The Boston Bruins won this season’s Presidents Trophy as the best regular season team in the NHL. They had the best home record in the league at 31-7-3. No team scored more than the Bruins’ 104 third period goals. Their goaltender, Tuukka Rask, led the league in GAA and SV percentage. These same Bruins now find themselves trailing their first round best-of-seven series against the Detroit Red Wings after Pavel Datsyuk‘s third period tally proved to be the decisive goal in the Wings’ 1-0 Game 1 victory at the TD Garden in Boston.
If ever there was a kryptonite to the Bruins’ successes this season, it would be these eighth-seeded Red Wings. Coming into the series, Detroit won three out of four regular season meetings against Zdeno Chara and company. While the Bruins are the trendy pick, as well as odds on favorites, to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup, don’t think for a second that this is your typical one vs. eight matchup. The Wings, further justified after this victory, are confident and comfortable with this pairing.
When looking for a team capable of offsetting the physicality that is trademarked by the boys of Boston, Mike Babcock‘s fluid, puck possession team has proved to be more than just a figurative thorn in the side of Claude Julien‘s Bruins. Datsyuk sets the tone for Detroit. He is the best player in this series. The contributions of the younger players, specifically Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, were vital in the Wings’ getting into their 23rd straight postseason. That being said, this young team thrives when following Datsyuk’s lead. What appeared to be an innocent loose puck won in the neutral zone by Datsyuk within seconds proved to be the winner for the audacious Russian and his Red Wings.
Do not overlook the influence Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard had on this game. A minute prior to Datsyuk’s moment of brilliance, it was Howard who rose to the fore for Detroit, producing his best stop of the night on Milan Lucic‘s deflection off a Jarome Iginla attempt. In the back and forth battle, Howard was able to make one more big save than his opposite in Rask. Many have said that if Detroit hopes to have any type of chance in this series Howard will have to win the goaltending battle against Rask. This may prove true, it certainly wouldn’t harm the Red Wings’ chances and Howard did just that in Game 1.
To solely focus on what Detroit needs to do to combat the larger Bruins is degrading to the prowess of this Red Wings team. If anything, Detroit has proven that it is the Bruins (they of the first-paragraph superlatives) who have the bigger mountain to climb in figuring out a gameplan to hinder the effectiveness of the Wings.
Having stolen Game 1 on the road, Detroit has seized home ice advantage in the series. The fun now begins as fans await the changes that the one-seeded Bruins make heading into Sunday afternoon’s Game 2 against their lower-seeded yet dominant-this-season foe from Detroit.