Blashill said that experience, along with playing aside veterans is a tremendous teaching tool for young players, like Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Alexey Marchenko, who are new to the playoff push and the intensity of the postseason.
“They get a chance to learn from some of the best between Zetterberg, Kronwall, Datsyuk, Richards, guys who have been through lots of experiences,” Blashill said. “They get an opportunity to see how important it is to value the puck well, how important it is to take what’s given I’d probably say is the biggest thing. Let’s make plays when they’re plays available. Let’s not force plays if they’re not there.”
Definitely not the start the Red Wings wanted Thursday night.
Goals by David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead in the opening three minutes before many of the home fans had time to settle into their seats at TD Garden.
The Wings challenged Boston’s first goal set up by John-Michael Liles’ stretch pass that appeared, at first, to cross the blue line after Pastrnak, who raced around Wings defenseman Mike Green. Pastrnak’s unimpeded trip to the front of the net ended with the Bruins’ forward slipping a backhand shot underneath Howard.
The Red Wings challenged the play, but after conferring with the Situation Room in Toronto, the goal, at 1:25, was allowed to stand.
The Situation Room released the following explanation of the first goal:
At 1:25 of the first period in the Red Wings/Bruins game, Detroit requested a Coach’s Challenge to review whether Boston’s David Pastrnak was off-side prior to his goal.
After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Linesman determined that the Bruins entered the attacking zone legally prior to the goal.
Therefore the original call stands – good goal Boston Bruins.
Since the Coach’s Challenge did not result in the original call being overturned, the Detroit Red Wings forfeit their time-out.
Boston built a two-goal lead just 1:29 later when Brad Marchand scored his team-leading 37th goal on a one-timer from the right face-off circle.
Each team had two power-play chances in the period. The Wings managed to get one shot through to Boston goalie Tuukka Rask on the man-advantage.
BOSTON 2, DETROIT 0
SCORING: 1. BOS, Pastrnak (Liles, C. Miller), 1:25; 2. BOS, Marchand (Krug, Bergeron), 2:54.
PENALTIES: 1. BOS, McQuaid (interference), 5:20; 2. DET, DeKeyser (holding), 11:39; 3. BOS, McQuaid (delay of game), 14:06; 4. DET, Sheahan (hooking), 17:37.
SHOTS: Detroit 8, Boston 11.
The Wings had a chance to turn the tides early in the period when Matt Beleskey was called for cross-checking. But Detroit’s power play failed to convert on the two-minute advantage. In fact, they only got one shot on goal, that by defenseman Niklas Kronwall late in the chance.
The Bruins increased their lead while Jonathan Ericsson served a minor penalty for dragging down former teammate Landon Ferraro deep in the Wings’ zone. Michigan native Torey Krug made his hometown team pay, scoring his first power-play goal of the season.
Detroit got on the board when Marchenko’s shot from the bottom of the right face-off circle got through traffic and behind Rask. It was the second goal of the season for Marchenko and the third of his career.
BOSTON 3, DETROIT 1
SCORING: 1. BOS, Krug PPG (Eriksson, Krejci), 5:02; 2. DET, Marchenko (Zetterberg, Nyquist), 6:59.
PENALTIES: 1. BOS, Beleskey (cross-checking), 1:37; 2. DET, Ericsson (holding), 4:16.
SHOTS: Detroit 5 (13), Boston 12 (23).
Through the first 40 minutes of this game the Bruins minimized the Red Wings’ speed through the neutral zone. In the final 20 minutes they slammed the down on Detroit’s first opportunity to clinch a playoff berth.
Goals by Lee Stempniak and Loui Eriksson gave the Bruins a 5-1 lead in the opening 45 seconds of the final period. The two quick goals ended Howard’s night as he was lifted in favor of Petr Mrazek.
Howard, who made 21 saves, had recorded wins in each of his previous six starts, dating back to a 3-1 win at Columbus on March 17.
The power play that had been a source of strength over the last nine games was absent Thursday, mustering just two shots on goal while going 0 for 4 with the man advantage.
The Wings finished the game with 15 shots on goal. They got two – by Luke Glendening and Andreas Athanasiou – in the period.
Athanasiou’s wrist shot capped the scoring, getting through Rask with 1:23 left.
BOSTON 5, DETROIT 2
SCORING: 1. BOS, Stempniak (Krug, Marchand), 0:20; 2. BOS, Loui Eriksson (Krejci, Spooner), 0:45; 3. DET, Athanasiou (Marchenko, Quincey), 18:37.
PENALTIES: 1. BOS, Krug (holding), 2:42; 2. DET, Zetterberg (slashing), 4:57.
SHOTS: Detroit 2 (15), Boston 11 (34).