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Wings, Bruins to renew playoff rivalry

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
The Bruins are one of nine teams that Gustav Nyquist has managed to score two or more goals against this season. Though he has a season-high .667 shooting percentage against Boston, scoring twice on three shots during the regular season. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – For the first time in 57 years the Red Wings and Boston Bruins will face-off in a Stanley Cup playoff series.

The Columbus Blue Jackets’ 3-2 win at Florida Saturday night assured the Red Wings of a first-round matchup with their Original Six rivals. It will be the first time since 1993 that the Red Wings will play an Original Six team other than Chicago in the playoffs.

The best-of-seven game series will start in Boston where Game 1 and Game 2 will be played at TD Garden next week. Games 3 and 4 will be played at Joe Louis Arena, though the dates and times are to be determined.

The Red Wings and Bruins last met in the playoffs in the 1957 Stanley Cup semifinals, won by Boston in five games.

The No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Red Wings like their chances against the physical Bruins. Detroit won the regular-season series winning three of four games, including a 6-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena in November.

“Well I think we got four lines, and we got a tenacity about us, we know how to play,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Like I said, we’re going to need really good goaltending and the rest will look after itself.”

With their 4-1 win over Buffalo on Saturday, the Bruins locked up the Presidents’ Trophy with the league’s best record. It's the second time they have won the trophy, which gives them home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. The Bruins have 117 points, third most in team history behind 121 in 1970-71 and 119 when they won the 1972 Stanley Cup.

Injuries played a huge factor in the Red Wings’ season, but they refused to allow an assortment of concussions, surgeries and sore groins define them as 37 different players dressed, including eight rookies who made their NHL debuts in the last six months. They reached the playoffs as a team in the true sense of the word, and without a single 50-point producer.

“I think as a team we’ve gotten better over the last few weeks a lot,” Gustav Nyquist said. “We’ve won some pretty big games and we showed ourselves that we can turn around some games against some good teams. So as young guys, because of the leadership in this locker room, we’ve all grown as players and we have a lot of confidence coming in as a team.”

The Bruins have the NHL’s third-best power play and six players who have compiled 50-plus point seasons: David Krejci (69), Patrice Bergeron (62), Jarome Iginla (61), Milan Lucic (59), Brad Marchand (51) and Reilly Smith (51).

Realizing that the Bruins will be a menacing adversary in a best-of-seven series, the Red Wings know they have to stick to their structure and play a simple, mistake-free style.

“There are lots of challenges, let’s be serious, it’s Boston,” Wings defenseman Brendan Smith said. “They have scoring, they have physicality, they have puck-moving, they have arguably one of the best goalies, they have the makeup for a Stanley Cup team. So does everybody else but they might have it more than any other team because of their physicality that is stronger than other teams.

We play a system that does well against Boston and it’s something that we have to stick to.Wings defenseman Brendan Smith

“Obviously we’ve played them well, we play a system that does well against Boston and it’s something that we have to stick to. If we get away from that or get hindered in any sense, then we’ll struggle. We have to play our system and play them hard. I think the biggest thing for us is puck-possession, no turnovers. That’s a big thing because they will put the puck in the back of our net. You look at their top two lines with Krejci’s line and Bergeron’s line and it’s 1A and 1B situations and we have to be able to shut them down.”

Goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Boston’s Tuukka Rask will be keys in this series. The Bruins have scored first 50 times this season, and Rask has been outstanding at shutting the door as one of the league’s top goalies with 36 wins, a 2.04 goals-against average, a .930 save percentage, and seven shutouts.

For the last month, the Red Wings have been in a playoff mode needing wins to overcome the Toronto Maple Leafs who once owned a 10-point lead over Detroit. The Wings have picked up points in 10 of the past 14 games which has given the young team confidence heading into the playoffs.

“We’ve played playoff hockey and that’s the biggest thing for us,” Smith said, “We’re very competitive and we have the pieces to play in a playoff series. These guys have done it before and that’s the biggest thing.”

The Bruins suffered a pair of undisclosed injuries Saturday. Bergeron did not play the third period against the Sabres though coach Claude Julien called the injury “very minor”. Forward Daniel Paille was also hurt in the third period.

Meanwhile, should the first-round series with Boston go deep, the Wings are hopeful that they’ll get captain Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery) and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (finger surgery) back in the lineup, and that Pavel Datsyuk will continue to improve from a knee injury.

“I think getting Z back will be huge,” rookie forward Luke Glendening said. “I don’t know what the timetable is that but Pav was out for a while and Big E’s out right now and guys are spending some serious time on the IR and to be able to get this team going that’s a testament to the leadership and the older guys here. A lot of talk has been about the kids and the young guys but without the leadership we wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be anywhere close. So it’s cool to be able to keep the streak alive for sure.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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